I don’t claim to be athletic. In fact I claim nothing of the sort. My childhood recreational activities included ballet classes and horseback riding – not exactly classified as hard-core sports. Did they require childhood poise? Not really – but let’s pretend for my sake they did.
When I moved to Nova Scotia at the ripe age of 10, I figured I needed to find a way to make friends. What better way I thought, than join to join the cross country team? Sure, I was the shortest kid in my class and had no idea if I could run three blocks, let alone three kilometres, but I knew if I could get my name on the announcements for scoring a sweet blue ribbon I would have more friends than I could shake a stick at.
Little did I know pretty much everyone and their dog joined the cross country team that year. Likely because of a girl whose milkshake brought all the boys to the yard. Not only was she super sporty and beautiful, but she could run like the wind and had about a foot on me.
Meet after meet my collection of second place ribbons continued to grow – but I knew that as long as Little Miss Long Legs was around I would never hear my name attached with first place on the morning announcements. Lucky for me this blonde stallion had the immune system of a small child – that might be overstating it, but a case of tonsillitis took my archrival out of the competition just long enough for me to shine.
I’ll never forget that day at the track meet. My parents proudly waiting on the field – inhalers in hand just in case their little ballerina / horse aficionado were to pass out mid-run. Things started off really well. I had a great pace going and I could feel that I was ahead of all the piddly little fourth graders. As I went through various turns I could tell that I was getting close to the end – taking a quick glance back I knew I was set to take home the glorious blue ribbon. And then it all fell apart.
One wrong turn had me feeling like a million bucks – no other runners were in sight and the crowd was going wild. The celebration in my mind started early and I could already picture how proudly the school secretary would be announcing my name the next day. The next thing I noticed was the faces of my parents. Then I realized they were shouting “wrong way” not “yay”!! My slight misstep had me down the wrong path on the final stretch of the race. I sprinted as quickly as humanly possible to get back on track – and I thought I would make it, but just as I approached the finish line, some Z-list runner bypassed me and dashed her way through.
They say winning isn’t everything – but when you’re the wrong way runner, second place is only the first loser.