"Come on, why not?" I wiped a few strands of sweaty hair out of my eyes and looked imploringly at my parents. "It's free, and you don't know what they might be giving away."
Both my mom and my dad shrugged and looked at my sister. Rolling her eyes and sighing dramatically, Amy followed me as I led the family toward the bleachers where the raffle and awards ceremony were to be held in about twenty minutes.
Amy and I had just finished running the Gatorade Steelers 5k--a Pittsburgh race, with a surprisingly flat out-and-back course that began outside Heinz Field, followed along the Allegheny River, and then finished back inside the stadium. It was definitely one of the more memorable race finishes: as you burst out of the tunnel and into the stadium, you could almost imagine you were a famous football player, sprinting toward the crowd way up in the stands.
I had told my family that I just wanted to stay for the raffle (which was free to all the race participants), but the truth was that I had a sneaking suspicion that I might have earned an age group prize. Because the course was out-and-back, as I got closer to the turnaround point, I could see the faster runners flying past me the opposite direction. Once I saw the first woman, I started keeping count. It's surprisingly difficult to pay attention and mentally keep a running tally while your legs are burning and your chest feels like it's going to explode, but if my count was anything close to accurate, there were only about 10 women in front of me when I reached the turnaround, and I passed 2 of them on the way to the finish. So assuming all of those women weren't between the ages of 25-29, I figured had a pretty decent chance of coming in at least 3rd in my age group.
The whole raffle/awards ceremony of course started late, as these things tend to do, and it seemed to drag on and on. The raffle winners had to be present to win, so that process took much longer than it probably should have, since so many of the people whose names were drawn had apparently left the premises. (Although one girl, whose name was announced along with her city of residence--Baltimore--was booed so severely that she may have been present but afraid to show her face!) Some of the winners also didn't shout loudly enough to indicate they were present and trying to reach the stage, so that didn't help.
"Don't worry," my mom told me, "if they call your name, there won't be any question where you are in this crowd." Did I mention that my mom used to sing opera?
They're not going to call our names, I could see my sister thinking, even as she remained crouched over her iPod. We're not going to win anything, and we'll have wasted two hours of our time.
The event dragged on, and I could see my sister getting more and more annoyed.
"Maybe we should just leave," I acquiesced. If all this waiting turned out to be for nothing, then not only would my sister be supremely annoyed, but I'd also be disappointed, but too embarrassed to even tell my family why.
"I'm ready when you are," Amy agreed.
Still, I stayed seated. They were finally announcing first, second, and third places for the Age Group divisions, so it wouldn't be too long now. Finally, my age group was called.
"In third place, for the female division ages 25-29...." The announcer said a name and a time, and for the first time during the whole ceremony, Amy looked up from playing Candy Crush.
"Hey, what was your time again?"
The announcer continued. "In second place, with a time of...."
Amy nudged me with her elbow. "Didn't you run faster than that?"
"And in first place with a time of 19:20...."
Man, you should have heard my mom holler.
results of this race:
In spite of receiving the first place 25-29 age group trophy--which was quite thrilling, I must admit, and came with Steelers tickets!-- I'm still not positive that I actually won my age group. The first three 25-29 finishers placed first, second, and third overall for all women, so I understand if they were taken out of the running. However, I finished fifth. Therefore, something must have happened with the fourth place finisher . . . or else she's going to be pretty unhappy at having been forgotten. I know I would be if I were her!
Age Group Place (F25-29)