By Fred Deckert
Sometimes it’s not so bad to be a turtle, as the old tale goes regarding that famous race. It’s not very likely that your chances to win in a group of hares is good, but there are other compensations. I recently managed a first of significance, but not pride.
At the Tallahassee Ten Mile Challenge I secured last place for the first time. The fact that I was also the oldest runner was scant comfort since my age group competitor of only two years junior, Robert Morris, beat me by more minutes than I want to mention. Since the running community is nothing if not supportive, I still got lots of cheers for my finish, pathetic as it was.
However, on further thought (some call it rationalization), I realized that many of my old running friends are not running at all any more. This has occurred through running injuries, illness and the inexorable march of time. But, even those who are still in good health, and even some who still run, do not compete at all anymore. Surprisingly, some of the best runners I knew are in this group. After a bit of thought and a few conversations, I’ve the strong suspicion that they don’t compete because they don’t take first in their age group anymore, and the blow to their ego is sufficient to discourage them from trying.
This is where the turtle has the advantage. As one whose first place finishes, in even very small races, can be counted on the fingers of one hand, I hardly notice the difference in running status among my remaining peers. In fact, since my age group has shrunken so drastically, I’m almost guaranteed to place! Now, you may say this is something of a cheap thrill, when competition is so lacking, and I’ll grant the point. But the fact remains that I’m at least not crushed by the loss of former glory. In fact that last place finish actually put me second in my age group!
Sometimes I’m ashamed to take the trophy, but as a wise runner once said, “you are not responsible to furnish the competition against you, but you are responsible to do your best.” I can honestly say that I try.