By no means do I consider myself a “fast” runner.

I’m just a “runner.”

Going on five years ago I took up the sport — or hobby, whatever — of running as a means to live a more healthier lifestyle.

For the most part, it’s worked. Anyone who’s known me over the last five years has seen how it’s changed my life.

Since taking up the hobby — or sport — my feet have taken me 2,176.43 miles (as of this morning). I have competed in races in three states and one foreign country.

I’ve ran as little as 1 mile and as much as a half marathon (13.1 miles). I am currently training to run a virtual marathon, a topic for a later column, and have hopes of attempting a 50-kilometer ultramarathon in 2021 with a couple local residents.

(An ultramarathon is any race longer than the traditional 42.2 kilometers, or 26.2 miles, of a marathon.)

Despite the miles in my past, and the shoes I’ve burned through along the way, I must reiterate I am not a fast runner.

I ran the Zack Hummer Memorial 10K race a couple years ago, my first attempt at the 6.2-mile distance, and was dead last.

I have never been the first to cross the finish line and gladly accept the fact I never will be lucky enough to do so.

I would best describe myself as a back-of-the-pack runner. I don’t set the pace. I chase it.

Comparing the time of one 5K race (3.1 miles) to another is unfair. Judging my personal-best time (26 minutes, 44 seconds) to Saturday’s runners is impossible because there are just too many variables in play.

Things such as the difference in courses (grass, rocks or pavement), whether or not it is flat or has hills (rolling or otherwise steep), the wind and weather all must be taken into consideration when comparing times.

The only true way to compare my time to that of another person is to run the identical course as they did.

That’s what I did Saturday.

Nearly 200 males competed in three different sections of the Celina Rotary Cross Country Invitational on Saturday at Wright State University – Lake Campus east of Celina.

Jay County and Fort Recovery high schools were in attendance. So too were Indiana schools Bellmont, New Haven and Blackhawk Christian. The rest of the field were from Ohio.

Fort Recovery freshman Trevor Heitkamp, competing in the third section, picked up the first win of his young career by ending his race with a time of 18:46.42. The fastest male that day was Bellmont junior Deion Guise, who cruised to a 17:01.56 finish.

I know very well Heitkamp, as well as Guise, would leave me in the dust had we been competing in the same race. Remember now, I said I was by no means a fast runner.

But I wanted to see, comparatively, how I’d stack up to the 190 boys that day without being embarrassed by actually running against them.

Hours after the meet had been completed, I still had not gotten my run in for the day. Knowing at least the spray paint outlining the course would still be there, I went back to run the course and see exactly how much better these kids are than me.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have done so.

Pavement is my preferred surface on which to run. The Celina Rotary course is almost completely grass.

And the hills absolutely killed me.

In the early part of the day — Jay County’s boys ran first at 8:30 a.m. — the temperatures were cool, there was a nice breeze off the lake and intermittent sun.

Eight hours later when I took the course, it was considerably warmer and the breeze seemed to get stronger. I don’t run well in heat to begin with, so that was an added obstacle I had to try to overcome.

Excited to see how I’d stack up against teenagers 17-to-20 years younger than me, I started out too fast and ran out of gas.

Fast forward to the end of my run and I hit the painted finish line 33:19 after I started.

Oof.

Not my best, but also not my worst.

For context, Heitkamp’s time was almost 14:30 faster than me. Had Guise ran the course twice, I would have beaten him by 43 seconds. Instead, he ran almost twice the pace I did.

Every one of the 190 males who competed in the Celina Rotary Invitational that day were faster than me. The slowest runner that day beat me by 38 seconds.

In all, 357 high school athletes across all three sections participated in the race Saturday. Three hundred fifty-one of them had times faster than what I did later in the day.

Having direct comparison in my time to theirs was, at least, a humbling experience. These are kids almost half my age, whose bodies are built for running rather than trying to shape a body into a running one.

I knew these kids were fast. Regardless of the course, I can only dream of breaking 20 minutes.

But remember, I said I’m not a “fast” runner. I’m just a runner.