“Did you win?” That’s a common question runners and cyclists get from non-runners and non-cyclists when we say we have a race. Of course, the vast majority of us who are racing are not, or will never be, the winners. But there are so many reasons for racing.
This morning I ran the Saratoga Firecracker 4 – four miles to celebrate the 4th of July. I’ve run this race most years when I’m up here playing with Opera Saratoga. It’s a fun, community event which helps support some good local programs (like local track teams and an outdoor sports program for disabled folks).
But I haven’t been racing. It’s been almost a year since my last race. In fact, for a variety of reasons, I haven’t been running all that much this past year. All that didn’t matter, I decided. I didn’t care about my time, didn’t care about my lack of consistent training. Like I said, there are a lot of reasons for racing. So, a couple days ago, I signed up. (I REALLY didn’t want to get up this morning, did not want to race, but I had already paid my money, so I went – that was part of the reason I signed up before, knowing I might change my mind if I waited to register the day of.)
As I was jogging to the start, I was wondering why I was doing this. But then I got close enough that I started seeing all the other runners walking and running in, warming up, pinning on numbers, adjusting clothes. I saw the families who were coming out to cheer on husbands/wives/kids/grandparents. I heard the music blaring. And I remembered why.
Everyone was out for their own reasons. There were some really fast kids (I think the local schools must have some really good track coaches – I’m always impressed). There were teams. There were moms and dads, some running with kids who were running their first race, some pushing strollers. I ran for a while with a new mother, pushing her baby girl. It was her first race since giving birth (and also first race since breaking her ankle while pregnant). She didn’t care about her time, she was just happy to be out. Another mom was pushing a newborn with an impressive scream. Lots of parents or brothers and sisters were pushing disabled sons/daughters/brothers/sisters. There were people dressed in all the latest hi-tech gear. Others in old shoes and cotton T-shirt. One guy was rocking an old pair of Converse canvas basketball shoes – you know, the high-top ones. Some people ran for their best times. Others walked. I just wanted to feel that race feeling again. In some ways it’s been a tough year, so I just wanted to run, and to know that it was a manageable distance, and that I had to finish, and that I could.
So I ran. It was fun. I ran about 2 1/2 minutes slower than last year. But I didn’t care. Everyone was happy. Strangers encouraged each other. And that was why I raced. These are my people, my tribe, everyone just happy to be out. I’m sure someone won, probably impressively fast. But that’s not why we ran.
Happy 4th of July!