Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Tortoise Without Hare

This year, there was no Run to the Far Side. There was no Run Wild for a Child. We kept our post-Thanksgiving exercise on this side of the Bay. There was some crazy talk about doing a local version of the "Turkey Trot" that a number of different communities like to put on in the latter days of November. Instead of simply falling back on slothful ways, we did keep ourselves active and made a number of attempts at staying fit in spite of the excessive burden of stuffing ourselves in the manner of that eponymous bird. Still, we didn't have a chance to get together with a crowd and go for a run. Not until this past weekend.
My wife, the president of my son's high school PTSA, thought it would be a good move both politically and physically for us to join in the "fun run" sponsored by the freshman PE class. It was nominally being held for extra credit for all those kids in their first and least elective year of physical education. My son grumbled to anyone who would listen that it wasn't his concern since he had already passed his PE requirement. His parents didn't let that be the thing that kept him in bed on Sunday morning. Instead, we all piled into the car and drove over to Lake Merritt, where we stood in the chilly morning breeze with a hundred or so fresh faces, many of whom made the trip with their parents.
It was a pretty casual affair, as we signed our waivers and took our gold plastic ribbons down by the waterside to await direction. As it turns out, the instructions were as laid back as the rest of the program: Run around the lake, and we'll have some water and pastries waiting here when you get back. As for the course, it was a pretty simple matter of following the path around the circumference of the lake, returning to the place where we started, next to the downed eucalyptus tree.
Then we were off, and like so many races before, I started with my wife and child, only to be encouraged to run off on my own instead of waiting for them. It was what I was waiting for, and I took off, weaving my way through the mix of walkers and other runners. Soon I found myself moving along the path, climbing the ladder of those slower individuals who had started out in front of me. I kept my pace as gangly young boys and girls stomped on by me, and their parents watched them go. It wasn't long before I caught up to them again, one at a time, winded and shuffling their feet. They had used up their burst of speed and had slowed to a burdened walk. There was no time requirement. To get the extra credit, they just needed to make it back to the start/finish line to receive their "certificate of excellence." I kept moving.
About three quarters of the way around, I passed a kid who seemed like he wanted to finish strong. Then he started walking. I wanted to encourage him, to drag him along with me. A few hundred yards later, he came up from behind me again. I let him get a few yards ahead, and then I reeled him in again. We repeated this dance a number of times in that last mile. With the finish line in sight, I surged ahead and didn't look back. I wasn't going to let a freshman beat me. I expected a contest, but he didn't accept the challenge. There was no need. He could see his certificate up ahead, and he had done his part. There would be no extra-extra credit for beating the fifty-one-year-old elementary school teacher.
I tried not to notice how many kids were standing around the pastries already when I made my way past the finish line. I came in in front of at least a couple of high school students. That would have to be enough for the day.

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