I recently celebrated a birthday, the kind where you move into a new decade. I wasn’t looking forward to getting older. I decided to do the only thing on my birthday that a funatical runner can do – run a half marathon. My birthday was on a Sunday so it was easy to find a birthday race. The race was going to be held in a state I hadn’t yet checked off – Mississippi. I registered for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Half Marathon in Gulfport. Of course, as is the case with most of my race trips, this one was not uneventful.
Leading up to race weekend, I received emails from the race organizers with information about the race as well as things to do in Gulfport and Biloxi. I noticed in one email there would be a 5K race the day before the half marathon. If you ran the 5K and the full or half marathon the following day, they would give you a special “Double Down” award – a 10-inch seafood tray. At the last minute I decided to register for the 5K.
As my luck would have it, the weather in Biloxi and Gulfport when I arrived was terrible. It was snowing and sleeting. The temperature on Saturday morning was in the 20s when I headed to the 5K. The runners huddled together at the start line while various announcements were made and the national anthem was played. Soon after the national anthem was over, the race started.
Normally, I would do some sightseeing as I ran. That day it was too cold to linger at any spot to take pictures or look around. I decided to run the race as fast as I could so I could go back to my warm hotel room.
At the finish line, there was a tent set up where two people were printing off preliminary results for the runners. Most races I enter don’t have results available at the finish line. I had run fast and I was interested to see how well I had done. I went over and waited in a short line to get my results. They handed me a slip of paper that showed my time, my age group, and my placement in my age group. My preliminary results showed I came in 3rd. The only problem was the results showed me in the wrong age group. They had me in the age group I would be the next day on my birthday. Although I was thrilled to have finished in 3rd place, I knew the results were wrong. Someone else had earned that 3rd place finish.
I went over to the results table and explained the problem to one of the race organizers. At first, they seemed reluctant to do much about it. The prizes for age groups were only for 1st and 2nd places. It wasn’t like I would be stealing anything from anyone. But I knew it was wrong. I could not steal the joy from another runner who rightfully had earned that placement. They took my information and when the official results were posted, I was listed in the correct age group.
Integrity is important. If the running shoe was on the other foot and someone had erroneously been awarded a placement I had earned, I would expect them to make certain the error was corrected. It might not seem very important to some people. But if they wouldn’t correct something as seemingly inconsequential as an erroneous age group, where would they draw the line? When would it be important enough for them to point out an error in their favor? There is a saying “The end justifies the means.” In my book it never does if you compromise your integrity. Not just in sports but in any situation in life.