by Kristi York
Finish-line moments are highly memorable, no question. You’ll always remember how you felt as you achieved a personal best time or conquered a new distance. But you likely also have other moments etched in your mind: the mistakes, the mix-ups, the times things didn’t go as planned. Once on a run in my neighbourhood, I slipped on a patch of black ice, resulting in a spectacular wipe-out where I landed squarely on my (to use a technical term) left heinie. Every time I run past that corner, I cringe inwardly. If you’re a runner, you’ve likely experienced a running blunder of some kind. Here are three of my greatest goof-ups:
I headed out for a mid-day run with my house key stashed safely in my zippered pocket. It was a chilly fall day and as I rounded the corner for home, I eagerly imagined having a hot shower and putting on some cozy, comfortable clothes. The only problem was, the garment I was already wearing wasn’t going to cooperate. The zipper of the pocket containing my key was completely, utterly stuck in the closed position. I pulled and tugged, but the thing wouldn’t budge. I was not carrying a phone and we do not have a hidden outdoor key. Plus, it was a weekday, so all the neighbours were at work.
Clammy with sweat and starting to feel chilled, I decided to walk down the street and ring the bell of a house that had a car in the driveway. Thankfully, a lovely retired couple named Leo and Mary were home and loaned me some scissors so I could cut open the pocket from inside and free my key. It pained me to mangle an expensive running garment in this way, but it seemed to be the only remaining solution to this clothes call.
It was early September, and I was feeling emotional about my younger son starting kindergarten in a few days. On my run, I decided to go past the school, hoping that it would help me get my head around this major transition. As I passed the school’s driveway, I noticed a stray beer can sitting on the curb. Knowing that the school prides itself on a clean yard, I picked up the can (which was still half full) so I could toss it in the public garbage can at the park behind the school.
I took a walk break so I wouldn’t spill and smell of beer for the rest of the run. As I crossed the school blacktop, I noticed that a light was on in the kindergarten classroom. Curious, I went over, my mind in overdrive. Maybe I could spot my son’s name taped above one of the cubbies. Maybe I could ease his first-day jitters if I knew what some of the play areas looked like. It was only as my nose touched the window that my Better Judgement voice piped up, pointing out that if the teacher happened to be in the room, she would see me as an unwelcome stranger, casing the joint and presumably consuming an alcoholic beverage on school property at 10:00 a.m. Mercifully, the classroom was empty, and I scurried away to get rid of the evidence and avoid making the worst first impression in kindergarten history.
Back in our university days, my sister and I entered a marathon relay, where five runners share the 42.2K distance. Logistics can be a challenge at this type of event, as each runner needs to get to her starting point on time, and figure out how to get back once she’s done. I would be running the first leg and hand off to my sister. We studied the route map in advance and agreed on a street where she would try to park the car. She would hand me the keys as I handed her our team wristband. I would then drive to the end of her route and pick her up. It seemed pretty simple.
On race day, I sprinted into the exchange zone looking for my sister, but she was nowhere to be found. Had the adrenaline of race day caused me to run faster and arrive sooner than expected? Surely, she would be here at any moment. Still panting, I walked around a bit and got a drink of water. Still no sign of her. Other teams were happily exchanging wristbands, with fresh runners dashing off to begin their turn. My emotions quickly morphed from concern to confusion to anger. As I paced around the exchange zone, I looked up in frustration and noticed one of the street signs. That’s when it hit me. This wasn’t the neighbourhood we had discussed when we made our parking plan. My sister was the second runner, so we had looked on the map for the second exchange zone. The thing is, of course, that the second runner actually needs to be at the FIRST exchange zone. We had screwed it up. She wasn’t coming.
This was before cell phones or texting, so I had no way of contacting anyone. I had no choice but to run the second leg. Which I did. Very slowly. The delay had caused me to be at the back of the pack, so I was mostly running alone. When supporters on the sidelines clapped for my feeble pace, I felt like calling out: “I’m not even supposed to be here!” My sister had realized our error when she showed up at the exchange zone and our third runner was there too. It was a lose/lose situation where I had to run twice and she didn’t get to run at all. Oh well, another classic for the blooper archives.