Margie Smith, Age 75
Last June, two days before my 75th birthday, I did a 5K on the Detroit River Walk. I am not an athlete. I never won a medal for a physical feat of any ilk. I play golf and pickleball, but I’m not intuitively competitive.
Nevertheless, I joined seven friends for a 5K/10K walk/run in downtown Detroit. The event was sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan as a fundraiser for The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. The Detroit River Walk is a groomed trail that meanders along the Detroit River from the Ambassador Bridge to Belle Isle.
It was what a friend used to call “a bluebird morning:” sunny; bright blue sky; temperature in the high 60s; light breeze; spring flowers and trees in bloom. We are all senior citizens. A 5K is only 3.1 miles. I figured I probably walk three miles while shopping at Costco or volunteering at the DIA. This would be a piece of cake.
We mingled with a convivial bunch of men and women of all ages, races, sizes and abilities. The route began beside the river, then meandered around some side streets and finished back on the riverfront in Rivard Plaza.
We picked up our T shirts and numbered badges. Imbedded in each badge was an electronic code to record the exact time we crossed the start and finish lines as well as our names and ages. It was comforting to know that in the event of my collapse and/or death, someone would be able to identify my body.
Runners started at 9 a.m. Walkers at 9:20. Five of our group maneuvered to the front of pack, but my friend and I were in the middle of the crowd. There were several hundred people ahead of us; hundreds behind us.
We admired the sunshine glinting off the rippled waters of the Detroit River. We watched the passing freighters, guessing what their cargos might be. We noted the landscaped areas, the conveniently placed benches, the flower beds, the budding trees, the screeching seagulls, the small wooden boxes on platforms where people could borrow a book on the honor system or leave a book for someone else. We talked. At the water stations, we stopped and sipped and thanked the volunteers. We offered to take pictures of other groups with their cell phones.
As we sauntered past the 4K marker, I looked over my shoulder. Where was that crowd of people who were behind us at the start? Duh. I realized this was a RACE. For most of the participants, it was more than a pleasant morning walk. As my friend and I – and the two women a few feet behind us — neared the finish line we joked about our slowness, but linked arms as we crossed so nobody would be tagged “last.”
Those embedded electronic things are extremely accurate, however. The statistics for the run and the walk arrived by email a few days later. I was last. Dead Last. My friend, second last.
However, according to the email, I was the second oldest woman to finish the walk. One woman was in the “75 and up” age group. I looked for her name in the race statistics.
She beat me by about five minutes.
This appeared on my blog, The Newfangled Gramma, and in a local magazine, Detroit River Living. My blog can be found at margiereinssmith.weebly.com