Back in the mid ‘90s, a group of us newspaper staffers formed a corporate running team known as The Deadliners. So good were we that we once placed second in the competitive Bay Days 10k in Hampton, Va. -- and no one knew till the results came out in the next day’s paper. Then, because of our suspicious nature, we exchanged conspiracy theories, not congratulations. Was the sports desk playing a sick joke? Did someone sleep with the race director?
The team lineup changed as runners moved on to bigger papers or were called in to cover a murder. But one guy, Randy from tech support, could always be counted on. His standard response when asked his predicted time: “I’m just here to keep fill out the team. You all feel free to finish ahead of me.” And so he did, constantly coming in last among other Deadliners.
Once -- I think it was the heavily attended Harborfest 10k in downtown Norfolk -- Randy and a local television anchorwoman were being tailed by the straggler van and a fire truck with the lights flashing. Spectators recognized Barbara and filed along the final stretch to cheer her on. It was obvious Randy could have pulled ahead at any time, but he didn’t. He allowed Barbara a tiny victory – not finishing dead last -- in front of her fans.
We all thought having Randy as a teammate beat any trophy The Deadliners might otherwise have won.
I’ve thought of those Deadliner days as I prepare for my next running event, the El Cajon 20k on Saturday. It’s a hard one even if you are prepared, and this year I am not. I don’t have anywhere near the weekly mileage I should, and my hilly long runs of late have not inspired confidence. I’m also not used to running in 85 to 90 degrees, the day’s anticipated high in East County. This year’s field is expected to be much smaller since the mid- and back-packers from the Rockin ‘n’ Runnin program won’t be there and the wildly popular Carlsbad 5000 is the next day. It’s quite possible I will finish last, or close to it. So don’t ask my predicted time. I’m just there to fill out the field. You all feel free to finish ahead of me.