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Opinion

On running – and how it’s not just for hunter-gatherers anymore

Running is important. Humans developed the skill because it was how we would chase down antelope on the African savanna or run away from a sabertooth tiger if we chased an antelope around the wrong bend.

As we became more civilized, we used it to run away from bandits, or toward enemies in battles in order to take their land/women/things, but in a way that was totally different from banditry somehow.

Some people think it’s fun to just run around. For fun. Because they actually enjoy it.

I am not one of those people. My body architecture is much more the type designed where you remain at rest.

Still, I felt compelled to participate in the anyBODY 5K on Saturday in Morris.

Full disclosure: I did not run. But I didn’t have to – organizers John Moss and Kelly Hitt assured me that we could run, walk or stroll. I would liken my pace to something between a saunter and an amble, and while I do know my final time, I’m not going to share it here. I’m fairly certain I saw people finish a second 5K before I finished my first.

First and only. I don’t think I’ve said anything so far that would imply I would have gone around for a second lap.

That’s not to say I did not enjoy myself. There was a DJ. If there’s a DJ at an event and you don’t enjoy yourself, then I don’t know what to say. But there also was a crowd of about 200 people of all shapes and sizes and ages, ready to walk for a good cause.

Even though they technically crossed the finish line ahead of me, I feel like I should get credit for beating a few babies in strollers. They didn’t even walk the course. I’m not sure how that goes down on the official record.

The Grundy County Health Department hosted the 5K – their first – because it would allow them to raise money that wasn’t tied to grants, and because it could give them a little more freedom doing it. When an organization receives a federal or state grant, it comes with all sorts of red tape and restrictions to ensure it’s spent on what it’s supposed to be. Which is fine – except a community’s needs can be fluid and ever-changing.

So now the health department has some money that they can spend to help people as they see fit.

Although the generosity of folks in Washington or Springfield is always welcome, they aren’t here and they don’t know what our community is like or what it needs.

It makes that 3-mile trek through untamed wilds of western Morris worth it. We encountered no sabertooth tigers – although it never hurts to be concerned about the possibility.

We had volunteers distributing water along the course. Very helpful for when you finish drinking the bottle they distributed at the start – before the end of the first kilometer. (It was hot out.)

Before the race began, I was told finishing one was an experience like none other. It’s true. I didn’t come in last – John Moss had pledged to do that before the race so no one would be concerned with that outcome – and I got a medal.

The other stated aim of the race was to just encourage people to be active. You could take this race as seriously as the Olympics, and it was certified by USA Track and Field. You could strive to be first or strive for your personal best.

But you didn’t have to. You could be an amateur, like me, who lost to the babies in strollers. (Seriously, can I get a ruling on that one?) We won simply by being out on the course, making our way from start to finish, lapping everyone who wasn’t there in the first place.

There’s a meme on the internet, which I’m sure descends from some standup routine in the early ’80s, that says “If you’re feeling down, you should think of all the people stuck in traffic while they try to get to a gym to ride stationary bikes.”

The race began and ended in the same place, so I walked more than 3 miles to actually go nowhere. But that’s OK. It was a morning well spent.

At the end of it, the health department has some funds to hold more programs in the community, which is good for everyone.

And I am slightly more prepared to chase down an antelope across the savanna.

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