A younger friend of mine, I hate to tell you how younger-younger she is, but she could be my daughter, suggested that I join her in a 5K race. I thought she had either lost her marbles or secretly had a death wish for me. I have been a vegan for over 30 years and I have always pushed myself to exercise and keep my body moving beyond the daily routine of living and working, but by gosh I am….well, well over the other side of fifty – kinda’ reluctantly doing the down hill slide. But, I admit even when I don’t feel like it, which is honestly most of the time, I drag myself outdoors and always wind up feeling better for it. And for these last 40 years I have been lucky to live in an area with scenic paths along the ocean and green hills to climb. A great thing that kept me motivated in my pre-ipod years.
My young friend finally convinced me it would be fun and maybe the primary benefit to me would be a reality check on how fit I really was (or not) at my age. She wasn’t crazy enough to consider my placing, she knew I just would be grateful to cross the finish line without the paramedics waiting for me. My husband joked that he would take no odds on me, unless it was to be the ultimate loser.
With that cheerful send-off packed full of confidence building some husbands are able to endow their wives in times of need, I walked to the sign-up area in the park near the starting line, got my blue T-shirt and nervously made small talk with the mostly younger, younger men and women there. The majority with their glistening South Beach tans and flawless laminated smiles. I pulled my geezer Cunard Cruise Line ball cap lower to disguise my white hair and even though by now I was really having second thoughts, I would drag myself forward, knowing the show must go on.
The whistle blew and away we all went up Ocean Drive in South Beach and around the course that curved back to the initial starting line at South Pointe Park. Like a seasoned thoroughbred, I surprised myself at my steady pace. Surely, I didn’t want to drop dead on Ocean Drive and have the humiliation of people stepping over me. Just keep going and you’ll finally either have a stroke and will be on the evening local news, or just maybe you will be able to at least finish this thing, I kept telling myself. My pride was driving me more than anything. I am such a sick-thinking person, I would have murmured under my breath, but by that time I could hardly catch it.
I really didn’t pay attention to any of the other runners. I just kept running and the more I ran my energy grew. Wow. Not bad. Okay. I’m still alive. Surely the finish line is up here somewhere. My heart was pounding and I felt flushed as I gave one final sprint of energy over the finish line that was just ahead, finally in sight.
I saw the paramedic truck there, probably waiting for me,I thought, but my quivering lips just managed a shaky smile as I passed by. This senior has gotcha this time, fellas!
Well, I hung around to go home with my friend and what do you know, I got a nice little trophy to take home. Third Place. OMG. I couldn’t believe it. Now I REALLY am going to have a stroke! Wow! Not bad for an old gal. I sooooo even surprised myself! Way to go girl, I told myself.
I was feeling pretty heady for a few weeks until I got an email from an old high school class mate who is biking with her husband through Europe and loving the daily challenge of miles and miles of valleys and hills and mountains! Oh well, short lived glory is better than none at all!