I am a competitive person. I simply don’t like to lose. Of course, I’m not sure that given the choice that many would take losing over winning. Winning, after all, is just better.
Still, in the world in which we live, winning is something of a rarity. There’s just one winner, and as the saying goes, second place is simply the first loser.
With that being said, I don’t consider myself a sore loser. I understand that some people are just going to be better than me. What upsets me is when I fail in doing something of which I am completely capable, such as fielding a ground ball and throwing to first base or hitting a pitching wedge from 100 yards out to the green.
I had never run a 5K race before Saturday’s Tucker Creek Homeowners Association event at the West End Fire Station in Havelock. A bout with food poisoning back in February got me thinking more about my health, so I’ve been jogging a lot lately — I’m down about 30 pounds — and decided I would give the run a try.
Plus, the race raised money for the Havelock Fire and Rescue Department’s Brave Enough to Wear Pink campaign, an effort aimed and providing needed funds to cancer patients. More than testing my running skills, that was reason enough to participate.
I had limited expectations going into the race. Jogging around my neighborhood is not running a 5K race, but I was confident I could finish the race. I just wasn’t sure how long it would take me and whether I would require medical attention when I finished. Fortunately, the finish line was right at the fire station, so I knew I would be in good hands.
I ran the race with my daughter. A senior in high school who has been on the track team, she has always been faster than me, but she was nice enough to hold back and run with me during most of the race. After all, I was falling behind by the time we reached the first half-mile — and fading fast.
Along the route, people with Havelock High’s NJROTC program and others encouraged us along the way, as one mile turned into two and runners ahead of me began disappearing from my view.
I asked one of the volunteers at one point if anyone was behind me. He looked and hesitated before telling me that there was indeed one person behind me. That made me feel good. Here I was in my first 5K race and I was actually ahead of someone.
Well, that someone turned out to be a woman pushing a stroller with her young daughter inside. Reality quickly set in that my only hope of beating anyone in the race was to beat a woman pushing a stroller. I know it’s sad, but you find motivation where you can.
After the race, she told me that running with the stroller takes her about three or four minutes longer than when she runs without it. She didn’t finish that far behind me, so it’s a good thing for me the kid was along for the ride.
As we hit the last stretch of the 3.1-mile run, I saw my wife alongside the road. I’m not sure if she was there to cheer me on or to witness my death. Who knows? Maybe it was both.
My daughter had finally had enough of running with me. She started to pull away in the last half mile. I simply couldn’t keep up.
I had set a goal to finish the race in 35 minutes. As I approached the finish line, I heard one of the volunteers shout out my time — 30:45. Suddenly, I had a new goal. I had to finish in less than 31 minutes. I sprinted the last few yards, completing the race in 30:54 — last place among all the men who had entered. The winner of the race, John Morefield, had finished nearly 12 minutes before I crossed the finish line.
As it turned out, I didn’t need medical attention. I had finished the race and would live to tell the tale. Now I’m thinking of finding other 5K races in which to run, with an eye toward beating my time and perhaps finishing in less than 30 minutes. After all, I’m a competitive person. But having said that, finishing last in the men’s division never felt so good.
Ken Buday is the editor and general manager of the Sun Journal. He can be reached at 444-1999 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.