The agony and ecstasy of a 5K runner

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico

The rumors of my death are, on further review, greatly exaggerated.

Perhaps it was my fault that people believed I had died, as I wrote a death notice for myself to start last week’s column. Even though it was in the opinion section, and my date of death was three days after the publication date, I had to convince a few readers I had not died but imagined the fate of my first 5K race on Saturday.

It took me only seconds to convince people I was not dying. It took me 37:58 to convince people I wasn’t a runner. That was my time in the Zeta Tau Alpha third annual 5K Run … or, as I called it, “Here’s my $20 for breast cancer awareness, and my dignity will be somewhere on the track for you to pick up.”

It was a strange experience. There were people there who … sorry, this is hard for me … enjoyed running. They were talking about the next 5K they were doing, or showing me custom shirts and bracelets for their running. They were looking forward to this, and I was hoping their enthusiasm was somehow tied to a secret Coldstone Creamery along the racepath.

I was in front of the pack, and it was an exhilirating feeling. But the anti-Kevin organizers had it in for me from the start. They claimed every runner had to start the race behind the “start” line. I never led again.

You may remember that last week, I described a mild leg injury I suffered during training. The leg remembered, and came back with a vengeance less than a quarter of the way into my run. From then on, Saturday was walking, with just enough running to stay ahead of the untimed walkers.

I wasn’t sure what the most embarrassing part of my “run” was. Maybe it was that halfway through, I decided to make myself useful and picked up the water cups people had thrown on the road (yes ladies, this man helps with housework — contact information below). Maybe it was that some of the professional runners had decided to go for a second run through the course while I was still in the home stretch. But I think the worst was that there were people driving home while I was still running. And because it was Portales, and nowhere is too far away, I’m convinced at least one person got home before I got to the finish line.

I crossed the finish line, and the crowd that hadn’t driven home high-fived me like I had won. Even though I had decidedly not, and even though the fight against breast cancer is far from over.

I took my racing number, and wrote, “37:58” with a Sharpie, and spent Sunday shopping for better running shoes. On the next 5K — and there will be a next 5K — I plan on marking a time under 30 minutes on the racing number.

I still don’t enjoy running, that’s for sure. But I enjoy failing even less. I’ll keep donating to charity and sacrificing my dignity until I run my perfect 5K.

Or, at least, until I find a 5K with a Coldstone on the path.

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Freedom New Mexico. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by e-mail: kwilson@cnjonline.com