I’m Well Below Average, but I Feel Like a Winner

Yesterday was the annual Spring Lake Five here in New Jersey. It’s reportedly the largest five-mile race in the United States, with close to 10,000 participants every year. My sister talked me into entering so we’d keep up our running skills during the winter and be stronger going into triathlon season number two this summer.

The bad news: I failed to achieve my goal, which was to run the five-mile course averaging 12 minutes per mile. I know that’s a slow speed for most runners, but I’m a tortoise, not a hare, and yesterday’s wretchedly muggy, hot air did not help my cause.

The good news: I did run every step of the five miles, at a total time of 68 minutes. That’s slower than I wanted and slower than the average time of 50 minutes, but still not too awful—especially considering that when I started triathlon training at this time last year, I couldn’t even make it one mile without being winded.

The winner of yesterday’s Spring Lake Five finished in just over 24 minutes, which to me is just freakish. The last person across the finish line had a time of 81 minutes. (So I creamed that dude!)

More stats from yesterday’s Spring Lake Five:

Numbers on the clock at the time I left the house to drive to the race: 6:15 a.m.

Number of participants packed into the Dunkin’ Donuts near Spring Lake, getting pre-race bagles about an hour before the race started: at least 30

Number of hilarious T-shirts I saw at the start: 1, worn by a group of rather rotund participants, stating “Caution: I Make Wide Turns”

Number of times I stared in awe at the sheer number of runners snaking into the distance: at least three

Number of fire truck water sprays I ran beneath, trying to cool down along the course: 2

Number of times I heard Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” blaring from the town’s loudspeakers, parked cars, and houses along the course: 9

Number of times I heard the theme from “Rocky” playing: 2

Number of times I heard the theme from “Chariots of Fire” playing: 1

Number of weirdos on the sidelines banging a drum while a trumpeter played Christmas carols: 1

Number of amazing dads running alongside their 6-year-old daughter named Hannah, talking about American Girl doll accessories to keep Hannah’s mind off her tired legs: 1

Number of kids along the sidelines with their arms outstretched, hoping runners would high-five them: at least 100

Number of friends who came out with their kids to cheer Michelle and me as we ran mile three: 1 (thank you, Spud!)

Number of nieces who saved me a cup of water while working the water table at mile four with their soccer team: 1 (thank you, Erinn!)

Number of minutes it took from the final turn, where I first saw the finish line, to get across the actual finish line: about 6 (felt like forever)

Number of super-fit 70-year-old ladies who passed me in the final half-mile, power-walking with their arms swinging wildly: 2

Number of minutes after I finished running that the sky opened up, pouring down rain and finally easing the heat: about 5

Number of minutes I walked blissfully in the rain, enjoying nature’s cool down before driving home: at least 10

Number of officially registered runners: 9,668

Number of runners who actually finished the race: 7,581

Number I ranked among finishers: 6,925

Number of women who finished: 3,502

Number I ranked among women finishers: 3,057

Number of women in my 35- to 39-year-old age group: 516

Number I ranked in my age group: 489

Number of hours I napped after getting home and taking a hot shower: 3

Number of pieces of chicken parmesan I wolfed down in a celebratory lunch: 2

Number of roses the race committee handed out to top finishers: about 25

Number of roses my husband bought me to show his pride, no matter what place I finished: 1 (I love you too, Sean!)

Number one sister in the world: mine, for talking me into trying, training with me before the race, running alongside me the entire course, not letting me quit at mile three, and graciously letting me step over the finish line first. You are the absolute best, Michie Meatball!

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