Wednesday, March 13, 2013
"Slow and steady wins the race."
You probably heard this at least once in your life in the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. The hare, in his overconfidence, loses the race to the slow tortoise. Of course, the race in that fable is a metaphor for how we live our lives. In a real footrace, rarely does the tortoise win. Someone unexpected might win, if one of the hares misjudges how they're feeling and can't finish strong, but usually there are plenty of other hares to snag the win and all the glory.
However, enter the Goode Predict-Your-Time Milk & Cookies Handicap 4-miler, where the tortoise legitimately has a chance to win. The local high school cross country coach (who has coached to several state titles) came up with this idea years ago. The idea was to award the person who could most accurately run the pace he or she predicted. It didn't matter if you thought you could run 4 miles in 24 minutes or walk it in 68. Whoever was the closest to their prediction would win. The clock counts down instead of up, so those who predict a slower time get a head start on the others. Whoever comes in closest to 00:00 wins. No one feels like a "straggler" in this race, and if we all ran a perfect race, we'd converge on the finish line together, in one grand finish.
I participated in this race this past Saturday, March 9th. Last year, I finished 4th, and that was only +2 seconds off my prediction! Others came in at 00:00, +01 and -01. This year, I hadn't been running very well, and had two very bad runs the two days prior to the race.
Normally I am very good at gauging my pace from my perceived rate of exertion (which I can tell from my breathing). This year, I knew I had no way to tell. I optimistically put down 38:28 as my finishing time.
The course is quite hilly. The first mile is pretty much downhill, but then you have rolling hills, a good stretch of uphill at mile 3, and a big down and up for mile 4.
I was elated to come in 2:16 ahead of my prediction, for a 9:03/mile pace. Of course, this meant no award for me, but it was a great REward to have finished even better than I hoped.
The winner of the race this year predicted 40 minutes flat. The 3rd, 4th and 5th place finishers had predicted 60 minutes. Even if I had finished slower than my predicted time, this race reminds us all that the real reward is simply being out there - some of us already fit, others on our way to achieving fitness.
After all, "The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running."