Posted by: Sue D. Gelber | March 23, 2012

The Lisle Spring Sprint 10k is Nothing to Laugh About. Really.

Disclaimer: This post is not funny.

Of course, maybe my posts are never funny, but this one isn’t even trying to be funny. (Although my natural sparkling wit may seep in. See, there it is.)

There’s no joke setup here, but even if there was, the punchline would be: I did the Lisle Spring Sprint 10k, and nothing funny happened. There were no crazy costumes, no guy dressed like a banana, no crowds lining the course, holding signs with humorous or clever sayings. The only mildly funny part was when the race director was giving course instructions. You know it’s a small community race when the directions are something along the line of “10k runners will then head past the Johnsons’ house, and when they get to the Smiths’ house, they’ll turn left and loop around to the finish.”

I was excited to do the race because I got to meet up with my pals Chanthana and Kevin. Kevin is a fabulous running coach, and several of his runners were doing the race. They kindly let me tag along with them. I’m usually lone wolf as a runner (or a big loser with no running friends, depending on your perspective), so it was nice to be part of a group, both before and after the race.

But it wasn’t just that the camaraderie was wonderful. The event was like a Goldilocks race: everything was just right. The weather was pleasant but not warm. The route was scenic but not hilly. The course never felt crowded, but I had other runners in sight the whole time. They even had indoor bathrooms for use before and after the race. No adversity of any kind to overcome. My only complaint was that I had nothing to complain about. And to top it off, I had a great finish time, 50:38, a full five minutes faster than my previous 10k best time.

With no issues to whine about, I was at a loss. Damn, this race was so perfect it was almost irritating. What to do with all that excess mental energy? Instead of ranting about petty things, I found my mind drifting into (gasp!) more meaningful and thought-provoking stuff. Not like solving the world’s problems, mind you. I’m still way too shallow for that. But I found myself wondering “Why do I do this?” Not the “Why do I do this” that I mutter when my alarm goes off before dawn on race morning, but a more genuine question of reflection.

Let’s face it, I’m never going to win a race. There will be no fame, no glory, no prize money, no statue to proudly display. I might get a medal, but these days there are plenty of races where everyone gets a medal, so even the hard-earned ones get diluted in the bunch.

Not only will this activity never produce anything objectively desirable, but to make matters worse, it actually costs me money and time. Not just the time for the races, but the training. And compounding the problem, my training frequently makes me too tired to do things that would make me feel better about life: organizing closets so I can find that missing black coat, or maybe washing the car so I can see out the rear window once again.

What does all this time and effort get me? Even my best outcomes are modest achievements. At small races that no one’s ever heard of, I might eke out an age-group placement if no fast people in my age group show up. At large races, I consider it a triumph if I’m in the top half of the female finishers. These aren’t exactly the spoils of victory. So why in the world do I do it? The race shirts? Not exactly; I’m still trying to perfect the art of ordering the right size.

Maybe it’s about trying to get control of things, a way to counteract the emotional storms of life. Children will do things that result in frustration. Friendships will undergo seismic shifts, leaving me adrift. Illnesses will befall loved ones, wreaking havoc. Husbands will wash a load of whites with a pair of black socks tossed in. Dogs will throw up on the good rug. I can’t change any of those things.

But I can control my finish time if I try hard enough. I can take that 50:38 and get it to 49:something. I only need to shave 6 and a half seconds off each mile. I simply need to run faster. Not a lot faster, just a little faster.

I can’t control things like accidents and illnesses and death and sadness and heartache. But run six and a half seconds faster per mile? That I can do. And so I try.


  1. Beautifully written, as usual. Congrats on the monster PR!! It was fun hanging out with you, Sue. I know you will get that sub 50. The things we cannot control (especially illnesses) are very frustrating. But how we handle them sets us apart, too. We comfort those who need it most. OK, now I’m rambling and not making any sense. This is what I do on long runs. The mind just WANDERS. See you soon. ❤ U

    • Thanks Chanthana. Always so fun to race with you. I look forward to many more!

  2. I like this post, I think it is my very favorite on your blog. Imagine the difficulty of training your third [basically] husband to separate whites from colors, which is what I am doing. Awesome PR btw.

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