As I was standing atop a hill on Sunday morning with hundreds of other runners gathered around me in a spirit of peace and togetherness, the first thing that went through my mind is, "These people must be destroyed."
Then guilt set in and I thought, "OK, that's mean. They can't all be destroyed. Maybe just the fast ones."
And then I thought, "OK, maybe they can just get cramps."
But they didn't. They never do. That's why they're fast.
See, one of the really crummy things (and really great things, I suppose) about running is that clocks don't lie. For instance, say you set out at the beginning of Sunday's Peace Race with a goal of running a 7:30-per-mile pace and you end up coming nowhere close to that goal and you finish two minutes slower than you did two years before and, as a result, you finish 11 measley seconds behind your arch-nemesis, WKBN television personality Rich Morgan.
You'd be pretty miffed, right? And you'd be tempted to blame the weather or blame the course or write something mean about Rich Morgan, such as "Rich Morgan has every season of 'Full House' on DVD" or "Rich Morgan collects Neil Diamond bobblehead dolls."
But, in the end, you'd be lying to yourself. Because you'd know the reason you finished two minutes slower is because you didn't work hard enough and that if you want to get faster, there aren't any shortcuts. (And besides, Rich Morgan told you those things in confidence and you promised you wouldn't betray him.)
First things first
But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, I need to cover a couple things. Although I've only competed in two races, I've been a runner since 2000. As such, I feel qualified to remind my fellow runners of a few rules that I saw being violated on Sunday:
Never wear the shirt of the race you're competing in. Especially if it's the shirt that you got just before the race. This is akin to wear the T-shirt of the band you're going to see in concert.
Never tuck your spandex leggings into your socks. (Ladies, this goes for you, too.)
Never wear spandex leggings.
Never, ever wear a fanny pack. I cannot stress this enough. The only exception to this rule is if you're using it to carry your insulin and we're not even sure about that.
Before the race, I saw my friend Terry Kenney, who ran the Peace Race with me two years ago and is a member of my church, Old North in Canfield. It's a great church if you can overlook the fact that the pastor, Brent Allen, is a Steelers fan. (Hey, nobody's perfect. Not even pastors.)
The Peace Race draws many different types of runners. While I fall into the casual runner category, Terry's closer to the obsessive category. And not just in running. You should see his gym bag. I think even the aspirin bottle was folded.
The Peace Race is set up for casual runners to enjoy. You spend most of the first three miles going downhill and since you're running through Mill Creek Park (one of the five best things about Youngstown), you see some really beautiful scenery.
(In case you're wondering, the other four are: Avalon Gardens pizza, wedding soup at the MVR, the city's love affair with high school football and, of course, The Vindicator.)
Before I started the race, I said a little prayer (hey, I skipped church) and made a promise to myself that no matter what happened, I wasn't going to lose to Mayor Jay Williams.
I don't remember much about the race, except for the fact that once you pass the 5-mile mark, you turn onto Mahoning Avenue and the finish line is nowhere in sight and the small cramp that you've been trying to ignore won't go away and you're realizing that you were absolutely correct in thinking that your training peaked about three weeks ago and you just want to cry. (Sniff.)
Strong finish, sort of
I did manage to pick off a few people in the last hundred meters (this is affectionately known as the "Middle School Sprint") but it wasn't enough. I finished 269th, about 19 minutes behind the winner, Nicodemus Malakwen, who actually rode most of the race on a scooter. Race officials will deny this, but it's true. Ask anyone.
Malawken won 1,000. All told, they gave away more than 8,000 in prize money. I didn't see any of that. I got a water bottle and a bagel, which is nothing but a donut with the joy squeezed out.
Of course, in my frustration over my time, I may have missed the point. Shouldn't I just realize that although I didn't win or even run my best race, I got a chance to join fellow runners to promote fitness and do something good for charity?
The answer is no. Which reminds me of an inspirational quote from the immortal philosopher, Homer Simpson: "You tried your best and failed miserably. The lesson is, Never try."
Joe Scalzo is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.