It was the Lilac Bloomsday Run in Spokane this last weekend. And I was a late bloomer.
“You’re not an F student,” the race registrar jokingly reassured me. “You’re just tardy.”
My number read 51109. That meant that 51,108 people had planned ahead — or had at least gotten in line ahead of me.
But after waiting 31 years to participate — this was the 33rd Bloomsday — the procession to register and pick up our information packets was a walk in the park.
The next morning, the real work began.
“How much farther is it?” I whined to my daughter, Tiffany, as we stepped up our pace.
“Not much,” she consoled me. “We’re almost there.”
Finally, the purple balloons came into view, the BLOOMSDAY START banner stretching magnificently across the street. We may have parked our car in the next state, but we were ready to begin.
“Mom, you don’t have to find the person with the number just ahead of yours,” Tiffany instructed as I frantically searched the crowd to line up. “We just have to be in our color group,” she laughed. “If you had to do that, we’d be here all day!”
I go the feeling that the next time she might leave me at home with the kids.
Grabbing my hand, we were off like a herd of turtles. Wave after wave of people surged ahead. Music played. Cheers went up from the sidelines. This was going to be fun.
By Milepost 3, I wasn’t so sure. There were still 4 1/2 miles to go.
“Are you OK?” Tiffany looked at me worriedly as I gulped cups of water offered roadside. I nodded an affirmative, and we raced on.
At the next milepost, we knew we were doomed. We’d have to waste 25 minutes in the latrine line. But at least I knew I’d eventually get to sit down.
Milepost 6 found us with baby strollers and small children pressing at our backs.
Still, Tiffany and I walked hurriedly ahead, but decided not to fret at stops for photo ops along the way. After all, you had to get your priorities straight.
Finally, the banner announcing the end of the race loomed just ahead. Staggering to the tune of Rocky, I skirted a man with a cane and crossed the finish line.
Final time: 2:33:06. Overall place: 39,430 out of 44,490. I had beat mothers diapering babies and pushing strollers.
"Oh well, better late than never," I thought as I picked up the blue Bloomsday shirt from a waiting volunteer.
I may have been a late bloomer at the 2009 Lilac race, but at least my T-shirt said “finisher.”