“Never go on stage with a kid or a dog,” some famous actor once said ( I think it was W. C. Fields, but I’m not sure, and it’s probably a paraphrase, anyway, so who’s counting?)
The sentiment comes to mind after taking part in a local Turkey Trot which had been set up in tight back-and-forth over a grassy meadow covered by about two inches of stale snow and which attracted over 400 participants despite temperatures in the 20’s. Seeing the start line occupied by the usual lean young men (in t-shirts despite the cold), I set myself back among the ‘faster than a walk, but definitely not going to take any awards’ crowd and awaited the gun. The first mile was purely a matter of traffic control; weaving a path through runners who were already losing their initial steam, and trying not to impede those who thought the same of me, as we all hogged the thin strip of muddy grass we were carving into semi-secure footing among all that snow.
By the second mile, things had thinned out as we each found our pace, and somewhere along the way I found mine matched very closely by a slight young woman in a pink jacket, huffing along with admirable intensity. Focusing on steady level-of-effort as the course rolled up and down around multiple hairpin turns, I found myself easily passing this youngster, and offered a heartfelt ‘way to go’ as I did. Turn-about being fair play, she passed me a little later, which was when I began to really take note. Over the next mile, we traded places several times and I began to appreciate that besides strong lungs and legs, this kid possessed a spirit that did not readily accept being left behind.
Approaching the last turn, she was just ahead of me, within easy reach if I hit the pedal for a good finish. There’s neither honor nor pleasure in passing a youngster in the final yards though, so I told myself if I did not pull past her naturally before the last hundred, I would hang back and follow her in. Around the turn, her pace slackened and she fell behind, with about two-hundred yards to the finish.
Secure in the notion I was not going to make a fool of myself competing with ‘a little kid,’ I accelerated, savoring release from the discipline of pacing (and anticipating the joy of stopping…) when, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a shiny pink object not only come near, but quickly pulling ahead!
Long story short, I could not have matched that finishing sprint even if I’d wanted to, so gladly followed her across the red line spray-painted on the snow. A few minutes later, after making sure she had been joined by an adult, I made my way over and offered very sincere congratulations and encouragement to the smiling youngster and her parents.
Only when the results were posted, did I learn that the person who’d kept me honest and made sure I did my best that day was all of nine-years old.
Any day we can run is a good day; and well worth a Thanksgiving.