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Go small or go home or, second is the new black!

A small race can lead to some big results.

The women’s-eights rowing crew, the men’s-eights rowing crew, wrestler Tonya Verbeek, swimmer Ryan Cochrane, kayaker Adam Van Koeverden and runner Rebecca Gardiner.

What do all these athletes have in common?  Glory. Pure second-place glory.

Yup, all of these competitors went abroad this month and brought back silver to their beloved Canada. Admittedly the first five in that list earned silver at the London Olympics and the last was an age-group-second-place-finisher in a 175-person-Pooler-Georgia-USA-half-marathon — but let’s not get hung up on details.

Here’s the true, inspiring story:

I was in Savannah this past weekend for a good friend’s wedding and looking to get in a long run. Not knowing where to go, I contacted the “Savannah Striders” a local run club I found online. Turns out, this very friendly bunch of people happened to be running “The Milestone half-marathon” just outside of town, the morning after the wedding.

After humming and hawing about signing up – because, well, wine goes super-well with weddings – my inner-running-nerd got to me — and I’m glad it did.

At a mere 28 C, it was a freakishly cold Georgia day, and going in, my goal was to maintain my stately marathon-race-pace (around 5:35 min/km). But when some guy yelled, “go” and everyone started running, I was feeling good for a faster start, thinking I would naturally slow down as the heat crept up.

I didn’t slow down.

A very flat course after weeks of hill training, some wicked tunes on my iPod and some serious “no, please, after you Ma’am” southern hospitality lead me to a 1:50:58 official finish time –  just 12 seconds over my PB. What’s more, there was no chip timing and it took me at least a few seconds to cross the start line. Translation? I was actually a bit faster.

Oh, and did I mention my second place among females ages 35-44? For you doubters, there were more than two females in my age group ( see the proof here).

Ahhh… the joys of small races!

At the finish line a man approached me. That itself was a rare and exciting experience, but it’s what he said that really got me:

Him: “Great race Ma’am. I spent the whole time trying to catch you. When you walked at water stops, I’d think I got you for good, then you’d pass me again a few seconds later. You are such a smooth runner.”
Me: “Are you talking to me?”
Him: “Yes.”

And there you have it – a) SOMEONE WAS ACTUALLY TRYING TO CATCH ME and b) ME – A SMOOTH RUNNER!

Not only did I near-PB and place second in my age group (of more than two people), but some guy was actually trying to CATCH ME and that same guy thinks I’m a SMOOTH RUNNER. What’s more? I’m pretty sure he wasn’t making fun.

Now, he did eventually pass me for good…around the time I attempted to refresh myself with water over the head, but actually poured a full cup onto my shoe.  But for a delicious first time, I had the privilege of being the hare at a greyhound race, rather than the guy who sweeps the track after the punters have gone home.

BEST. DAY. EVER.

Now, there’s as much chance of me placing second in my age group at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon as there is of me gracing the cover of Maxim’s Hot 100 (okay, so I guess there’s a chance), but running this smaller race really gave me confidence and I’m starting to feel like I have a real shot at meeting my goal of subbing-4 hours. And if I don’t?  At least Pooler, Georgia knows I mean business.

Showing off my #2 in my new "Savannah Striders" T-Shirt
Showing off my #2 in my new "Savannah Striders" T-Shirt

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