“Excuse me,” I began after I approached the race info booth. A young man looked up. “Do you know if you’ll be awarding prizes to the top 3 male and female finishers in each age division, or just the top three male and female finishers overall?”
It’s my standard pre-race question. I generally finish in the top 10% of female finishers, but that usually doesn’t earn me a medal unless it’s a really small race with lots of age brackets.
“Just the top three men and women overall,” he responded. “We have trophies for the winners.”
I’d never won a trophy before. I’m not young enough to have always received a prize at any lost competition. All I ever got was a cheap burgundy ribbon with “participant” scrawled in gold lettering. I always wanted a real trophy.
I surveyed the field. There were plenty of thin women in fancy running gear. But this was both a 5k and a 10k. I was only running the 5k, which would narrow the field. I might have a chance.
The 10k race started first. More than half of the runners who’d turned out were running the longer race. By the time they cleared the start area, I looked around and realized it was mostly the slowpokes left. Excellent.
The 5k lined up, and a buzzer let us know to start running. One woman glided easily in front of me, and a small girl followed closely in her wake. I was the third one out.
I expected the child to tucker out after a minute and fall back. It’s fairly common in races that include children. Instead she kept going, keeping a solid 20 feet in front of me.
I’d like to say that I was happy for her- silently rooting on her progress. She was, after all, a child with much shorter legs than mine, but still running at a fast clip. In reality, I was plotting how to best overtake her. It took about a mile, but eventually the little girl started walking and I plodded on, now in second place.
I maintained my place through the rest of the race, and was frustrated when my watch hit 3.1 miles, and saw that the finish line was still a ways off. I’d measured my energy for a 5k, and was out of internal fuel to run more. I walked for a moment out of frustration, then picked up my run again, cursing the naval construction unit that had measured the course.
Finally I crossed the finish line, then immediately lost control of my bladder. (Thank God it wasn’t all that full.) It must have been bad karma from passing the little girl. Thankfully, I was already covered in sweat, so the urine more or less blended into the total ensemble. At least I maintained my place, and was going to get a trophy for it!
I looked around and realized that there weren’t many other finishers around, then remembered there was a 5k AND a 10k. I would have to wait around, soaked in pee, until finishers from both races were done and I could claim my prize.
I waited. And waited. In hindsight, I realized I could have gone home, showered, and come back in clothes that weren’t covered in piss, and still made it back in time for the awards ceremony. But I couldn’t have known at the time, and I was determined.
Around an hour after I finished the race, the awards ceremony finally began. I thought it never would. They gathered the winners around. This was it! I was finally getting my freakin trophy.
The trophy, as it turned out, was a cheap tumbler with “Second Place Women’s Finisher” etched into the glass.
Are you kidding me? A glass tumbler that wasn’t big enough to quench my thirst when full? Geez. I mean, I know I should be proud of myself, and grateful to win something, but this was clearly a case of false advertisement. Since when was a gilded trophy synonymous with a shitty water glass?
I received my award with aplomb, and made my way back home, contemplating the notion of second place being the first loser.