On Saturday morning, I decided to go for a short run before meeting a friend for brunch. I started off crossing Park Row towards Maine Street. Before I knew it, I was being stopped at the crosswalk at the end of Page Street. 

A man with a camera around his neck and a woman in a neon vest were standing on the corner. The man immediately extended his hand to shake mine, and I waited for him to tell me that he was a candidate for town council—he did not.

“Who do you run for?” the man asked, looking at me intently, “Or do you run for yourself?”

I was still pretty groggy, but I wanted to be polite and humor what seemed like a random question. 

“Just for myself, you know, to stay fit…” I said.  What is taking this intersection so long?

Suddenly, it dawned on me. This must be a run/walk benefit and I must be right on the route. What idiot would have included an undirected crosswalk in the route?

This left me in a minor predicament: If I waited for the light to change, I would have to stand awkwardly while the couple digested my recent statement that I ran to “stay fit” rather than help terminally-ill children (or whatever cause the race benefitted). I also risked embarrassing my companions when they realized that I was not a part of the race in the first place.

On the other hand, should I give up on crossing and run left, I was for all intents and purposes participating in a race.

“Do I go left or straight?” I asked slowly. 

“Left to the finish line!” 

I was running a race.

My plan was to run until I was out of sight of the woman in the neon vest and the man with the camera and then duck down a side street, but—before I could implement the plan—I found myself approaching another vested volunteer. An odd inertia pulled me forward, even as visions of a timely brunch receded. 

 “Which way do I go?” I asked. 

He pointed: “This way, almost there!” 

Almost where?

 I passed an elderly man in a lawn chair and raised my hand to return his wave. A police officer biked by on my right, no doubt checking on the well-being of those actually physically exerting themselves. Soon after, I jogged by a mother and daughter who clapped and urged me on—I only wished that I knew what I was running for. 

“Daisy?!” someone shouted from across the street. I stopped and turned, giving up my tentative lead on two speed walking girlfriends. It was Conor Walsh ’11, bearing visible signs of having finished the race—and in good time, too. 

“Conor, what is this for?!” I called. 

“It’s the Brunswick Police Hot Pursuit 5k Run!” 

With that particular mystery out of the way, I had no choice but to finish the race and hope for a sense of accomplishment to override the awkwardness of my morning thus far. 

As the finish line came into view, I composed a short prayer, it went a little something like this: Dear Lord, please don’t let the Bowdoin track team be here. Amen.

The crowd cheered for me to sprint it in but I stuck to a discreet jog. Sandwiched between two speed walkers, coming in at a hot 39 minutes, I didn’t want to appear as if I’d been holding back. 

Three muscular men asked me for my registration number, but I blurted out something about having “run accidentally.” I slunk to the periphery of the crowd as one of them glanced over his shoulder with vague disapproval. Crossing the street, I moved away from families hugging and the trickle of double-strollers still crossing the finish line.

I thought I saw the digital speed sensor near the Coffin School flash 24 miles per hour when I ran by, but I knew that couldn’t be right. It must have been a car in the vicinity, or maybe even a strong gust of wind. 

I was late for brunch after all, but it would be alright. But by Tuesday, I finally got around to filling out a check and envelope:

Brunswick Police Association

28 Federal St.

Brunswick, Maine


It's better to run for something.