Last night, I had a dream, but before I get to that, I need to tell you what I did last summer.
I ran cross country and track when I was in high school half a life ago. I hadn't run competitively since. I would occasionally run for fitness, but never with any consistency. Then, last year, I saw a race entry form at the YMCA, and I decided to give it a go. Here's the thing though: that race was the first in a series known as the Shelby County 5K Tour -- a series of eleven races beginning in April and ending in October.
I ended up getting hooked. After every race, the knowledge that there was another race in the tour coming up in just a few weeks kept me training. My competitive side took over, too. Runners tally points with every race, depending on how they finish in their age category. I was lucky enough to fall in a week age group, and by the third race of the season, I was near the top of the rankings for my age. Now the knowledge that missing a race or slacking would hurt my ranking kept me training.
I finished the year in first place in my age category. If I were three years younger or two years older, I would have had a hard time even placing in the top three.
In the dream that I had last night, I was at the YMCA, where I had signed up for a race. With about an hour before race time, I realized that I had no idea what ground the course covered, so I asked another guy in the locker room and was told that the race was going to be run on the elevated track.
That made no sense to me. The runners would be so packed together that nobody would be able to pass. Plus, with all the laps required on the elevated track to even run a single mile, I didn't know how any individual runner could be tracked to ensure that he ran the correct number of laps. Surely, somebody would skip a lap or two.
The gentleman I was speaking to cocked his head and said, "It's not about winning. It's about donating to charity."
It's true. Every 5K that I competed in as part of the 5K tour was raising money for a worthy cause. My entry fee was a contribution to a cause that needed funds.
Of course, running the race to win is more fun. And if it was just about charity, I could mail a check. Still, my 5K dream gave me something to think about if my age class becomes suddenly more competitive this year.