“Daddy, we’re going to run in the 5 K race on St. George Island. How about running with us?”

            “Daddy, we’re going to run in the 5 K race on St. George Island. How about running with us?”

            I declined as politely as I could. Jess and his wife have taken up running. And they are pretty serious about it. I just run enough to be able to eat anything I want to.

            “Come’on, dad, you’ve never entered a race. You’ll like it. Everyone is so friendly—”

            Never entered a race! Is he kidding me? He should have been out there at the end of Stonewall Street in 1959 when me and Terry Kennon dug our toes into the gravel and raced from the mailbox down to the telephone pole where the Como Road turned toward Archie Moore’s house. He should have come out at recess when I was in elementary school. It was a race every day to keep Vicki Fields from chasing you down and laying the “caught by a girl” stigma on you. Jess had no way of knowing every time I sneaked a drink of Leon’s Coca-Cola and he caught me, the race was on!

            Bobby Brewer and I would race to the picture show for the Saturday matinee. We both wanted that front row, center seat to see Lash LaRue chase down the cattle rustlers. The winner of that race won the “Bloody Eyes-Stiff Neck Award” from looking straight up, without blinking, through a cartoon, the Movietone Newsreel, previews of coming attractions and the double feature.

            Shoot, the Stonewall Street gang would race home after school “just because”. We’d run against each other across the swimming pool parking lot for “bragging rights”. Me and Larry Ridinger would race to Pat Houston’s Grocery when we got word the new baseball cards had arrived. Millicent Blackburn tried to beat me to the front of the lunchroom line every day in the seventh grade.

            Coach Scott honed our running skills in high school whether we wanted them enhanced or not! He ran us at football practice until my head began to swim, lights glimmered from distant places, visions of arid desert regions stretched before me and my heart was pounding “Wipeout” against my ribcage. He’d make us race somebody after calisthenics, before the tackling drills, after the last scrimmage and during study hall if he could catch Mrs. Ingram not looking.

            I raced two brothers to the bathroom for years!

            So Jess, I have my share of run-offs. I’ve won a few and seen the back side of such luminaries as Joe Gooch, Martin Paschall and Bobby King as they sped by me. But that was yesterday…..

            I’m just running now for fun. I try to stay out of everybody’s way and ease along at a leisurely pace. And I’ve certainly reached the age that I’m not going to train for anything!

            Jessica called. “KK, do you want me to enter you in the 5 K on St. George Island.” Well, you now how special and sweet those daughter-in-laws can be. I was thinking no and I meant no and I aimed to say no……but yes popped out!

            Folks, some real diabolical running people held this race at six pm, in August, in Florida! It was a hundred and ten in the shade! Except there weren’t no shade! It was hotter than blue blazes. I’m thinking riding over they are going to call this whole thing off because ain’t nobody going to show up and run in this heat.

            Three hundred and seventeen people lined up beside me! There were eleven year old girls loosening up. A gentleman that had to be older than baseball hobbled in behind me.  He had skinny legs, a GI haircut and T.R. tattooed on his arm. I figured him to be an army officer that had plunged up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt. “I like your shoes”, the elderly lady beside me made polite conversation as the starter raised his hand. I instinctively looked down; she had on some kind of painted socks instead of shoes! What have I gotten myself into—

            Somebody yelled, “Go”. I had to run…..or get run over! I took off like Vicki Fields was right on my heels! My chest was pounding before I reached the half mile mark. Sweat was stinging my eyes. My knee hurt. By the second mile marker I was seeing desert sands stretching out before me. Lights were shinning from somewhere far off. The air was so hot and humid I absolutely could not breathe. My heart was beating so ferociously I couldn’t hear my good sense yelling for me to stop! It became abundantly clear why they call this race The Sizzler!

            How long is a 5 K anyhow? 

            I staggered to the finish, proud to still be on my feet. And I appreciated the cheering crowd as I crossed the line. I didn’t see them mind you, I had passed out about a mile back!

            It was fun and a special treat to share with Jess and Jessica. They waited till after the race to share another special event with us. They are expecting! Wow! Right in the middle of the celebration something dawned on me—

            Danged if I hadn’t just got outrun by my son, my daughter-in-law, an eleven year old girl, a lieutenant-colonel from the Spanish American War, a grandmother wearing socks…….and a child that hadn’t even been born yet!

            I’ve got to find a new hobby.