Grandpa And The Floozie: Good Friday Ten-Miler

6 Apr

Running is the one area of my life where all of my health interests intersect. It is good for my general health, it does a lot to keep depression at bay, and it is the means by which I raise funds for autism services.

It is no wonder that I take my running so seriously, nor that I’ve been anxiously awaiting my first race of the season: the Good Friday Ten-Miler, which happened today. I had watched the weather forecast throughout the week, and I was excited about the prospect of running in shorts to herald the arrival of Spring.

When I arrived at the start, the bitterly cold wind caused me some anxiety. I could deal with the shorts but I didn’t know if I would be able to take off my jacket. It was sunny, though, and it was only cold when the wind blew. And so I decided to stop being a sissy and leave the jacket in the car.

I headed to the registration area to pick up my race kit, and the first thing I had to do was look up my bib number. When I saw what it was, I actually snorted with laughter.

666. The number of the beast.

Seriously? I was going to have to run ten miles with the number 666 on my shirt? Where people could see me? The man who gave me my bib had a good laugh and told me to “run like the devil”.

I got to the start line with about a minute to spare, and all of a sudden we were off. I was aiming to beat 1:45:00, and in my eagerness to have a good race, I flew out of the starting blocks. I ran my first kilometre in 6:05, and realized that if I was going to meet my target I would have to dial it back a little.

A big hill in the second kilometre took care of getting my pace back in line, and through the rest of the race my pace was more or less consistent. Somewhere between the third and fifth kilometres, I saw my friend and coach Phaedra, who was a couple of kilometres ahead of me in the race. We waved and exchanged a high-five and went on our respective ways.

About six kilometres in, I tucked in behind a tall elderly man who was running at just the right pace. After a while I picked up my pace and passed him. Two kilometres further, at about the halfway mark, I slowed down and the man caught me.

He ran with me for a little while, and then we got to the big hill again, and he turned out to be better at tackling it than me. Off he went into the distance. I saw Phaedra again, but by this point she was entering her final mile and I still had about six kilometres to go.

Throughout the race, me and the elderly man were passing each other but staying more or less within spitting distance of each other.

With about three kilometres to go, I caught up with the man again. Sensing that we were going to be running alongside each other for a while, he started chatting to me. Jovially, he said, “I’ll race you to the finish!”

In wonderment that I could talk at all, I said to him, “You’re on!”

“Well, I gotta tell you. You may be young and pretty, but there’s no way I’m allowing myself to get chicked in a race.”

God bless him. He had called me young and pretty! I’m 42 years old, and having run 13km pretty hard at that stage, I looked anything but pretty. Still, it was nice of him to say so.

There is a fine but steely thread of competitiveness that runs through my veins, and I decided then and there to take on the man’s challenge. I said to him, “Well, you may have a ton more running experience than me, and you certainly look like you’re in better shape, but I’m not letting myself get beaten by someone who’s clearly a lot older than me.”

With a twinkle in his eye, he said, “Let’s see who gets home first. The grandpa or the floozie!”

Like a shot, he was off. And I wasn’t having any of it. I picked up my pace and chased him. I caught him and stuck with him for the next kilometre and a bit. I have to say, he put up a hell of a fight. Every time I sped up, so did he. But that little bit of competitiveness in me refused to lie down and die, so I kept trying.

All of a sudden, I could smell the finish line around the corner. I dug deep and found the biggest finishing kick that I’ve ever had. With about 500 metres to go, I finally passed my elderly friend and sprinted to the finish line, clocking a time of 1:43:10.

Not only had I beaten my target time of 1:45:00, I had absolutely smashed my previous personal best time by almost ten minutes.

And the floozie had beaten the grandpa.

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