Better Than Gold

Amid the chaos of announcers and runners crammed in front of the results postings I stood transfixed. My eyes blurring with emotion I wasn’t certain of what I was reading.


As far as summer evenings go, Burlington was boasting sunny but coolish conditions courtesy of the much-maligned polar vortex that had been gripping the environs for the last day or two. Aside from a slight fluttering breeze the weather was perfect for racing.

We arrived early to the race site and were now whiling away our time alternating beneath the shade of an overarching willow, its boughs reaching downward tenderly, and strolling languidly along the boardwalk. I needed this gentle calm away from the melee that was already engulfing race headquarters.

My partner would be running in the 10k event and prior to that I would be stepping to the line for the start of the 5k.

I have never been completely comfortable at this distance. It is not a matter of finishing but rather of finishing well for me. And the internal pressures I feel in this short distance are stifling. This was only my second race in this discipline. While most runners cut their teeth on the 5k, my first race was the Half Marathon. The 30k and marathon followed within months. But the 5k remained an elusive chimera. Its seemingly meagre distance belied the gruesome punishment that comprises its essence.

This night I resolved would be different. I would be studied and deliberate. My pace controlled, measured, yet still aggressive as I ran within myself. Mentally I visualized the race. Its turns. Its nuances. The head winds would come first. The slight incline shortly thereafter. If I could keep energy in the tank my experience at the longer distances would turn things in my favour in the second half. I could catch other runners whose efforts would begin to falter. As well, the downhill segments always favour me over other runners. I’m not certain why. But they invariably do.

With 10 minutes to spare I take up position 3rd row centre behind the start. Respectful of the elite runners but ahead of most.

The confines are tight. And my mind begins to reel. I need air. I need space!

At long last the gun fires. I am released from my hold. As runners jockey for position, many find their way passed me. But I refuse to be baited. I would remain within myself. Fervently believing, my time would come soon enough.

After the frenzy of the first kilometre, I find myself in a position very similar to the one I held in the Grimsby 10k a few short weeks ago. I am at the back of a long strung out field of runners that lead the race. My identity solidified. I am at one and the same time an elite form of middle-aged weekend warrior and a below average sub-elite racer.

As I had visualized, the winds and hills were now staunchly in my camp 3 kilometres into the race. I was starting to eat away at the lead the runners ahead of me had imposed early on.

The first two runners I passed were young men, fit, strong, lean, and fast. Oh how it does my heart and soul wonders to successfully abandon them in my wake.

The next two runners were also male, my age this time, and very much aware of my presence. The cheers of onlookers alert them to my arrival. They glance over at me and bid to counter my attack. But on this eve I prove too powerful. And soon they too are left behind.

With 700 metres left I can see the runner ahead of me but he is too far for me to catch. I settle in. My position secure. I will pass no more. But neither shall I be passed.

The final 300 metre straightaway is lined with photographers. I sprint by in a flurry. Arms reaching skyward, I cross the finish.


The skies gently darken around me as I remain steadfast in front of the results postings. Runners jostle to see their standings and in a haze I turn away. My partner will be finishing his 10k shortly and I want to be there when he crosses the line. I see him not too far away. He’s fast. He’s very fast. And with a 4 minute negative split he eclipses his own personal best by 2 minutes. I am so proud of him! We hug and exchange congratulations as we wander by the awards area. He turns to me and eagerly asks me how I did. With a beaming smile and a leap of excitement, I hurry forward as my name is announced.

And in 3rd place, men’s 40-44 year old, from Toronto, ROD LOWE!


2014 Downtown Dash Medals



  1. shawnasob · · Reply

    Congrats to you and your partner Rod! This post had me on the edge of my seat as I read it!

    1. Thanks Shawn! It was a really great race for both of us 🙂

  2. Wow! A podium finish! That’s fantastic! I am so happy for you both!!! What was your finish time (if you don’t mind sharing) for both of you?

  3. Thanks Raymond! I finished in 21:44.6. But my partner is shy so I’ll p.m. you his time 🙂

    1. Did the race give awards to the top 3 finishers in each age group? Did you get to stand on a podium? I am so proud of you Rod!

      1. Aw shucks, thanks 🙂

        They did award medals to the top 3 of age group yes. No podium though 😦 I did make sure to get a photographer to snag a race pic with me and my medals though. Hopefully it turns out.

        I remember reading that special awards would be given to the top finisher of each race, one for the men, one for the women. But no mention was given about age group awards. So when I read that I was 3rd, I was thrilled but not expecting anything. Then the awards ceremony started. And they started with the kids. And I thought, oh that’s nice, they’re making sure the kids get special awards 🙂 But I again wasn’t thinking (definitely hoping! but not thinking) that each age group would get awards. When they started giving awards out to the 30-34 yo’s I really started getting excited! And that’s when my partner finished. I was elated to watch him finish and then to have him there when I got my 3rd place medal.

        (small confession……..I fell asleep with the 3rd place medal the last two nights)

      2. Got a pic of the 3rd place medal? Please share!

  4. Just added the pic at the end of the post 🙂

    There used to be a place down the street from me that did onsite engraving but they’ve closed. I want to engrave my placement and time on the back of the 3rd place medal. (yes for me this is a very big deal 🙂 )

    The middle portion of the finishers’ medals, with the yellow runners, spins around. The flipside reads “Burlington Ontario 2014”

  5. Congratulations to both of you!!!
    I know you texted but I’m in Philly and staying off my phone/text. Very excited though to hear how well both of you did. Love the fact that you got an extra medal 🙂
    I do my Midnight Madness run tonight, should be fun!

    1. Thanks Kristi!

      GO GET’EM IN PHILLY!!!!!!!!

  6. Love, love, love the medals. Engraving your finish time is a great idea, and I have done it on a couple of mine…

    1. Thanks Raymond! I love them too. I love all my children (i.e., medals) 🙂

  7. good job on third

    1. Thank you! I am still floating from this one 🙂

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