Earlier this month my club held its annual picnic and three-mile cross country race on the beautiful campus of the Landon Preparatory School in Bethesda, MD. We interface with a Landon math teacher and track coach at the school to set this idyllic afternoon up. The day before, he and the Race Director laid out a 3-mile course across the school grounds and marked it with spray paint on the grass and dirt. This was a good thing because the course twisted through a confusing maze of pine tree stands, across lawns and over athletic fields.
It was a hot afternoon, perfect for a picnic although maybe not perfect for a fast 3-mile run. This race was interesting to me because three former presidents of the club were running in it. A little executive competition as it were, a race within a race.
We lined up and were off. At one moment early in the race, after the runners had separated just a little bit, the four presidents were running in a line, one behind the other. Ed, the president I succeeded, was in front, followed by Bob, the only former president older than me, Susan, the executive who Ed took over for and who was elected into the club hall of fame this year, and myself. Ed and Susan are faster than me, and Bob occasionally beats me. The competitive fire was lit.
Ed soon pulled away, put distance on the little group and we never saw him again. I ran along behind Susan, who recently had twins, biding my time. I really was after Bob, whom I should beat although it's always close.
In an open field I moved up on Susan and ran past her. She fell in behind me. This wasn't necessarily good because it's hard to keep track of runners who are behind you. As we entered a long row of pine trees on the perimeter of the school property I darted by Bob on a little downhill part. Now they were both behind me, so unless I was strong and steadily pulled away, they would stalk me and perhaps strike at the end with a strong finish.
Down service roads we ran, up and down a steep slope behind school service buildings, and by some classrooms. On little out and backs I could see them both behind me, with Susan now ahead of Bob. Finally the last mile was rolling by. I dislike this cross country race because of the giant protruding roots of the trees we ran by. With one wrong step a season of running can be lost. It's tiring to so continuously and carefully watch your footfalls.
I was trying to catch the runner ahead of me but he was too far ahead. However, my effort helped ensure that no one came sprinting by me at the finish, like Susan or Bob. I finished in 25.55 (8:37), 29/58, although the course was closer to 5K than 3 miles. Susan finished in back of me by less than half a minute, with Bob directly behind her. Ed had finished 3 minutes earlier.
Ed and Susan won AG awards, and the RD actually won his own race. This impressed me because I had no idea he was so fast. I could imagine the incredible pressure he must have felt all year as his own race approached and he contemplated trying to win it. Club politics are such that I heard some people sniff that he shouldn't have run in the race he directed, that he should have been standing by for any exigency.
I don't know about that, what do you think? In four months on the job as club president, I have learned that countless judgmental and contemptuous attitudes swirl and flow beneath the outer surface of running clubs. Me, I go along to get along, but perhaps I'm not ambitious enough or enough of a "silent slayer." Maybe that's because I'm not fast enough to ever have contemplated actually winning something when I run.
The picnic of charcoal cooked burgers, veggie burgers, franks, beans and corn on the cob was delicious. Thanks, Landon School, we'll see you next year!