The Time I Made My Friends Eat Pizza and Run 4 Miles

“There are only two options regarding commitment; you’re either in or you’re out. There’s no such thing as life in-between.” ― Pat Riley, President of the Miami Heat

I can no longer participate in scavenger hunts.

Objectively, I know I should be organizing this hunt ― not acting as a participant. The memories of my loss in New York City, which prompted a six-mile run at a blistering pace through Central Park to burn off the anger, still rings sharp in my mind.

That was two years ago, and I’m still not over it.

I should take the hint that no one wants to be on my team.

Not-so-lucky for my teammates, we don’t get to decide. Partner 1 and Partner 2 are forced to endure me this evening.

Also not lucky for them, we are having a pizza dinner with the on-campus club beforehand.

The con

Scavenger hunts are one giant con. Often pitched as a mix of endurance, strategy and energy, nothing could be more wrong.

These things have nothing to do with skill.

Nothing to do with endurance.

Unlike triathlons, in which the win comes down to who can grit through the pain for longer, scavenger hunts are decided by one thing: Who is most lucky.

Any level of success is entirely a roll of the dice.

The pizza is filling

The club president lists the rules. Find 12 objects on campus, take a picture, come back to the starting line. First team wins.

Competition is the ultimate drug, and I’m feeling the full effects.

Partners 1, 2 and I quickly strategize our route. We plan to start at the farthest point and work our way back. Each of us is in our junior year, and mapping campus is fairly simple. Stomachs full, we depart.

Quickly, we realize nearly every group has formed the same strategy. A group of 20 college students migrates to the first location, en mass.

This is absurd. We have to distance ourselves somehow.

Naturally, that means we should start running.

I plead.

My teammates ignore me.

I plead harder.

Some eye-rolling, which is better than no response at all, but not the desired effect.

I plead even harder. Loud enough so the other teams can hear me. I want them scared.


Screw wooing flies with honey. I begin running. If they want to call themselves winners, they had better keep up. A few hundred feet behind me, I hear their footsteps quicken. I pretend not to hear the moans.

Object 3

We’ve managed to distance ourselves. Our running has become a walk-run-shuffle, but I look around satisfied that no competitors are in sight.

After snapping a pic in front of Object 3, I feel myself relaxing.

Relaxing is no good.

Winners never relax. I decide to coax my teammates into a faster pace. I gently tell them I think we should be running. Again.

They roll their eyes and comply. By now they realize it’s pointless to argue.

While I don’t admit it to myself, I think I see Partner 2 rub her stomach before I turn around.

Object 11

I can’t believe how well we’re doing. As long as I manage to ignore the complaints from my team, I allow myself to think about winning.

We snap our photos next to Objects 11 and 12, and begin to head back. Running, of course.

Partners 1 and 2 are now openly holding their stomachs. Dean Karnazes has done it before, I tell them. They remain silent. They don’t know who that is.

How could they not know who that is?

Why we didn’t win

We arrive, the first to return. Triumphant!

But before I can celebrate the campus president tells me there is another winner. Suckerpunched.

I immediately look around the room and laugh. Unless the entire team is using the bathroom at the same time, I don’t see how that is possible.

We are the only ones in the building.

You’ve overlooked a rule, I am told. A team does not have to arrive back to the starting line to finish the challenge ― they merely need to text the campus president all 12 photos.

Meaning… I don’t understand.

Meaning, the president explains, that it was strategically wrong to start at the farthest point and work our way back. Instead, we should have worked our way outwards, snapped the last photo, and then leisurely headed back to the start, having already won.

Suckerpunched again, I’m irate.

My teammates are irate. They realize the massive pangs of indigestion are ultimately worthless. I roll around in emotional misery. They roll around in physical misery.

I protest the win for the next two hours.

I plead.


I plead harder.

Nothing. The entire club makes fun of how completely inept I am at losing gracefully.

Furious, I leave, vowing to claim tonight as a win.


Four years pass. I never participate in a scavenger hunt again. I won’t let myself.

I’m too bitter at being conned.

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