The Diary of a 4th Place Champion

My running career is categorized by placing precisely one spot outside of medaling. If the podium goes up to third, I get fourth. If there are nifty plaques for first and second, you can guarantee I’ll get third. First gets some cool piece of branded race swag? Why thanks, I’ll stick with second place. A few years ago this blog would’ve been a rant. Now however, it’s a reaffirmation of why I run competitively.

Don’t get me wrong: for years this streak of lack of medals and titles was just too much for me. I would cry after every race lamenting the fact that “if this” or “if that” I “could’ve” won. My lovely mother would console me and tell me that every person behind me would have loved to call fourth place his or her own. For a youthful me, this didn’t make it better. Even when I trained harder, swearing that this would be the race I won, I was inevitably handed an invisible fourth place plaque. 

Fortunately, as I’ve grown older I’ve also grown wiser. I like winning. I want to win. I also want to stay in one piece and finish the race without puking or passing out. Along with that, I’ve developed strange feelings toward running. Some might even call it love. Indeed, that feeling of lactic acid pumping through my veins and sweat running down my back is strangely soothing—especially coupled with gorgeous views of the Bay, a guarantee in the Berkeley Hills. 

Ironically, even though I’m faster now, running is less about winning. Running is about finding myself and other hilarious, awesome, beautiful, and downright strange things. It’s about almost running into a deer on Euclid. It’s about looking out from the top of Grizzly Peak and seeing the incredible expanse. It’s about getting lost in bad neighborhoods and being a little bit afraid. It’s about running past the man in a full, furry, and horned bull suit telling each passerby “happy new year.” Most of all, though, it’s about escaping my hectic life as a student and focusing on the true beauty of sweat, lactic acid, and a rapid heart rate. Put as plainly as possible: I love the challenge of running. I love the beauty of running. And hey, every now and then I sure do like to win at running. All my fourth places only make every first even more special.

Let’s Go 510k should combine all my favorite things about running into one fabulous package. I won’t be gunning to win. I’m running a half marathon the next day (can you say crazy?) and I know there will be plenty of speedy 10k’ers out there (I’m looking at YOU). What I’m most excited for is seeing that view of the Golden Gate and experiencing the camaraderie of the East Bay running community. Also, it finishes on the race track. Can we talk about how cool that is? I can’t wait for October 19th.