You can't outrun your competitive side

I was momentarily discombobulated when they couldn’t find my registrastion, recovered when they granted me an-on-the-spot sponsor exemption, then rediscombobulated when I was standing at the starting line with less than a minute to go and realized I’d never gotten a timing chip. Well, rats, I thought. The race won’t count.

It wasn’t the first time I’d confronted my competitive … ness. To call it a problem would suggest it’s, well, a problem. It’s not. It’s more of a condition. When we’re on a friendly ride and Alan starts to pull ahead, I do what I can to keep up. When I play Frisbee with the kids I may be a little too determined to run down/dive for an errant throw. When I take the stairs instead of the elevator, I take ’em two and at time and work hard  to conceal the fact I’m out of breath. Problem? Well … .

Timed or not, I ran the race like it did count. There’s no choice: The horn blows, I’m weaving through people trying to find my pace. (The simple fact I start midpack and have weave past people suggests a comeptitive … tendency.)

This morning’s Blue Points 5K on the Runway at PTI was my first race since hobbling across the finish of an 8K Turkey Trot last Thanksgiving. I’d been ignoring a hip flexor issue that exploded with crippling vengence, sent me to physical therapy and sidelined me from racing for nearly six months. A couple times in the interim I’d stumbled across race results from last year and wondered if I’d ever do a 5K below 25 minutes again, let alone crack the 21-minute barrier that was last year’s goal. I’d ease myself back into running, feel a twinge in my hip, retreat. When I saw the unique venues on the Blue Points 5K Series schedule for this summer (today’s runway run at Piedmont Triad International, a finish inside the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, a finish inside the Panther’s stadium and a golf course run where the legends of golf will be playing) I thought darn the twinge, just run. Truth is, that’s not all I thought. I thought about that golf course run last year, the inagural event. I won my age group (50-54) and even though it was a small field, it felt good to win. No, it felt great.

So with 411 other runners this morning I ran a mile and a half down a 9,000 -foot runway at PTI, then a mile and a half back. It was the flatest race I’ve ever run, and while that sometimes translates into uninteresting, this race was not. I’ve never run on a surface smeared with the impact marks from a 50-ton jet reaquainting itself with Earth. I’ve never neared the end of a race and seen a FedEx cargo plane waiting at the finish. I’ve never raced in a venue enclosed with concertina wire. All of which distracted me from the fact I’m not crazy about 5Ks (even though my goal in my just-launched 55th year is to run 11 of them), or that I was on pace to beat that 25-minute barrier by nearly three minutes and take second place in my new age category (55-59).

At the finish I was tickled to learn that the timing chip was embedded in my race bib (technology!), and that the race did count. At the post-race ceremony I sprinted to the podium when my name was called and accepted my water bottle trophy like it was an Oscar. My competitive juices were bubbling over. Is that a problem?

For me, it’s motivation.

Photo: And the water bottle for second best performance in the 55-59 age category goes to …

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