It’s been six week since the Go! KT82 trail run from Creve Coeur Park to Hermann, Missouri. To break it down by numbers: 6 runners, 82 miles, 1 stinky minivan, 2 cases of water, 3 outfit changes, 12 hours 39 minutes and 10 seconds, $500 raised for NF, and 1 Man in the Yellow Shorts.
In a typical race, you start in a corral with runners who average the same pace, rarely find yourself alone, and your finish time is not dependent on anyone else. The relay is such a different experience than other races though. Teams leave at different times throughout the day, and often have runners with a variety of paces. But I wasn’t in relay mode yet, and forgot in my searching that I might not run “with” any of these other leg 6 runners at all.
Honestly, I wasn’t feeling well-trained, and needed something else to focus on while running. While scanning the crowd, my eyes rested on a runner with a six on his bib. He was an older gentlemen, with a poofy coiffure of white hair, a white cotton v-neck shirt, white socks, and bright yellow shorts. My first guess was that he is in his 60s. Later we heard he is actually in his seventies. With a smile on my face, I realized I had found my competition for the day. I had to beat the man in the yellow shorts!
It wasn’t rational, and my teammates teased me endlessly with a string of what-if-you-can’t-beat-him ideas. No matter how ill-prepared I felt, I convinced myself that the relay would be a success if only I could beat The Man in the Yellow Shorts.
My first leg of the KT82 was brutal….5.89 miles through single-track terrain. It was trail running at its finest. Unfortunately, I’m not a trail runner. It rained the night before and the trail was slick. It was promoted as downhill, but certainly felt more uphill than down to me. I frequently had to walk or risk twisting my ankle on tree roots. It was lonely. I only saw 2 runners over the first 3 miles of trail. I wanted to scream as the trail twisted and turned and I often felt like I wasn’t even on a trail. Was I even headed in the right direction?!
I’m sure it was beautiful, but my eyes only looked down until our single track finally reconnected with the paved Katy Trail. Suddenly, eyes up, I saw the flat trail ahead that would lead me to the exchange. I picked up my pace and finally felt like I was running!
Full of joy already, I suddenly spotted yellow. Could it be the man in the yellow shorts? With every step, I heard the future teasing of my teammates if I let him beat me. His bright yellow shorts were like beacon, and the Katy Trail had become a spectator-lined world major with everyone shouting my name. I slowly closed the gap and knew I could pass him. Take that teammates!
As I approached, I saw blood streaming down his right leg. Talk about ruining the glory moment. Now I felt bad. I asked him if he was alright. He grunted a “yes” in response. I could only imagine what his fall must have been like through that rough terrain. Part of me wanted to slow down and run with him, but I remembered that I had just caught up to him. He was actually running faster than me! More accurately, probably, was that his team was fast enough to give him a significant head start. No one would pay attention to that fact though, if he came into the exchange before me. Again the teasing rumbled around in my head, so I passed him and continued on.
At the 12th exchange, I watched as The Man in the Yellow Shorts took off way before me. His teammates were really fast! My second leg was 3.46 miles and there was no sign of yellow; there was no catching him on this leg. Even though he wasn’t in my sights, he was on my mind as I ran.
Here I am, almost half his age, running and sometimes walking (sorry teammates) and I wonder…will I be able to run in an 82 mile relay race when I’m in my seventies? It seems outrageous! Yet, there he was, proof it was possible. Maybe instead of my nemesis, he was becoming my inspiration.
I had the privilege (insert sarcasm here) of running the final leg of the relay. My husband, Michael, had run anchor in our previous relay and said he wouldn’t do it again. Now I understand why. I could almost taste the Bud Light Limes my teammates were drinking as each of them finished their final leg! After a long day, it was torture! But it was also only 2.59 miles before I could crack open my own.
I turned off the Katy Trail and headed down the highway that leads into Hermann, Missouri. The Chafing The Dream minivan honked as they passed and that gave me a little kick to my step. I pushed myself up the longest-ever bridge that goes into Hermann. I wasn’t really thinking about the man in the yellow shorts; I was thinking about being done. Looking up and ahead, though, I saw a familiar flash of yellow. Game on!
My head instantly started calculating. There was less than than a mile left, and there was quite a distance between me and my nemesis. Yes, he was now my nemesis again. I pushed myself. I didn’t have a choice.
My legs were screaming at me, but my pride was louder. At the top of the bridge, I saw the slight downhill before we turned onto the city streets. Here was my chance! I let the downhill propel me without restraint.
At the turn, with less than half a mile to go…
for the last time…
The Man in the Yellow Shorts.
I smiled, and then laughed at myself. It wasn’t an individual race. We didn’t start at the same time. And yet I was driven to “beat” this man, almost twice my age, The Man in the Yellow Shorts. If I ever think I’m too old to keep running, I’m pretty sure he will be in my mind to convince me otherwise.
I wanted to find him and thank him for inspiring me, but the thrill of crossing the finish line and my thirst for Bud Light Lime won out over searching for him. My thank you is that someday I hope to be The Woman in the Yellow Shorts for another runner.
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