Memorial Day was nice. When I woke up on Monday I lay in bed for a moment and thought of my Dad, who died in 1986, and his sacrifices on Peleliu and Okinawa. I thought of Uncle Bill, who died in 1988, and his sacrifices in the Philippines. I thought of Uncle Harry, who lives in Colorado, and his sacrifices aboard the fast carrier strike force at both Battles of the Philippine Sea and in attacks against island garrisons and the Japanese homeland. I thought of Sy, who lives in Florida, and his sacrifices with Patton’s Third Army at the Battle of the Bulge and in Germany.
Then I thought about how I hate kids. Well, not really, but how I hate kids in races. Because they start out fast, get ahead of you, and then get underfoot as they suddenly veer here and there looking for friends or slowing down because they’re tired.
Falls Church has a free Memorial Day 3K Fun Run that is flat and fast. It is untimed, other than the fact that the clock at the finish line displays race time. There you receive an unnumbered slip of paper which you exchange for a free race t-shirt, provided by ex-Lt. Governor Don Beyer. There are no bibs, and no results are posted anywhere.
The run starts in front of the Community Center, and everyone in town, it seems, runs it. This seems to includes every single pre-teen in Falls Church. They all jam to the front. The first half-mile of this run is very treacherous with so many inexperienced runners in front. The last time I started downtown, I ran with my heart in my throat and my eyes locked on the roadway six feet ahead. It's a couple of minutes of high-stress running as youngsters dart underfoot until you get away from them.
To rectify this hazard, I have developed a mile run around my neighborhood that starts just down the block, runs past my house and hits the race course right at MP1. So at 9 o'clock on Memorial Day morning I line up by myself on my street and take off. A mile later I hit the race at the midway point, ostensibly joining the pack of runners exactly where I should be anyway. At least that’s the theory. Then I run the last 0.86 miles with everyone else to the finish line.
Thus I miss the chaotic start and avoid the real danger of going down hard on asphalt from tripping over some runner who doesn’t have a clue about race protocol. I can get a fast workout in, getting up to race speed quickly without having to work my way through a crush of people at the start. Plus I can drink coffee in my kitchen until two minutes before race time.
At 9 am I took off down the street. As I ran past my house, I noticed a pile of pizza-size cardboard boxes stacked on my porch. I thought that was odd and determined to check it out after the race. (I noticed this stack of boxes left on my porch as I ran by my house during the 3K race on Memorial Day.)
As I burned off a mile, I could see the race course two hundred yards ahead. The street was empty, with no runners streaming by. That was not good, as I certainly didn’t want to join the course ahead of the race leaders.
With a hundred yards to go, I saw the lead motorcycle cop go by, then the lead runner, then two more. Another two men ran by just as I crashed the course at MP 1, the first mile down in 7:00 according to my watch. I was sixth! Woo hoo! Not!
This was embarrassing to be so far up front, so I picked up my pace and hung onto the lead runners as best as I could. It wasn’t like I joined the course standing still. Slowly the five leaders drew off and other runners started passing me. The runners going by were easy to count that last 0.8 mile. Fourteen ran by, including a woman. I finished 20th out of, probably, 1,000 or more participants.
But of course my finishing place was a fraud. But since there are no places in this race anyway, it didn't matter. It’s unofficial.
But my time was real. My watch said 12:51 (6:54) when I finished the 3K run. The race clock, however, said 10:48. Either I started over two minutes early, or the race start got a little delayed. Sorry!
As I collected my t-shirt, I ran into D behind me on line, who is about my age and very fit. Our oldest children played soccer together. I coached the team. I asked about his son, and D said he had just graduated from college. Memories of five years of ruinous divorce litigation came flooding back. These contemporaries could be posterboys for the life-altering and family-destroying state of American domestic law.
My oldest never went to college despite graduating from the premier high school in the country, bar none. For the last four years he has lived with his Mother and worked as a gopher for the divorce lawyer who was retained, supposedly, by my three minor sons when "they" filed a "fiduciary" suit against me before the divorce action was even complete. The court found that the petition was an unconscionable harassment suit, an attempt by their Mother to interfere with my relationship with my children, and ultimately she was sanctioned and assessed costs of almost $50,000. But her actively involving our minor children in the divorce action so affected them that, in effect, none of my kids has seen me or talked to me or anyone on my side of the family since then, and my oldest changed his last name from mine to hers on his 21st birthday. The divorce lawyer supposedly representing these minor children, who is a past President of the Virginia State Bar, did a good job in "their" litigation against their father, don't you think? He presented a bill to these children of over $22,000 for his services.
D asked me how I did. I said 12:51. He looked puzzled and asked how he had finished behind me since he had run a 12:01. I congratulated him for beating me and told him that if he thought he had seen me finish ahead of him, it was only because I had run my race in a parallel universe. He looked even more puzzled.
The 2008 Falls Church Memorial 3K was in the books, and I headed home. I had a full day ahead of me still. I wanted to see what those boxes were that were left on my porch. And it was dollar admission day at the minor league baseball stadium in Prince William County (Woodbridge, VA) for the Potomac Nationals (Single A) game at 1 pm. As an added bonus, hot dogs were only a dollar.