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On March 15, I participated in the second annual Shamrock Shuffle, a 3K race through the streets of downtown Lexington. Moving at my normal turtle-like pace, I had my best race ever.
As a youngster, I wasn't into distance running. I got into jogging later in life in an attempt to keep my weight down and stay physically fit. But I've never been a serious runner.
In 1983, when I was 38 years old, a friend talked me into training for the Spring Fling, a 10K road race in Wyoming. After practicing for about three months, I was ready for my racing debut. It didn't happen though, as the day before the race I tore my hamstring sliding into second base during a softball game.
Six years later, I finally participated in an actual race. (Note that I never describe my gait as running. To do so would be an insult to those who actually run.)
At the time, I had been driving Justin, my youngest son, to races all over Michigan. He was and still is an actual runner, a very good one, in fact. Since he wasn't old enough to drive, I carted him around the state and watched from the sidelines as he ran in 15 races, preparing for his upcoming high school cross country season.
After about eight such trips, I decided to participate instead of spectate.
My first race was the Manistee National Forest Festival 5K. Justin won his age division. I survived mine.
Since that first experience, I've participated in one or two races each year even though I have never developed an affinity for them and I'm still as slow as mud.
Why did I enjoy the recent Shamrock Shuffle so much? Because for the first time, I had a running partner - Anna Cason, my only grandchild. (Justin doesn't count. He was always so far ahead, I'd never see him until the race was over and he would either be waiting at the finish line or running back to cheer me on.)
At age 4 1/2, Anna looks like a runner and has her father's easy gait. But she also has the attention span and endurance typical of her age. She was fine at the start, as holding hands we slowly jogged up Short Street. However, by the mid point of the race, she started to have difficulties - some real, some imagined.
I asked if she would like me to carry her for awhile.
"Mommy said I can't ask you to carry me," she said.
After promising not to tell mommy, I gathered her in my arms and we continued our race. During the remaining three quarters of a mile, we'd alternate between carrying and walking or jogging. Every time I put her down, she would run for a block or two then come up with a new reason why she needed to be picked up again - a sore ankle, a sore "top of foot," a sore toe, tights riding too high and arms that hurt from a piggyback carry.
Nearing the finish line, she decided to complete the race under her own power and raced ahead just in time for her daddy to take a photo and for her to announce she's faster than Pappa Jay.
Anna also announced she was now ready to try a 5K. She might be, but I'm not sure I can carry her that far.