Commentary: Older runners are serious — we care about our times

She was mad. Gray hair curling above her ears, the slender lady in black spandex and a neat white top turned to address me.

Awaiting the announcement of age-group awards, we stood in the midst of the gaggle of runners gathered at the bandstand after Corona del Mar's Scenic 5K.

Several years my senior, the gray-haired runner projected her voice above the chatter. Flinging an indignant look over her shoulder at the young man on stage, she said, "They lost our finishing times, and that young man spoke to me curtly."

"Let's get 'em," I said, preparing to take the guy out with the help of my new found senior sister runner.

Apparently she had other things to do, so she left me there to listen to the smart alec with the mic tell us that someone had kicked the chip reader, and there were no results for runners.

My finishing time is not the center of my universe, but finding out is part of a race ritual. After charging through the finish, we are rewarded by slowing down, allowing breath to return to normal, grabbing a water and heading to the results tent. We find our times on a computer printout, which includes places by age and group.

If there's a 1, 2 or 3 beside our names, we pick up a medal and go home to shower. Ritual complete!

The Scenic 5K ripped away habitual routine. Even the exquisite Five Crowns creme brulee at the end didn't make up for it.

That evening, after the race, I went to dinner with a favorite group, the Saturday Runners.

"How'd you do today at your 5K?" everybody asked.

"They lost our times," I answered.

"What did the clock say?" a friend asked

"I always forget to look when I cross the finish," I said.

"What did your Garmin [stop watch] read?"

"I forgot to turn it off again," I confessed.

I was as big a disappointment to my fellow racers as the Scenic 5K organizers were to the day's participants.

Finally home, late at evening's end, I picked up the Daily Pilot. There she was on the front page, my fit senior runner of the morning.

She is 90 and, like me, places first or second in local races. She and her husband have run more than 50 5Ks since they turned 70. They're my kind of people, eating a plant-based diet, going to the gym and walking regularly.

No wonder she sounded feisty. She wanted to take home her medal for the 75 to 99 age group.

As usual, Coach Jake summed it up. His email read, "It's a bummer. Race directors seem to forget that some runners actually race."

Yes, we 69- to 90-year-olds watch our times carefully. We don't want to slow down.

Newport Beach resident CARRIE LUGER SLAYBACK is training to run the Los Angeles Marathon at age 70.

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