The Clocksback Race

This is not news to anyone who knows me, but for the record I hate running.

I understand all the benefits associated with running – great heart health, cardiovascular endurance, and smaller pants, yet I still despise, loathe and avoid running as much as possible.

I don’t embrace running because I am really bad at it. Bad on all sorts of levels. Some people are built to run – long legs, lean, fast metabolism, light on their feet – I am not one of these people.

I may have long legs, but am built like a tank.

The other day at the office, we were all talking about the need to get into shape and lose a few pounds. I made mention of my near 100 pound weight change over the years in the context of talking about dieting and how only eating cottage cheese and having fruit once a day is a bad idea and there are way better ways to diet.

The conversation got confused rather quickly, probably because I was talking ‘woman‘ to three other men.

My data point being that I once weighed 220 pounds made them think I currently weigh 120 pounds. We were too far into the conversation for me to bow out gracefully, so I swallowed my pride and let them know I weigh a buck-sixty.

The response was classic.

Wow, you’re solid! I’m never going head to head with you in the ring.

I laughed and shook my head. It was quite the way to kick off the week.

I’m 5’8″, weigh 160 pounds, have a large frame, and wear a size 6 or 8 – not huge, but definitely not light on my feet. In fact, people constantly comment they can hear me coming; apparently I have a distinct, determined walk.

  • Running requires lightness, agility, and grace – I have none of these things.

So when I saw that Under Armour was asking people to share their most epic run story, I knew I had to submit something.

And, there are prizes. I love prizes!

Mile for Mile Under Armour

Swag, adventure, or a Tough Mudder? Yup, I will take any or all of these!

With me every single run could qualify, but there is one race that stands out distinctly in my mind….

The Clocksback.

The linoleum had seen better days, yellowing and curling around the edges, yet still functional enough for us to do high knees, crossovers and plyometrics and small enough to make you dizzy while circling behind another pair of runner’s tights with reflective piping.

I hade been in the Riverdale Community League Hall many times before, stretching and warming up with seasoned runners with the River Valley Runners, but never had there been such a buzz or so many people. Tables, maps and friends of the svelte River Valley Runners clogged up the main hall; there were no plyometrics done with Tina Turner belting her heart out in the background. Not this evening, the evening of the Clocksback Race.

I started running diligently just a few months prior and I had 70 extra, unnecessary pounds of me to lug around. The idea of running tights made me laugh. Everything I wore was tight, even my watch. This particular evening my throat was tight, it was the second race of my life and I was by far the fluffiest person in the room.

The Clocksback Race brings in runners from all over the city due to the premise of the race. It isn’t about the fastest time, rather it was about how close you are to your estimated time.

The rules were simple enough:

  1. Choose to do 6K or 9K.
  2. Look at the route on the giant, yet hard to read map on the wall.
  3. Estimate your personal time and submit it.
  4. Hand over all watches, heart rate monitors, GPS, and cell phones.
  5. Run!
  6. The people closest to their estimated time win awesome prizes.

Simple, yet I was sweating and we hadn’t even started to run yet.

Surviving was my goal and I had no idea how long survival would take. Hills, bridges and footpaths crisscrossed the 6K route and I wondered how I would find them while lumbering along.

Simply run around in there without a map and find your way back. Easy...?

Simply run around in there without a map and find your way back. Easy…?


I opted to put down 32 minutes and 17 seconds. It seemed reasonable.

Small, personal maps were not given out. They neglected to tell me a photographic memory is required to run the Clocksback. Reciting the key landmarks was my only hope – pagoda, footbridge, giant tree on the path, playground, Cloverdale Hill, traffic circle, colorful houses, footpath, pyramids, footbridge, home.

Somewhere between Cloverdale Hill and the traffic circle, I got lost.

Being the slowest and fluffiest River Valley Runner meant I was alone on my sojourn.

Standing on the street corner, praying for another runner to come along was a fruitless endeavor. Turning two full circles on a busy street corner in my extra large turquoise coat made of technical fabric didn’t help. The only technical thing about me in that moment was that I was lost.

I couldn’t even call for help; my surrendered cell phone mocked me from the Riverdale Community League.

Going back the way I came was always an option, but that option wasn’t covered in the rules and I felt I had been running for at least 30 minutes. I wasn’t even close to being back to the hall in 2 minutes and 17 seconds. Winning the weird race was well outside my grasp.

  • What I wanted to be in grasp at that moment was my husband’s neck for thinking it was a good idea for us to run this race.

Flagging down a car and getting a ride back to the hall also wasn’t listed as an option in the rules.

Don’t ask me why following the rules remained important to me. Apparently I thought I might still somehow win.

I love winning.

After choking back the panic and realizing the sun was quickly setting, I bailed on the route and ran in what I hoped was the right direction, the way back to the community league.

  • What one thinks is right isn’t always right.

At least my misdirected running led me to the top of the river valley ridge and I could see where I wanted to go.

After an additional 2K and 33 additional minutes to my estimated time, I rolled through the doors of the Riverdale Community League with salt tracks down my cheeks and immense relief. I desperately hoped the hardcore, lean runners would assume the salt tracks were from sweat, not tears.

Everyone was rehydrating and comparing times. The winner was 48 seconds off her estimated time. Apparently she had the river valley paths memorized, was blessed with an internal GPS, and knew her cadence down to the literal second.

Lost in the city, hills galore and just starting on my health journey made this one of the most intense and epic runs of my life.

I guess Tina Turner wasn’t right – I did need another hero

For me, being a hero meant going back to the group on Thursday, running warm up circles on the linoleum, and being lapped as we ran sprints up Connor’s Hill.

  • Hard is relative to where you are in your journey.

Be a hero and keep going.

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  1. You might not have won a prize for the run but you definitely deserve one for writing about it! Epic!

  2. Solid is right — solidly funny, that is! And solidly inspiring tale after tale. Love this! And who knows? Maybe you will win prizes for this race after all.

    • If I do win a prize, that would be AWESOME! But…even if I do win something, it won’t really help me love running any more than I already DON’T. 😉

  3. I hate running too. I feel like I’m supposed to like it. People always assume from my build that I’m a runner. I’m not. I’m slow, awkward and plodding. Really, I want to like it. I do not.

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