A few weeks ago I ran a local 10K and walked away with a first place medal and plaque.
It definitely didn't play out the way I thought it would but it all worked out in the end. My official time was recorded at 1:01 and I'm sure some of you are thinking, "What the what." I know it's not the most impressive 1st place time for a 10K, so let me explain.
This was my third year running this particular race so I'm fairly familiar with the course. However, this year they changed both the 5K and 10K course. Why? To mess us all up. Just kidding (kind of).
At the beginning of the race, like most races, we were all given instructions/directions for both courses. We were told that the 10K was actually 6.4 miles and then the directions, roads, and trails started pouring out into blah blah blahs. I understood the first set of directions which got me to mile 5, but after that I depended on volunteers and signs.
When we started there were 3 men and a woman in the lead. I set my sights on the woman and knew I had to eventually pass her to get any kind of place for this run. Within the first 1/4 of a mile we hit our first hill. I was slowly closing in on the female, which surprised me. I kept thinking that she would eventually catch up and blow right past me. So I had to keep a consistent pace and keep an eye on the competition.
It was hot and humid and we had an agonizing 2 miles directly in the sun. I was very thankful I grabbed my water bottle at the last minute. I was drinking and dumping water on my head to try and cool down. It really was brutal. The men were only 1/4 of a mile ahead of me which lead me to believe the heat was taking it's toll of them also. Once we turned on the bike trail there was some relief from the heat. That's where I thought my competition would catch up.
At the top of the bike trail was a volunteer with water. I got my empty bottle ready to make a trade. I saw hubby in his truck waiting for me and I waved. I made the water trade and headed straight across the road to continue on the bike trail. The 5K runners were headed towards me clapping and telling me to keep it up. I was feeling great and knew I would be crossing the finish line shortly. Then I hit a fork in the road. I started asking the volunteer who was sitting there which way the 10K was suppose to go. He just looked at me so I frantically started asking, "10K? 10K?" I had to stop and take an ear bud out. I heard someone say, "You were suppose to turn at the top of the hill." Panic set in but the volunteer pointed one way for the 5K and another way for the 10K. So I headed up the unbelievably steep trail he pointed to and started to worry that I went the wrong way. The guy who gave me the water never said anything about turning. I was close enough to him that he could have told me or yelled to me to turn.
Then I saw her. Coming towards me was the woman who had been behind me the entire race. I threw my hands in the air and asked, "What's going on?" She told me I was suppose to turn at the top of the hill but to keep going and get my miles in. She said I had been ahead of her the whole time and that I had it. So I kept going. I was mad and confused. I looked at my RunKeeper app on my phone and saw I was at mile 5.5. I hate this app. I was going to keep track of my mileage until the end so I could get the exact 6.4 miles. That way I could show the race officials that I at least covered the miles. Well of course the app finished the run, saved, and closed. Stupid thing! I tried to restart it so I could at least keep track of one more mile and use it as proof. "UNEXPECTED ERROR" three times. Forget it. I decided to run back where I met the water guy then up and down the hill and back to the finish. I'll probably get disqualified. Why didn't that guy tell me to turn? I was ahead of that woman the whole time. Why? What if I don't go far enough?"
Once I got to the bottom of the hill, about 100 yards from the finish, I stopped. I debated whether or not I should wait for the woman who had been behind me. I looked for her but there was no sign that she was coming in anytime soon. I didn't know what to do. I start running slowly until I could hear everyone yelling for me to finish strong. I felt defeated as I slowly crossed the finish line. Immediately I said, "I'm pretty sure I'm disqualified." I explained what happened and there was a bunch of commotion. I was asked if I was in front of the pack. I said yes thinking they meant the pack of women. Then I asked if the men had come through and they said no. Whoa! Something wasn't right. I wondered if I shorted myself on the mileage. I had been at 5.5 miles when my phone stopped and knew I was at least close to 6.1 if not over. I was told I'd be added in right after the males crossed the finish line. All I could do was wait. It seemed like forever before the 3 men and 1 woman came running down the path. I didn't care about the men I just wanted to apologize to the woman. She was so nice and understanding. Turns out one of the volunteers (guy that was sitting at the fork) told them to go straight instead of right so they went a mile too far. When the men came in at 1:00 I was written in right after at 1:01. That's a 7.5 mile time.
The woman said her name was Kathleen and she was from Boston. Small world meeting a fellow east coast resident (NH is like a neighbor). She told me I deserved to win because I was ahead of her the entire race and she was pacing off of me. I still felt horrible. I should have turned around and ran with her once I knew I went the wrong way. Apparently hubby honked to try to get my attention but I had my Yurbuds in and was already too far down the trail to hear it.
In the end we all the 10Ker's joked about doing our own race and the one volunteer felt so bad about sending us the wrong way he never came to the award ceremony. I wasn't angry with him but volunteers really should know the course. A simple point of the finger in the right direction is all I need. It also would have helped to have the 5K and 10K bibs different colors to easily identify them to the volunteers.
I offered Kathleen half of the plaque but she just laughed and told me I earned it. That's why runners are so awesome. We all did an awesome job and shrugged off the wrong turns. No anger, resentment, poor sportsmanship, or flogging. Another one in the books.