It’s usually a good thing to “go the extra mile,” right? Well…not when your racing! Around my neck of the woods, we enjoy a great summer running series called “Scrambles.” They consist of three 5Ks spread throughout the summer months and always have fun music themes like Elvis, Jimmy Buffett and, most recently – Disco! Part of the fun of these races is that you never know what you’re going to get. The course changes with each race and sometimes they throw in stairs. A lot of stairs. Or rocks. A lot of rocks. Are you noticing a trend here? But then you have beer and fabulous burritos afterward and you forget about all those stairs and rocks. Kind of.
Well, let me tell you that I will never forget the last race of this summer. In hindsight (20/20 of course!) there were plenty of signs that something was about to go horribly wrong. I went to warm-up and stopped because my legs were feeling tight and tired from the 20 mile bike ride I did in the morning. I’m training for a Duathlon and a girls gotta do… Then I said to my friend Pam “I really like to know my course.” To which she replied “Oh that’s part of the fun.” Nope. Turns out, it wasn’t. The final sign was, at the start of the race, they announced that all the young, lean and speedy looking men with their toes on the line were from the local magnet school and this would be their last race as high school students. And then we were off…
It was a fast start. Apparently, the lead pack of high schoolers weren’t paying any attention to the guy on the bike who was leading us through the first section of the race because they went the wrong way – straight across the finish line…and of course, the pack followed. There was no telltale “beeping” when we ran across the finish so I was hoping our timing chips weren’t being picked up at that point. If so, that would’ve been my fastest 5K ever! Oh the irony!
We sped through a paved walkway by the river and then headed into the woods. And we ran and ran and ran. I was feeling vommity and cramppy and just kind of miserable but I was in the lead and heard the glorious *beep* on my watch signaling the first mile. We continued running and running and running and then this happened:
I see the pack turn around! A speedy friend of mine zips by me (in the opposite direction) and says “we’re going the wrong way! Turn around!” What the what???? Is this a sick joke? Am I being punked? Of course I thought all this as I (and about 10 other guys since I was the lead woman) turned around and started running in the opposite direction. My next thought (with a lot of swearing) was just how far off course did we run? Is there any chance in hell of catching up?
Back through the wooded trail I went only this time dodging people – who, by the way, were extremely gracious and let this hungry mob pass them on a fairly skinny trail – with tons of dirt kicking up and making me bleary-eyed. I saw at least two of my friends and just mumbled “We went the wrong way!” as I passed. They were pretty confused and then shouted “Oh shit!” or “Oh no Allie!” These are not encouraging words my friends!!!
At this point, my watch had already beeped out mile 2 and I knew we were more then a mile to the finish. I wanted to stop. I wanted to stomp my feet and cry and yell “This isn’t fair!” but instead I thought – I’m going to finish this goddamn race as fast as I can. Suck it up!
And suck it did! When I’m racing a 5K, it’s a mental and physical focus of 3 miles. I know it doesn’t seem like a lot but when you run even a quarter mile more then what you planned, it screws with your head and your legs and lungs start to turn on you!
At mile three I checked my time (because I’m a masochist) and it read 20:11. Unfortunately, the finish line was still .58 miles away! Yep. I ran an extra half mile (plus a little more) and finished in 23:53.
Misery loves company. At the finish line there was a lot of confusion and bitching. Mostly by me since guys just don’t bitch that much even when they run an extra mile! We decided on two things: Yes it was extremely frustrating and the course should have been marked better BUT what the hell can you do? At least it was a “fun” run and not a Boston Qualifier or anything. Runners are good at putting things into perspective. Especially when they have beer and burritos.
So we drank our beers and lamented not knowing the course and why the hell did we follow a bunch of teenage boys? Everyone knows they don’t pay attention to anything! And then a funny thing happened. We started checking the results…just for ha ha’s. Well, the joke was on us because even though some of the guys ran almost and entire mile extra…most of us placed in our age groups! Yep. I came in third in my age group and even got a Donna Summer album for my troubles. Rock on!
As a side note…twin sisters won the race for the women in 20:58. How could I possibly be upset about that? Wonder Twin Powers – ACTIVATE!
Has this ever happened to anyone else? What was your worst race (as a runner or spectator) and why?