15 June 2011


In my real life, I spend a lot of time on a podium - conducting a choir and (when I'm really organized) instruments who are making music for worship.

I have never been "on the podium" in any athletic contest. Not with a team, not with a solo effort, never in a race. (I have a vague memory of 5th grade, recess, and hitting the game-winning run; or was it being hit in for the game winning run? Vague memory, and in any case, there was no podium involved, just lots of fun and one of those "new kid in school" moments for me!)

Quite surprisingly, that changed for me Saturday last, with my third 5k run, or rather my third effort on the only 5k I've ever run. Run for the STARS is an extraordinary event sponsored by College Church in Wheaton. Funds raised by this growing, successful, very well run event, help send children and adults with disabilities - and their families - to summer camp. "I am not a runner," but this I have come to feel is worth running for.

2009, my first run, was a fluke. I woke up on Monday, and my weight was down to where I have felt more or less comfortable running. So I "trained" for 4 days, took Friday off for a bike ride, then ran on Saturday. I finished reasonably well (at a 7:48 pace), and people were saying to me, "I didn't know you were a runner, too." And I had to honestly say, "well, I'm not, really." "Well, you should, that was really good." "Really? Well, OK."

One thing led to another, and by April 2010 I was running my first marathon. Or, I should say, running my only marathon for the first time. I also took up running as my cross training, getting out twice a week most weeks, alternating 5k with 5m. June 2010 came around, with Run for the STARS, and I ran again. This time, my pace was 7:11, and I actually paid attention to the standings in my division. Not close to the podium, but respectable nonetheless. And I noticed that in the next division I would have been on the podium. Food for thought. May 2011, again with the Big Sur marathon, which brought me face to face with another 5k effort and the question: might I make it to the podium?

About a week before the race, I thought, "what makes me think that no one else in last year's race has also turned 55?" And I knew that one of my running friends (a real runner) would take the prize. All I hoped for was a spot; I was happy to place or show.

Imagine my surprise when I printed out my race ticket, while waiting for the awards. Whoa! That can't be right, because my real running friend was clearly ahead of me, by a pretty clear margin. Ah, so he is not my age, not close enough yet. Surprisingly, too, in that uncannily competitive division (male 50-54), Emanuel did not even make it on the podium. That made me realize that next year I will likely revert to my accustomed spot "in the upper half" of my age group.

And I'm cool with that! I held my information in check because you just never know what might be going on with these race details. So, though it seemed like it would be announced, it was still a huge thrill to be announced as 1st in my division: male 55-59 (1/16); 97th out of a field of 834 finishers; run time of 21:43; a 7:01 pace. There is even a medal, and someone took a picture so if you want, I have some proof. I know I need that proof, because it is my first time on an athletic podium, and it's still sinking in.

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