An Inspiring Finish With the Man in Black

While yesterday's Azalea Festival 5K will have lasting memories, one in particular will probably be among those that I hold most dear.  Competing with the fact that my wife participated in her first 5K event was a memorable sprint to the finish that I had with a man in black, and though I failed to catch him, this was one time when I didn't care.  Read on and you'll find out why.

Having not participated in a 5K in two plus years, I hoped that my month and a half's worth of training would be adequate.  Going in, I had only two goals:  run the entire distance, and live to tell about it.  Both of these goals were accomplished.  In fact, I was quite surprised at how much energy I had left over when I finished the race.  That thought quickly turned to disgust as I pondered how much time I could have shaved off had I only known.  Oh well, I'm still happy with the pace that I maintained.  It was a satisfying finish to say the least.

As I previously mentioned, one special memory that I'll have about this event is that it was my wife's first ever 5K.  And while she didn't run the entire distance, she did walk and jog finishing with a very respectable time.  She too admitted that she felt as if she had a bit more to give.  I was happy to be there at the finish cheering her on and taking her picture!  Though she received no medal, I was happy to offer a "finish-line hug and kiss!"  That's my girl!!

The most captivating memory that I'll probably have about this year's event was my final sprint to the finish.  I was motivated by the man in black who was ahead of me.  He was my target.  I was out to catch and pass him.

Strangely enough, my target was probably oblivious to me, but when he came into sight around mile number two, I noticed him point and look toward the sky.  I thought to myself, "he must be asking God for strength", or "perhaps he's giving thanks for the strength thus far".  Whatever he was doing, I admit that I was intrigued.  Perhaps I'd ask him at the finish line when I congratulated him for finishing behind me.  I'd soon learn that wouldn't be the case.

To make a long story short, I'll simply cut to the chase...literally.  Once I passed the three mile mark,  I found myself to be about 100 feet behind with a 1/10 of a mile to go.  Since we both appeared to be running the same pace, I decided that it was now or never if I had any chance of catching him.  Hopefully, I'd have enough for one final sprint.  I quickly closed the gap to about 10 feet when he was alerted to my attempt to overtake him.  However, not to be outdone, he quickly "kicked it" himself and started to open the distance between us once more.  Though I summoned all of the energy within me to step it up even more, I was unable to close to within more than about 15 feet of him at the finish line.  "Dang", I thought, "that dude was tough!"

Though I was not totally dissatisfied with my finish, I wanted to congratulate the man in black for his strong finish and I made my way over to him.  "Way to kick it, man, that was a strong finish!  Congratulations."  I offered with a handshake.  With a smile of gratitude and a few deep breathes, he responded "Thank you.  Today is my first 5K and I ran it in honor of my dad who recently passed away.  He was my inspiration."  Wow!!  How can you feel bad about finishing behind someone like that.  As I began to process what he had just said, I could only say "well, I'm sure he'd be proud...great job!"

As I processed my conversation with the young man, all of a sudden I didn't ache anymore.  In fact, I didn't feel tired, but I felt thankful.  I was reminded that we all have reasons for why we do the things we do.  We all have certain motivations, inspirations.  The man in black helped me put this event in proper perspective, too.  While I was inspired to run this race as a challenge to myself to continue my efforts to lose weight and get in shape, he was inspired by someone who'd perhaps challenged him for his whole life.  Perhaps he was the example that this young man wanted to live up to.  Who knows??  What I do know is that I was inspired, and I was glad to finish behind him.  Well done man in black!


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