Turns out I'm a competitive sort of person.
Shocking, I know.
I've spent all my time up until now telling myself that winning doesn't matter.
That enjoying something and advancing through teamwork and commitment are the only true rewards for my efforts. This non-competitive nature I had cultivated extended toward my every endeavor from school to career, and from marriage to motherhood.
Even the state of my yard with its weed-choked gardens and miss-mowed lawn patches screamed “Not even trying to keep up with the Joneses!”
I never needed to be the best, let alone anywhere near the top half; and yes, failure was certainly an option.
And then I ran my first 5K.
Now … I knew that I wasn't going to win (I can walk almost as fast as I can run) but somewhere near mile 2.5 I realized I could probably finish without stopping.
It was a miracle. I was about to do something I hadn't thought was even remotely possible.
And just around mile 2.51 I realized it wasn't enough just to finish … I had to beat someone.
I started looking around me. Narrowed my eyes. The woman who crossed the starting line alongside me was too far ahead now. I'd never catch up.
Should I pick the pair of high schoolers who, for the past mile, had been running ahead of me in the shady spots and then holding back in the sunny stretches? I could probably take them, I told myself.
But maybe I should play it safe. I knew that last stretch of roadway was tree-lined and possibly breezy.
Best to pick the septuagenarian I had been trailing the entire course. He looked as if he were ready to slow down.
So I settled on a seventy-year-old as my secret rival, and, as I predicted, a few hundred yards before the finish line, I passed him. I was ecstatic! And a little bit nauseated. And freakishly red in the face … But I beat that guy fair and square.
As I walked around to try and find my family in the river of onlookers, I was already planning what my next step would be.
It's not enough to Just Do It; I have to do it farther and faster than I did it before.
It took until midlife, and smartphone app called “Map My Run” to show me that I have a need to “one up” myself. Up until that moment I was happy to just run as far as I could in the time I had allotted myself two mornings a week.
Now, with a melodious-for-a-computer-type voice telling me how far I had gone and how fast (and throwing in calories burned as an added bonus) I started timing and tallying everything.
Turns out I can walk 16-minute-miles to the playground and back. 164 calories.
The dog and I walked 19-minute miles to the post office. Too much sniffing. 132 calories.
I can bike five miles in 34 minutes. 118 calories.
I count laundry days as an exercise, since I climb stairs for the equivalent of a quarter mile.
Each week I try to log more activity, go faster andfurther than I did the week before.
I feel possessed. But I have high hopes for the next race.
Watch out, grandpa. I've got you in my sights.