Playing Possum – 41st Annual Possum Trot

The possum, or more correctly the opossum, is a marsupial mammal found in the western hemisphere. Although there are over one hundred species of opossum there is only one in the US, the Virginia opossum, and it is the only marsupial found north of Mexico. The opossum is most famous for “playing possum” but according to Mental Floss there’s a whole lot more you probably don’t know. Possums may not look tough but they eat deadly snakes for breakfast – literally. They are immune to the venom of most snakes. They eat ticks too. They have better memories than your cat or dog and can remember toxic substances for up to a full year. Possums can run about 7 miles per hour, which is about how fast I run too! Back to the playing possum thing, it turns out that its not a clever ploy but an involuntary reaction to threats that is essentially fainting and farting. So maybe they’re not so tough despite that snake thing.
Last Saturday I ran my fourth Possum Trot at the Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell Ga. It’s a 10k that I discovered when I first moved north to the real south 4 years ago. The run is a scenic, sort of out and back trip along the Chattahoochee River, with modest elevation gain and 2 unique features. The first is a half mile or so walk to the starting line which has helped the race get off to a late start every time I’ve run it. There are always stragglers in the roadway that need to get to the right side of the mats before we can go. The second is a nasty little trick between miles 5 and 6 when you have to climb a pretty steep hill only to turn right around at the bottom and climb it again. First time Possum Trotters often walk back up the hill because they used up too much gas on the first ascent. But if your memory is as good as a possum’s your second time facing that toxic hill should go better.
As the few of you who have read my boring blog probably don’t remember I’ve been a bit downcast over my diminishing speed. I recently read on Runners Connect that runners lose about 1 second per mile per year after 40. In that case I should have been able to run the Possum Trot 4 seconds per mile slower than my first time in 2015. And I did exactly that, finishing in 50 minutes and 15 seconds, 25 seconds slower than my first time. What’s more I ran 44 seconds faster than last year when I finished 3rd in the old man group. So I was feeling better about my speed. I figured I had a good chance of finishing in the money with my faster time, maybe even finish first. But as it turned out I would have had to have turned the calendar back 135 years to beat the old man that won our age group and finished 5th overall! He ran it in just under 37 minutes. I’d have beaten most possums with my time in the 41st Possum Trot, but not a guy who can run sub 6 minute miles at 62 years of age.

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