Wednesday, March 24, 2010

We All Have An Old Guy At The Finish

I stumbled upon a posting theme on Daily Mile yesterday in which users were posting their favorite race photos. I haven't joined in the photo challenges much, but decided to jump on the bandwagon yesterday.

But what pic to post?

I thought about posting the pic from the end of the Manchester Marathon that my sister took just steps in front of the Finish Line.

I like it because I remember that moment precisely, hearing the cheers and shouts from my family on one side of the chute and friends on the other.
I like it because I'm giving just the slightest smile and look of accomplishment as I glance over toward my family. I like it because it captures the spur-of-the-moment decision to wave my hands in the air as I came down the homestretch.

And, let's be honest, I like it because it shows me finishing a marathon -- and not looking like I'm going to collapse doing it.

But, I thought, probably everyone has a pic like that. I wanted to choose something different. So I scrolled through the photos on the side of my blog - and smiled as I selected the Great Bay photo. If there's one thing I've learned about DMers, they've got a sense of humor. I figured I could give some of them a laugh.

And I did. The comments started rolling in with witty quips about the photo that TC snapped last year as I crossed the Finish Line of the Great Bay Half-Marathon.

Unlike some race photos, it was a decent one -- perfectly framed with the large "Finish Line" at the top, bright blue sky in the background. I didn't look overly awkward.

But I didn't notice any of that at first. The only thing my eyes were drawn to was the, um, older gentleman who was in the pic with me. Not just in the pic with me, he was crossing the Finish Line
ahead of me.

Don't get me wrong, if he did in fact run a better race than me, then kudos to him.

But I didn't want to believe that could actually be possible. I couldn't get my head around how he finished
ahead of me.

I went through all the scenarios. Maybe he was just a spectator that got in the way? (That didn't explain the race number and timing chip he's donning.)

Maybe he was running the 5K? (Would it take him 2:10? Unfortunately, no. Yes, I actually checked the race results for the 5K to find someone, anyone, who would fit that finishing time and demographic.)

Maybe he just takes bad pictures? Trust me, I've seen my fair share of my running pics of myself, ones in which I'm convinced (or at least hope) that I don't really look
like that. But, really, could this race photo be that far off from reality?

The Old Guy has become an ongoing joke between me and TC, and even served as motivation when we ran a 10K together in the fall. (Coincidentally, I saw The Old Guy near the start of that race. I grabbed TC and told him there was no way he was beating me this time. I never saw him again -- so I'm going to assume that I finished ahead of him. Please don't tell me otherwise.)

During that 10K, TC and I played a game that helped us chase down the runners in front of us. "I don't want to cross the Finish Line with this guy," I'd tell TC, and we'd pick up the pace and pass a few runners.

In a bit of a twist, we were blown away when the guy that we were finally "content" with finishing just ahead of us was called up to take his age-group division award. For the 70+ category. Oh man.

I was glad to see that the DMers concurred that it didn't appear as if The Old Guy should have crossed in front of me. What I didn't realize is that nearly all of the posters would relate. They all had an Old Guy at the Finish Line.

Sometimes it was literally an old man. Other times, an old woman. Or a woman pushing a stoller. Or someone much heavier. Or someone who ran a marathon on one leg.

One of my favs came from
Chris, who shared his story of feeling "like a rock-star" when he finished his second marathon -- until he turned around and realized he'd finished just ahead of someone who had jumped rope the entire 26.2 miles.

The lesson here, I suppose, is a simple one -- and one that our parents probably tried to instill in us years ago. Don't judge a book by its cover.

It's humbling, humorous and impressive that people whom we think we should have beaten in a race can put us all in our spots. Maybe someday we'll be those people -- the ones whom younger, fitter, should-be-faster runners focus on and wonder how we crossed in front of them. (Maybe that's happening now, who knows?)

Until then, I'll continue to use The Old Guy as motivation. I mean, it's a funny pic and all, but I don't want another one.

(You can read the entire posting and comments on Daily Mile by clicking here.)



  1. Great blog! I was once in a race neck and neck with this guy down the stretch and at the end I put on the jets and blew him away. I was so proud of myself until I looked at the official results and saw that he was 67 years old! (He looked great though!) I also have the opposite happen a lot. Because I'm a heavier runner, anytime I pass someone they usually don't take it very well and the footrace inside the race begins. I also just had someone beat me in the NYC Half that I went through all the standings to see if there was a mistake. It's funny what we runners do!


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