What do you do when you’re in a race that you know you won’t win, but the objective of just finishing is not really that much of a challenge?
I’m in that stage of running right now. I don’t do a lot of races, mostly because I already have a ton of T-shirts and the idea of a slow runner like me “racing” is actually kind of hilarious.
But entering a race with a group of friends – particularly an event that includes free grub and suds at the end – is a different story.
However, I find myself in that place in shorter races where I’m right in the middle of the pack of finishers. I won’t win – not even my age group.
But it’s still fun to make a game of it. In this case, a game akin to stalking prey.
I recently read the book “Born to Run” in which the author talks to researchers who told him that prehistoric humans routinely ran down their prey through exhaustion – continuing a long-distance chase that ultimately prey animals couldn’t endure.
That’s an interesting mindset. And that can make a race fun.
Stuck in the middle of the pack, I spied a few dudes whose pride was making sure they didn’t get passed by me, seeing as how they had already passed me up earlier. I stayed on their tail for most of the race, keeping an even pace and not being more than a hundred yards or so behind them.
Keeping them in sight, I also made sure I had enough in the tank for a kick at the end. I knew I’d be good here because I was always able to gain on them on the hills, then fall back on the downhills. (Kind of a backwards strategy, but it gave me an idea of how strong folks would be – and how strong I’d be – at the end.)
On the final quarter mile, they all fell, one by one. They were tired. I wasn’t. Picking up the pace, I could almost feel them wilt as I passed by, conceding defeat. It’s an enjoyable feeling.
Finally, the last 200 yards. One dude left to pick off. Picking it up to a sprint, I passed him. He sped up as we neared the finish. But I still had another gear.
“Thanks for giving me a little push at the end,” he said to me. “I just wish my wife would have told me someone was coming up behind me so close to the finish!”
When the race ended, I finished in the middle of my age group with an unspectacular time. I joined my friends, who had already finished (including two who won their age groups) in much better style than me.
But I enjoyed the race. And I enjoyed my little game. Competitive juices can still flow, even when you’re not competing for first place.
What do you do in a race to make it more interesting? Comment here and discuss!
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