Yep, Ricky Bobby’s dad said it best but sometimes, as I found out during a recent 5K, you can be first and last!
Ricky Bobby: Wait, Dad. Don’t you remember the time you told me “If you ain’t first, you’re last”?
Reese Bobby: Huh? What are you talking about, Son?
Ricky Bobby: That day at school.
Reese Bobby: Oh hell, Son, I was high that day. That doesn’t make any sense at all, you can be second, third, fourth… hell you can even be fifth.
Ricky Bobby: What? I’ve lived my whole life by that!
So there I was at the annual Summer Scramble 5K ready to tear it up on a hot summer night. Some people run these for fun but I’m not sure who those people are? I can say “oh yeah this will be fun,” all I want but once that gun goes off on the start line it’s ON and this race was no different.
First, I want to clear something up. A 5K (3 mile race) is not in any way, shape or form easy for me. In fact, I think it’s one of the hardest races I run because it’s an all out sprint for 3 miles! The 10K or any other race for that matter, does not move as fast from the start or have as much pressure (at least for me) as the 5K. Just because I go out and run 10 miles for fun, does not make the 5K race easy for me. At all. Now, a three mile run would be easy but as soon as you get a bib number and timing chip, there is no easy.
So there I am, running my ass off in the heat on a perfectly beautiful summer night. At mile two I’m thinking “why the hell am I doing this?” and “can’t I be like a normal girl and just have a girls night at a pub with my friends?” Nope. Not me. And at least not two other girls I know which makes me feel slightly better.
I’m now closing in on the last quarter-mile and I’m pretty sure I’m the first woman. As I get to the last 200 yards or so I get the “bike escort” to the finish and there are actually two people at the finish line holding up the finishers tape! WTF? Do I cross with both arms raised, Rocky-style and break the tape? I’m sorry to say that I felt almost embarrassed to cross the tape! This has only happened to me one other time and these scrambles are pretty small races but, I definitely should have owned it and ran across like a real woman. Next time.
Anyhoo, fast forward 30 minutes or so to me in line for my well-deserved burrito with my well-deserved beer in hand and a woman approaches me and says “Didn’t you come in first?” Why yes! I really wasn’t expecting paparazzi but ok, would you like a comment? Instead she says “They have me in the system as being first and I know you crossed the finish line before me!” Seriously? I win the damn thing and this is the race where the timing chips got screwed up? So I thank her profusely and march down to the finish to demand answers politely ask if there’s any way I can get credit for winning…and I bring my entourage.
By doing this, we all cross the finish line again to a chorus of beeping. I explain to the woman with the clipboard (clearly she’s in charge since she has a clipboard) that I’m showing up as second and I’m pretty sure I won and is this about the way I crossed the tape because if I can have a do-over I will lift my arms with pride in the traditional “I won!” style!? She stares at my blankly and then leads me to a van that is parked Magnum P.I. style behind a row of bushes (I cannot make this up!) with two men at computers in it, typing furiously away. She speaks in a hushed tone, even though we’re the only two people there, and explains that they’re aware of the issue and are trying to resolve it. They take my name and bib number and assure me I will be declared the winner.
Here is the issue in a childlike illustration:
There are mat sensors which pick-up your timing chip (embedded in your bib number) as you cross the finish, however, some of the chip times were being picked up at the red arrow and some at the actual finish. Debacle. Added debacle was when our entourage crossed the finish yet again to speak with the clipboard women and the result was an on-line finish time for me (and all of them) as DEAD LAST!
Luckily in this technological age the wise people at Hartford Marathon Foundation had a paper back-up system that was dead on balls accurate. I was in fact declared the winner and got the most amazing Rasta knit cap. Totally worth it.
What challenges have you faced in races? Do you race for fun or is it always competitive?