Happiness Is: Finishing 39th of 43 Men in a Race!

Yesterday, on a late, muggy afternoon, I ran in a race, and finished 39th of 43 men in the race. I ran as hard as I could, just as I do in every race: my goal is always to run fast and beat as many competitors as I can. I don’t run in a race for “fun” (in the conventional sense of the word): I race to know pain and to stretch my limits. (I save my “fun” running for when I’m not racing.)

So why was I pretty happy, despite getting my butt totally kicked?

For amusement, here is an excerpt of the men’s individual results of the CMU intramural XC race yesterday (billed as 2 miles but the course was clearly shorter than that):

  1. 13:17.3
  2. 13:27.7 (me)
  3. 14:33.7
  4. 14:33.71
  5. 14:33.72
  6. 14:59.9

Well, I was happy for a number of reasons.

For one thing, this is the first “cross-country” race I have done, so I was just plain excited to do something different.

Also, my expectations were low. Low expectations are the secret to happiness. I entered the race knowing there was a definite possibility that I would finish last. I knew many of the runners would be undergrads less than half my age, and a self-selected group too, a group that does not include the (sadly numerous) students I see around every day who take the bus down one or two blocks or take the elevator up one floor.

I was one of those students once. I was not a runner as a child, or in high school, or in college, or even in graduate school. I was sickly as a child, and also I was raised to pay no attention to physical fitness and even to look down on those who were fit (I know, sour grapes). I started running only after I left graduate school and embarked on several radical life changes (including losing 30 pounds, altering my diet, and taking up competitive ballroom dancing). So in a way, taking advantage of the opportunity (as CMU staff) to take part in the CMU intramural cross-country race was a way to fill in a gap in my collection of novel and exciting lifetime experiences.

You can bet I’ll be running this race again next year, and with every intention of placing higher.

(Update of 2012-09-27)

It turned out that I ended up not running this race in 2012.

A note on shoes

I ran yesterday’s race in my Vibram FiveFingers Bikila LS shoes, the first time I’d worn this pair of shoes in a race. I will run the Great Race in these shoes also. (More later on this blog about “minimalist shoes” and how they saved my life.)

Franklin's Vibram FiveFingers Bikila LS shoes

Preview for Sunday

On Sunday I will be running the Pittsburgh Great Race 10K. This will be the ninth time I have run the race. Stay tuned for a race report on Sunday!

Below is a photo of my running it for the first time, in 2000, as the second race I had ever done (and I had never run more than three miles continuously in my life at that time). It was quite an ordeal. The following year I ran the race better prepared, 8:51 faster.

Franklin nearing the finish of the Great Race in 2000

(Update of 2011-09-25)

My Great Race 2011 report.

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