The race is not always to the swiftest. Sometimes, I figured, it’s to the guy right behind the guy who’s wearing the armor and carrying the lance.

I ran a 5K (for those of you not into metrics, that’s 6 Euros) race the other day, and I had my strategy all ready. (If I’m going to run all those Euros, I definitely need a strategy.)

I looked first for all the runners wearing shirts that showed they had run in lots of long races before, like the Death Valley 500 and the Everest 3,000, and were wearing those short little socks that looked like they weren’t wearing socks at all. It helped if they all looked emaciated and had matching shorts that looked emaciated, too.  

I obviously stayed far away from them.

Then I checked for runners who looked like they had spent most of the past couple of years in the Haagen-Dazs store. It was a bonus if they were wearing knee socks that didn’t match. If they did, in fact, have shirts that advertised a race, the shirts had to be from the 1973 Grateful Dead tour.

Those were my people, my pacesetters, the people I figured I would run along, the people I figured I might even be able to beat to the finish line. I took my place among them.

We waited for the start, and then I noticed, just to the right of me, a guy in chain mail (for those of you not into bizarre running gear, that’s a type of armor consisting of small metal rings linked together in a pattern to form a mesh). The chain mail didn’t look emaciated, but then, again, it’s hard to tell.

The guy in chain mail also was carrying a lance (a long, pointy thing used to lance stuff).

I figured, stay near him, as long as I didn’t run right in front of him. Then, at the end, put on a burst of speed which I intended to borrow from a speed bank along the route, and shoot ahead.

The starting gun went off.  For the first two miles or so (3.5 Euros or 75 North Korean Sos), I stayed, as we runners say, well within myself, which means that I could barely breathe, my right hip ached, I was developing a blister on my toe and I couldn’t remember all the words to “Can’t Buy Me Love.”

I was right on pace. I was right on the heels of the guy in armor, which may have been what was causing my blister.

As we rounded the final turn toward the finish line, I accelerated, which is a poetic metaphor for not going as slowly as I was. I crossed the finish line seconds ahead of the guy in armor.

I exulted in my victory, until I saw the guy in armor being greeted at the finish line by another guy in armor who had already finished.

Next time, I want a lance.