The Perks of Coming In Last

On Saturday, some friends and I participated in a local 5K– the Bordentown Turkey Trot. The group of us work out Monday through Friday at 5am at The Bordentown Max Fitness Center where there is a tried and true belief that the only person you are there to impress is yourself. The only person with whom you are competing is yourself. The instructors say this over and over again. There is a strict no-judging policy and the center has staff dedicated to encouraging members if they get discouraged about a lack of results, or any other obstacle that might come between you and working out. When the instructors demonstrate the workout moves, they give three ways to do them – the way the exercise is designed, a modified version, in case the designed way is too much for you, and then an extreme version for those who like to push themselves. My group and I are somewhere between the way-it-is designed and modified. We are not the glamour girls, no one in our group is pretending to be there for any other reason than to work out, be healthy, support each other, socialize and then go back to our real lives. 

Sometime in the early autumn, someone asked if The Max, as a group, was going to participate in the Bordentown Turkey Trot. The mere suggestion of a “run” brought a resounding chorus of I-don’t-runs from everyone. I, however, was not at all confused by this. People who say they don’t run mean they don’t run competitively against people who run marathons and triathlons. They mean they do not have a local ranking in their community or in their age group. They don’t mean they are not going to actually run in a 5K. But that is what they say. “I don’t run.” It is like a code that is widely understood to mean that running is not their primary sport. In contrast, when I say “I don’t run” it means, literally, I am not going to run. Translated even more literally, it means I will be walking. And I have no issue being the non-runner, in fact, I love it!

As it gets closer to go-time, we all walk to the starting line.  We are totally ready to go. We had already gotten our shirts, and posed for pictures to memorialize our participation. We pretended to stretch so we would have pictures to prove that we are just like the rest of the runners. In theory, we didn’t really need to do the whole stretch thing because, as you recall, we were all going to walk anyway.  This is a neighborhood run and the starting line looks like a group of Junior Varsity athletes all crowding around waiting for direction. There is no neat line-up where we all get in our places, there is just the general crowd waiting in the street. In that crowd, all of the Max people stand together towards the rear.

 Eventually, the crowd begins to run. I am not sure how they all knew the race began because we heard no starter gun, we didn’t hear any “On your mark, get set, go”, but suddenly the crowd was moving, and with them were our non-running-running friends. Our non-running-running friends glance back at us and tell us that they are just going to run for “a little bit.” Just running for a little bit means that they are going to run until they are out of breath, then they will walk until they catch their breath, then they will run until they are out of breath again, then they will walk, rinse and repeat. I could tell that the more we were in the presence of “real runners” the more my non-running-running friends were getting caught up in the spirit of the run. I can’t blame them. As we stood around waiting for the event to start, the real runners related to my non-running-running friends as runners, they all talked about running and, Poof! Just like that I watched them turn into actual runners right in front of my face. 

Luckily for me, I have one lone friend in that group who, when SHE said she was not running, also meant it quite literally. There we stood, my for-real-non-running friend and I, looking at each other.  We were shocked. We just stood there not knowing what to think as we watched the gap between us and our non-running-running friends get bigger and bigger. At first, we could see how far ahead of us they were, but in short order, they disappeared and it became very clear that we would be bringing up the rear. We would be coming in last in our group. 

 I know people who might have issues with coming in last, but my for-real-non-running friend and I? We had zero issue. We walked the entire race, except for two instances where we, too, got caught up in the spirit of being real runners. The first instance was when we ran past my friend’s house. We could see her neighbor standing on the porch, and we wanted to look like the rest of the runners.  The second instance was at the end of the race.  We ran as we approached the finish line because we understood that, no matter what, people run across the finish line. Well, that, and our friends were there, cameras in hand, taking video of our grand finale.  Other than that, we walked.  We walked and we talked. The weather was amazing so we got to enjoy that. There were people lined up on the streets, playing music and ringing bells and encouraging us. We got to talk to them, to thank them for being there, and to pet an adorable dog. We chit chatted with the local police who were working the race and commiserated with them about how much people hate when their neighborhood roads are closed. Then, to our great surprise, our Apple watches told us that we were working out, so that made us feel really good about ourselves because, after all, if Apple says we’re working out, then for sure we are working out! 

When you are for real not running you have a lot of time on your hands and we made good use of our time together. We talked about all the important areas of our lives. Our families, our kids, the holidays, our jobs- really just everything. And it is amazing what you can discover on a non-running-run. For instance, who would have thought that my for-real-non-running friend works for a company that makes all-things-sex related. I’m talking condoms, lubricants, strap-ons…the whole bit. She is not an actual sex worker, she explains, because she does the clinical side of things. You have GOT to love that! And those poor non-running-runners missed the whole sex conversation.

We reviewed all the renovations we would be making in our homes, and how our husbands could be a little controlling about the details of said renovations. We chatted with the high school kids who were there putting in their volunteer hours by handing out water to fatigued runners. We thanked the kids for not flat-out rolling their eyes at us, the old ladies bringing up the rear, and they responded with laughter of recognition. We decided that our coming in last was actually a blessing to the rest of the group. No one had to feel badly about themselves for being last because WE would be last! And WE felt great about it – we were like a gift to the group! Happy Thanksgiving to you, from us! 

Eventually, we crossed the finish line! We did the entire 5K in less than an hour and we were very proud of ourselves. We were not the very last people to finish the race, but we were the last of our group.  Our friends who ran and finished ahead of us, and who took our pictures crossing the finish line, cheered for us as though we had broken some record.  Back in our Max group, we watched as the race officials award medals to the winners in each of the categories. We got one of the teens to loan us her medal, and we used it to pretend one of us had placed in the race. We were happy to be in the company of friends, happy to be part of The Max of Bordentown Community, happy to be a part of the 2018 Bordentown Turkey Trot.  We were not there to impress anyone but ourselves, and the only people we were competing against was ourselves. It was a really beautiful day and the whole experience left me inspired, connected and grateful to be part of a community that participated in the event just for the sake of being together.  Happy Thanksgiving!

[Editor’s note: The Max of Bordentown will be participating in the St. Paddy’s Day run and I understand there will be a media team. It turns out that when you have one or more for-real-non-runners, they have time to plan for future events. Just this very morning, I heard that the upper management of the media team are looking to acquire a golf cart, a sound system, video equipment, a go-pro and a cooler in which they will keep beverages. Again, like a gift to the group!]