The most charming cliché graced my Sunday morning and I want to tell you all about it.
I showed up at Ogden Park at 8:30 AM to pick up my bib and aqua-blue t-shirt for the 3rd annual Englewood 5k. I was by myself and spent the 2 hours until race time reading, pretending I’m good at stretching, and watching the whole community turn out for selfies and hugs. It was equally heart warming and alienating for someone who showed up solo.
Come race time, everyone passed under the timing arch, jogging to the beat of the Legends Drumline, which is objectively the greatest running music ever created.
The aqua-blue stream of people headed south on Racine and turned west on 71st. As we ran, neighbors leaned out of their windows and made camp on their front porches and cheered us on. When I needed my first breather and started walking, I heard “That’s OK baby! You tired? You walk! We appreciate the walk!” from a woman standing on her front steps. That made me laugh so hard I almost couldn’t get my breath back at all.
My usual race strategy consists of running until I’m in pain (roughly 4-5 minutes in), and then walk until the external pressure gets me moving again. I’m not a disciplined athlete at all. I find running boring, which lets my mind wander and focus on how heavy my feet feel, and what a punctured lung might feel like. But my race would have been significantly longer (and less fun) had Rascal not shown up.
Half-way through, an out-of-breath 6 year old appeared at my side as he slowed to match my walking-out-a-cramp pace. He had one shoe untied and was carrying a coat in his left hand and a water bottle in his right.
“You can do it! Keep going!…Look at them in the houses, they’re cheering us on!…I’m tired, but I’m so happy! Are you happy? This is so great!”
He said his name is Rascal, and he became my motivational coach for the next mile and a half. We cheered each other on and strategized together (“Okay, let’s run until that stop sign, and then walk until the police car. Ready? Go!”), and even clapped and yelled thank yous back to the people along the race route.
He loved hearing the crowds cheer us on. Today, he was the star of the show. “Do you think we’ll get a trophy?” he asked me at one point. “I dunno,” I said, “but if I get one, you can have it.”
We eventually rounded the corner and sprinted to the finish line. Another racer clapped me on the back and said my little buddy had done a heck of a job keeping up with me. I said truthfully that it was all I could do just to keep up with him.
When we crossed the finish line, each racer got a medal. Except Rascal. He was looking up at the organizers handing them out, who informed him he couldn’t have one because he didn’t have a race bib. I hadn’t realized he didn’t have one until that minute. He just wanted to run with the crowd.
I gave him my medal. He seemed pretty excited and bunched it up in his hand so the organizers wouldn’t see he’d gotten a hold of one, which was pretty clever in my opinion.
He scampered off to watch the drumline and wait for his uncle to appear at the finish while I staggered back to the park to find some water.
I’m definitely signing up for the Englewood 5k next fall. Solo or with friends, I don’t mind. I know I won’t ever have to run that race alone.
Have a Scien-tastic Day!