I wrote this in 2000 and found it in my pile of short stories. Many things have changed since then but I thought you might enjoy this ‘No Comfort Zone” story from long ago …
I had not planned on racing.
In fact, I had never officially race-walked before.
When I left the house that morning, my plan was to watch the race and determine if I “had what it took.” Okay, I knew I could do it, but did I have the technique? There are rules and regulations about your heel hitting the ground, and your knee staying vertical until your foot was pulled up behind you. I have never trained for this and I just wanted to watch and see how the others did it.
I showed up on Saturday to see the race-walking event. Since I had never race-walked before, I assumed that you had to sign up in advance for the race. When I inquired, I was told I could sign up on the spot. I was just signing the last piece of paper when I heard them call for the start of the 3K race.
I hadn’t dressed for a race. I was wearing jean shorts, a tee shirt, and my regular sneakers. I had made plans to visit the library, bank and grocery store — not enter a race! Compared to my fellow competitors, who were dressed in sleek purple and white tank tops, high cut shorts, official racing shoes and stopwatches, I looked like I was from the wrong side of the tracks. Did I mention the garage sale visor I dug out of my trunk for this auspicious event? The champions didn’t have to look at me for long, as I soon fell to the back of the pack.
Well “at least I’m not a spectator,” I told myself. While I was being placated by these thoughts, I heard the heavy rhythmic breathing behind me. Yup — the first competitor was passing me by. She was already a whole lap ahead of me! Boy, she was fast, and gee whiz could she work those legs! I tried to copy her but she was gone in the blink of an eye.
“Remember technique, remember form…” I told myself, except I didn’t know what the form or technique was! As I was focusing on my imaginary form, the second and third place racers whooshed by me. “Hold still!” I yelled in my mind, as I tried to study their leg and arm movements and the swing of their hips.
Yes, their hips. Shall we discuss their incredibly lean and defined hips? They were a work of art. I would never have had this great view if I had stayed in the stands. I wanted defined hips, strong legs and sculptured calves like those on the fast moving bodies surrounding me.
With 2 laps to go and the winner already drinking water and wearing a medal, I told myself that whatever time I got for this race will only be improved the next time I race — and “at least I’m not a spectator.”
It was hot, my t-shirt was heavy and my running shoes scuffed the ground. (I found out later that race-walking shoes have an angle on the edge to prevent scuffing.) I crossed the finish line in 23:08 minutes.
I had finished last.
“It was an honor to walk in your shadow,” I said to the victor and to the 2 other racers around her (from the back of the pack they all looked like winners to me.)
“I wonder if you can tell me where you learned how to race-walk?” The victor told me about a local club that she and many of the other top finishers attend.
Another source of information was the race official. I asked him to show me what I was doing wrong, because during the race he shook a “caution paddle” at me. He showed me some techniques and offered some suggestions. “Try going to a track and just walking on your heels until your muscles build up and your body is used to it.” Another bit of advice was to remember what it was like when I was a kid running toward the swimming pool with adults yelling “No running!”
Well — mission accomplished! I learned about race-walking from experts, winners and officials. I doubt I would have learned that much if I had sat on the sidelines.
I was weary and hot and tossing my forms onto the front seat of my car, when I saw the official posting the times for the race. Since there was nobody around, I sidled up to the wall and found my name. Sure enough — I finished in 23 minutes and the other person in my age bracket finished in 17 minutes.
Did I mention there were only two in our age bracket which meant … I won a medal!
Age 45, and it was the first time in my life I won a medal all by myself — because I decided not to be a spectator!
Here I am, 11 years later reading this and a huge grin on my face!
Boy oh boy … talk about taking a few hundred steps out of your comfort zone!! Oh my …
The Wellness Site
Walking: Trim your wasteline