Posted by: Sue D. Gelber | July 6, 2012

To Add to My List of Humiliations: The Jubilee Jog

Welcome to Wilmette, home of some fast little runners

Since I have a new-found appreciation for 5k races, I decided to kick off the summer with a small community 5k. Even though I’m a slow runner, I can still eke out a decent placement if I stick to small, suburban races. Big races attract speedy people from all over the region, leaving me to bring up the rear. But small community races get a lot of non-runners, which helps boost me up into the top half. I may be slow, but I’m faster than the walkers. Most of them, anyway.

I know it sounds shallow, but finishing in the top 30 percent fills me with joy, even if I got there by passing elderly people using canes and sleep-deprived dads pushing jogging strollers while also tethered to their dogs.

I’ve discovered I can improve my overall placement by distracting the competition while on the course. When running near a senior citizen, I’ll yell “Look, a new AARP discount at that restaurant!” And I have yet to meet a dog that won’t veer off the race course in search of the dog treats that I throw. Hey, I need all the help I can get.

So, in my quest to conquer small, sparsely populated races, I traveled to the quiet town of Wilmette, IL, to do the Jubilee Jog on Memorial Day weekend. Wilmette is a lovely village nestled up against Lake Michigan and known as the home of two impressive institutions: the Bahai temple and the Walker Brothers Pancake House. Wilmette also breeds over achievers, such as Rahm Emanuel and some speedy little runners.

The race course winds it’s way through the Ridge Road area of Wilmette, a quiet residential neighborhood. I got to the race start and did a short pre-race warmup along Ridge, which was closed to traffic. The “warm-up” seemed superfluous, however, because the day was already hot and steamy. For the first time ever, I wished the race had started an hour earlier. Within minutes, sweat was stinging my eyes.

The race was a fundraiser for St. Joe’s school, so there were plenty of cute little kids running. As the race was about to start, a large gaggle of them squirmed their way up to the front. I stood farther back in the pack, chatting with the woman next to me about how cute the kids were.

Finally, the horn sounded and we were off, the little kids dashing ahead. “Bet they’ll all sprint like crazy for a half mile, then get winded and walk,” said the woman next to me. We laughed about how adorable and misguided they were.

Twenty minutes later, I was still following a little girl with a big attitude who’d been running a solid, steady sub-nine-minute-per-mile pace for two-plus miles. I reassured myself that she was faster than me because her center of gravity was so low. Or maybe being so small meant she didn’t get affected by the heat. And my final curmudgeon-like thought: she’s got to fade soon. Right?

And she did, right around the 2.5 mile mark. Ha! Take that little girl, I said to myself as I sailed by her. (Take what? I have no idea. Perhaps the heat was making me delirious.)

I knew I was far off a PR, but I was closing in on the finish line. I picked up the pace as I made the final turn. But then, behind me, I heard what sounded like an asthmatic pug. I became aware of the sound of little feet slapping the pavement, getting closer. And then WHOOSH! In a blaze of pink, she surged in front of me, her skirt flapping, her ponytail flying. I had no energy to match her. She sprinted across the finish.

I looked at the clock, grunted, and went in search of water and shade. When the race results were posted, I scanned the sheet. After checking my mediocre age group placement, I looked at the name ahead of mine, the girl who beat me. She was nine years old. I was beaten by a third grader. In a pink skirt.

Yet in spite of my dismal placement, it was a great race: small and charming but with lots of enthusiastic volunteers and a fun post-race party and raffle. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I’ve decided to make it my A-race next year.

Yes, that’s right. My A-race. I’ve already started training, and I plan to beat Little Miss Pink Skirt. Let’s she how she does once she’s in the double digits and her age starts catching up with her. It’s on. Bring it, little girl. You and your cute pink skirt. Bring it.

Does this skirt make me look fast?


  1. Oh ha-ha. For a second, until you said she was 9 in a pink skirt, I thought the sub-nine minute miler was no other than ….my daughter. A pink skirt? Really?

  2. I am now officially calling 5Ks “Gelbers”. Even when training. Like today I did a double “Gelber” plus (7.3 miles). I like the sound of it…I’m not kidding.

    • Ed, it only counts as a true “Gelber” if someone else does it substantially faster than you. Prefer somebody with a debilitating injury. Or perhaps someone carrying a 50-pound backpack. Or a 90-year-old woman.

  3. haha! Love this Sue! You are totally going to win the whole thing next year in your pink skirt:)

  4. Sue,

    This brought a smile to my face as I have shared the experience, thinking I have dropped that pesky 10 and under runner only to watch helplessly as I am dropped in the final .1. My burst of slow is no match for these whipper snappers who have not learned that running fast hurts 🙂

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