I Choose to Race

Sometime between puberty and junior year of high school (the two of which are probably way closer in time than I’d like to admit), I became fast. Specifically, a fast sprinter. I mostly used this ability while playing soccer, but I also decided to join my high school’s indoor track team my senior year.

It was that winter that I learned a lot about pride and humility. I had a lot of pride because I was one of the top two sprinters in the school. But the more pleased and outspoken I became about that fact, the less people admired my speed. And the less they thought of me. Pride comes before the fall.

I learned about humility whenever we went to a track meet and I realized that (a) there were a lot of guys out there who were faster than me and (b) little things like form and practice matter when you have 55 meters to prove yourself against really fast sprinters. A poor start and losing form at the finish can make the difference between first and last.

I carried what I learned that winter onto college, where I played only intermural sports. Now I only play pickup sports. Sure, there’s still some pride and ego about my speed, but I have a lot of fun with it. I often try to find the fastest guy on the football field and guard him–same with frisbee and soccer.

Over these adult years, a few people have challenged me to footraces when they heard that I was fast. I always accept, because I’m genuinely curious to find someone who’s as fast as I am. Call me crazy, but I like a good footrace. And what I’ve learned from these footraces is that I’m not the only one with pride about my sprinting ability. The tricky thing about pride is that when you win, you became more boastful, but when you lose, it really stings.

That being said, I haven’t lost a footrace in 10 years.

Then came today.

I have two coworkers who are very fast. One plays frisbee at a national level. Troy is 28 years old, same as me. The only difference is that he has about 3 or 4 inches on me. He’s over 6 feet tall and has a long stride.

The other, Gabe, is a 22-year-old former college running back. He’s built like an ox and he’s fast. I’ve never seen Troy run, but I’ve played pickup football against Gabe, and I really respect his speed.

The three of us have talked about racing all year. I’ve instigated most of the banter, just joking around, figuring we’d do it someday, but not really knowing. I mean, why not. Although Gabe and Troy have barely an ounce of pride in them, they know they’re fast. They’re the kind of guys who rarely encounter someone as fast as them. Like me.

So the other day I challenged the two of them to a 50-yard footrace at high noon today on the Wash U football field. Both accepted, and the race was on.

Word got around that we were racing, and 10 or 15 people gathered on the sidelines to watch the race. I had someone record the race on my Flip, but due to a technical issue, the video didn’t take.

I do have a photo (courtesy of Erin Q.) that was taken a little before the finish line. Troy’s a stride or two back, so you can’t see him. Gabe is the shirtless one, and I’m in the red  Under Armour.

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You can see that I lost my form near the end. I’m leaning for the finish about four yards too soon. I still won, but only by a stride. Definitely the closest race I’ve been a part of in many years. I think with a better start (my start was really bad) and better focus at the end, I could have won by two strides, but hey, I’ll take one. In a 50-yard dash–a race that takes around 6 seconds–that ain’t bad. (And no, unfortunately no one timed it. I ran a 6.7 55-yard dash, so this was probably right around 6 seconds. So if you compare me to Usain Bolt, he’s already in his car listening to Bob Marley by the time I cross the finish line.)

Overall, this was a lot of fun. Gabe and I might race later in the summer at a slightly different distance, and hopefully I’ll get video for you.

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