Yesterday I got first place in my age group for a local 5k (3.1 miles). My winning time – 24:18. Not very fast, in fact in any other race this would be quite average, the fast ones coming in at 20 minutes or less. Even so, my time was a personal best and I got a medal.
Apart from charity raffles, where the prizes are always rubbish, the only other thing I’ve won was the 50 metre dash at my primary school sports day. I was 8. I didn’t get a medal, just a blue ribbon with a little safety pin. I remember being quite chuffed. Even more so than getting my first Girl Guide proficiency badge, which was for being nice to old people. It wasn?t called that, I think it was ‘Care of the Elderly’ or ‘Friend to the Deaf’, which was really the same thing in my village.
I don?t know much about American sports days, but in my English primary school the ?sports? were quite unlike anything you?d find at a competitive level. Just as well really because cheating was rampant. Your chances in the sack race – jumping along the course in a burlap sack – could be vastly improved by pushing your feet into the corners so your toes poked through. Shuffling was a lot quicker than jumping. In the egg and spoon race too it was possible to hold the spoon while placing your thumb over the top of the egg to stop it falling. At this point I hadn?t appreciated the benefits of cheating and so I usually lost. Though in the case of the skipping race, I lost because I was hopeless at it.
When I got to grammar school, I still wanted to run but I was outpaced by everyone else on the track team. I?d still go to the practices, partly because I wanted to be on the team and partly because it gave me a place to go at lunchtime. While they were all doing sprints and using starting blocks, I was sent off on a 1500 metre run, the teacher knowing that I?d just about complete this by the time the session was over.
I didn?t run again till I met Erik. I’m not sure of the correlation, though he did bike a lot and had better legs than me. I?d leave our flat to go running and come back 12 minutes later, wheezing and desperate for a cigarette and some bacon. Since moving to Austin though, I?ve run 4 marathons and countless other races and I?m quite proud of all my finisher?s medals. But for some reason, finding that I’d beaten the handful of other 40 year old women yesterday – even with a slowish time, low race turnout and flat course – felt close to winning that blue ribbon.
Note: Though it still pales when compared to my coveted Girl Guide ‘Good Hostess’ badge. With a little teacup and saucer as the emblem.