Jinqiao 8k, 2012

April 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

This race makes two loops around a middle school in a rich suburb of Pudong. This year marks the 4th, or maybe even 5th, year I have run it and the second year in a row I’ve finished just off the podium. I’ve been reading a lot about professional running and wondering about the obsession with Olympic success, considering that most of the best runners are from very poor backgrounds and competing in the Olympics usually means not competing in much more lucrative races. I think the emotions built into podiums, even those of the Jinqiao 8k, hold some insight.

The morning turned hot right as we started jostling our way to the front of the start corral. In front of me, right on the starting line, were an overweight man with earbuds and, to his left, in front of the start line, 3 thigh-high boys, wearing sweaters, with no bibs and behind them, their father.

We waited 20 minutes in the corral for the gun. After a few pretenders faded, my 15-year old foil, Riku and I were in 4th and 5th place and that’s where we stayed. The guy in 3rd place looked back with a mile and a half to go and appeared to be slowing, but we could never gain on him. It came down to me and Riku, threading through a throng of people still on the first lap, jogging and walking up to the 2 mile mark. We were still shoulder to shoulder as we shouted and fought our way through the strollers, dogs and spectators onto the 400 meter home stretch. He edged in front of me and I let him gap me before mustering a final effort that brought me right up on his heels as we finished.

The only twist to the race was that the guy leading it, a smiley, Kenyan foreign student named Tony (who I remember passing me after having gotten caught in the bathroom when the race started early in Changshu last November), missed the final turn and ran an extra mile or so to finish 6th, so Riku got a spot on the podium. I was genuinely happy for him. I don’t need the shoes he won. I didn’t really want to out-lean him at the tape. But I do get a shimmer of why the Olympics mean something to everyone.

Jinqiao 8k Official Website

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