I am not an athlete. Never have been. Never won a medal for a physical feat of any ilk. My middle daughter is the athlete of the family and the other two daughters are no slouches. I play golf and pickleball and I used to play tennis, but I am not competitive and I never rose above the mediocre classification in any of these sports.
Nevertheless, I joined seven other women -- fellow pickleball players -- for a 5K/10K walk/run in downtown Detroit. It was what a friend used to call “a bluebird morning:” Sunny; bright blue sky; temperature in the high 60s; light breeze; spring flowers and trees in bloom. The event was sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan as a fundraiser for The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy.
Oh, do I need to clarify? We chose the walk, not the run. We are all senior citizens. A 5K is only 3.1 miles. I figured I probably walk three miles at a stretch while shopping at The Somerset Collection or volunteering at the DIA.
A 5K walk?
Piece of cake.
The Detroit River Walk is a groomed trail that meanders along the Detroit River from the Ambassador Bridge to Belle Isle.
We mingled with men and women of all ages, races, sizes and abilities. The route began beside the river, then meandered around some side streets and finished back at the riverfront in Rivard Plaza.
We arrived early and picked up our T shirts. We each got a numbered badge which was to be pinned on the front of the shirt. Imbedded in each badge was an electronic code to record the exact time we crossed the start and finish lines. The badges also included our names and ages. In the event of my collapse and/or death during the walk, I thought, someone would be able to accurately identify my body.
The runners started at 9 a.m. Start time for the walkers was 9:20 a.m. Five of our group maneuvered to the front of pack and began walking close to the official start time, but Lynne and I found ourselves farther back. There were thousands of people ahead of us; several hundred people behind us.
It was a lovely day. We admired the sunshine glinting off the rippled waters of the Detroit River. We watched the passing freighters, guessing what their cargos might be. We noted the landscaped areas, the conveniently placed benches, the flower beds, the budding trees, the screeching seagulls, the small wooden boxes on platforms where people could borrow a book on the honor system or leave a book for someone else. We talked. At the water stations, we stopped and sipped and thanked the volunteers. We took pictures with our cell phones. We offered to take pictures of other groups with their cell phones.
As we sauntered past the 4K marker, we looked over our shoulders. There had been a crowd behind us at the starting line. Where were they?
I realized, then that this was a RACE. For most of the participants, it was more than a pleasant morning walk.
As Lynne and I – and the two women who walked a few feet behind us -- neared the finish line we commented on our slowness, but linked arms as we crossed so nobody would be tagged “last.”
Those embedded electronic things are extremely accurate, however. The statistics for the run and the walk arrived in my email inbox a few days later.
I was ranked last. Dead Last.
Lynne was second last.
Does this make us losers? We each got a medal.
(Everybody who finished got a medal.)
I was the second oldest woman to finish the walk. One woman was in the “75 and up” age group. I looked for her name in the statistics.
She beat me by about five minutes.