The evening was beautiful, like the Good Lord had a vested interest in the success of this year’s Running of the Rams. I double knotted my shoes, and donned my goofy Ram hat for the race. I had agreed to be this year’s Ram. I was the one you had to beat in order to be entered into a drawing to win $100.
I headed out to the starting line where Ivy Nicholson, mother of four Rams and assistant track and field coach, was leading a group stretch. After some brief instructions from our elementary principal, Mrs. Angaiak, I gave the countdown and pulled the trigger on the starter pistol. For the second time in as many years, the pistol did not fire, spurring me to yell, “GO!” at the top of my lungs.
I handed my pistol off and bolted. The race began auspiciously, as I proceeded to run into a rope, almost falling and breaking my neck. After untangling myself and losing about four seconds in the process, I was off and running. With 130 runners, the race had grown from last year and I was right smack in the middle of this gaggle of arms and legs and heavy breathing.
As I reached the halfway mark and headed home, my legs felt heavy and I slowed a bit. Three months of eating chips, donuts and ribeyes (not at the same time) and running basketball camps had taken their toll. I felt like walking, but then I saw her, running just ahead of me. If I had to guess, I would say the distance between us was about the length of a basketball court. I was a bit surprised to see her ahead of me, amidst so many others. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like I thought she was in bad shape or anything, I just thought I would be ahead of her. I figured I would catch her, it would be just a matter of time.
After two-thirds of the race, I had not gained an inch. It was at this point, as we ran along the river, inching toward the bridge that would lead us home, I noticed a young man just ahead of me. He couldn’t have come up to my waist and looked like he had to be about seven, maybe eight years old. Finally, I caught him, but he just ran ahead. Then I caught him again, and he ran ahead again. I found myself running a bit harder and it dawned on me: my pace was being set by an elementary student.
I realized I was running out of time. If I was going to reel her in, I would need to make my move. Coming down Betty Street the gap closed. The little guy was still ahead of me -- I had lost all confidence in catching him -- but the gap between him and the one I was chasing down had diminished and I knew it would be just a matter of time before I passed her. We came down Betty and made the turn on to Ina. I took off like I was coming into the stadium during the last leg of the Olympic marathon, with the entire nation cheering. She first smiled as the little guy passed her along the south entrance of the high school. That smile turned to a look of frustration as she caught the Ram passing her.
I was at full speed -- or at least what passes for full speed at my age. I smiled. Mrs. Angaiak was mine.
Finally, as I caught my breath, I found the little guy and shook his hand. His name is Mick Dobbs and he happens to be in 1st grade. That is correct, I lost to a 1st grader. I don’t know what the future will bring, but I do know one thing. Mick Dobbs . . . I am coming for you next year. You’re mine.
This story is borrowed from Coach Ostanik’s Full Curl. It has been edited to fit the space. To view the full version, click here. Follow Coach O on Twitter @TheFullCurl.