I discovered jogging quite late in life. I was in my 40’s when I entered the 17th Annual Berryville, Virginia Turkey Trot in 1997.
Many of my friends in Charles Town are runners. They goaded me into joining them. While they powered through the 6 mile race, I happily sauntered along the 1.5 mile course.
Imagine my surprise when I placed first in my age group (45-49) with a time of 19:23. The winning female posted a time of 10:39 and 44 other runners beat me to the finish line. No matter---I proudly accepted my first ever blue ribbon for a sporting event. I hung my award in a prominent place in my kitchen. A friend admired it and asked if the Turkey Trot was a cooking competition.
I learned a very important lesson from the Berryville Turkey Trot: even though I am slow, I can
always place in my age category because few of my peeps are entering races. Maybe it’s because my age group missed the benefits of Title IX. Enacted in 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act granted girls equal access to sports at public schools. I was already out of high school and college at that point. Running track or cross country never occurred to me during my academic career. Others in my age group may have missed the running boom in the 70’s for the same reason.
Despite my late entry into the world of running, I continue to win t-shirts, sweatshirts, trophies, medals and engraved plates for finishing in the top three of my age group at 5K events. I may be slow but I am old.
Recently, my daughter in Winston Salem NC entered the family in a 5K Beat the Heat race. Molly is a dedicated runner and has completed half-marathons and too many 5K’s to count. Now she is pregnant so she walked the course. Walkers received a 10 minute head start. My goal for the race was simple. Beat my 6 month pregnant daughter to the finish line.
At this stage of my life, my race strategy is to walk fast and occasionally break into a jog. The Beat the Heat race was in the evening but it was still hot. My pace was even slower than usual. The miles clicked by but I was not catching up to Molly. How fast could she be walking for goodness sake? Finally near the end of the course I saw her. Like the good mother I am, I slowed down to walk next to her. Once the finish line was in sight I whispered tenderly, “Love you, honey, but I cannot let you beat me” and picked up my pace.
I finished third in my age group (70-74) with a time of 44:57 because there were only three entrants.
The results are posted on the internet and there is a video clip for each runner as we crossed the finish line. I look like an aging, short of breath hippo lumbering to a water hole.
As long as awards continue to be given in 5 year increments, I plan to keep finishing in the top three. If the age groups ever get broader (like 70 -100 years of age) my winning streak will come to a screeching halt. When I am 80, I doubt very much I can defeat competitors who are only 70.