Updated: May 2, 2022
I hate running. I hate it. It’s boring, it’s hard, it’s painful, I’m slow, I’m not exactly aerodynamic, I hate the clothes, the shoes are ugly, I get sweaty and red-faced and mosquitoes bite me.
So yeah, I’ll be running in my town’s Memorial Day race again this year.
I’ve done it four or five times. The race is a 10K, or 6.2 miles, which takes me just over an hour. Don’t you dare laugh. Stop laughing, I tell you! Yes, I can walk faster than that, too, so save it, bub.
But I can’t run faster than that. This is because I “pludge,” which is my own word for my lackluster, heavy stride. Plod met Trudge, and they made me.
So this is how the race goes. I get my number and time chip (which I hate, because it tells me exactly how slow I am). I survey the other runners, 99% of whom are that ropy, athletic, fit sort of person who really irritates me. I chat with the people I know, smothering my irritation that they’ll ALL finish before I will. There’s a kid I babysat. There’s the girl who used to babysit my kids. There’s my grocer. There’s my neighbor, who’s 82 years old and runs like a frickin’ hurricane, mind you. (Yes, Mr. Schmottlach. I’m talking about you.)
I go to the starting line and stand near the back, where there are the other slow people. You know. The woman who gave birth last week (who will beat me). The guy who just had a hip replacement (who will beat me). The eight-year-old, who won’t just beat me but will smoke me. My friend Brad, who’s a doctor, is the master of ceremonies. He likes to make fun me. “I have my defibrillator in the trunk of my car, just in case,” he’ll say.
Then the race begins. I turn on my iPod and try to ignore all the people who aren’t just pludging along, who, inexplicably, actually seem to be having fun. I remind myself that this will only take an hour, and didn’t I give birth not once but twice? Surely I can finish this stupid race.
The thing about running in your hometown on a holiday weekend…well, I know everyone. “Hi,” I say, trying to smile. “Hey! Hi. Hi. How’s it going? Hi.” In my mind, I’m thinking Don’t you people have somewhere to be? Can you stop smiling and stuff? Because I’m dying here, okay?
I pludge along. Ten minutes. Twelve. Twelve and a quarter. I hate running. I wonder why I entered the race. The theme song from Rocky is failing to inspire me.
And then, four miles into the race, comes the worst part.
Yes. The race course goes right past my driveway, and my family is sitting in chairs, drinking Bloody Marys with the neighbors, who are wonderful people, and whose daughters adore me. “Go, Mommy/Kristan/Honeybun!” they yell encouragingly, sipping their drinks. Get thee behind me, Satan, I think. I might even say it, but at this point, I’m very close to death and can’t speak. I stop, hug the children, limply high-five McIrish and my friends, and pludge onward. There’s a hill, and I have to run up it, because I want to be a good role model for the children, etc. etc. If they weren’t there, I’d just accept nature and lie down and die.
More neighbors. More encouragement. More death wishes. I pretend zombies are chasing me. I find myself wishing said zombies would just catch me already and put me out of my misery.
The last mile of the race is up a short hill, then down a long one, then the home stretch. Most people have now finished, but there’s still a good-sized crowd there because the awards have to be handed out. My friend sees me. “And coming down the home stretch,” he says into the microphone, “defying all laws of God and nature, it’s Kristan Higgins!” I consider rude gestures, but there are children present, and besides, I don’t have the energy.
And then, I’m done. It wasn’t pretty, but there I am. Once again, I’ve finished a 10K. More than enough justification for a super-deluxe bacon cheeseburger at the neighborhood picnic later on. And pie. Oh, yes. There will be pie.