WHERE IS SHE?!
This is going to be tight. My feet turn with as quick a cadence as they can muster, protesting the workload.
A blonde pony-tail bobs in front of me. I speed up only to realize this isn’t her. Breezing by, I continue my search. Where? Where?
The half-mile mark passes, and I’m nervous. I may actually lose. All because of this disgusting need to win. The same thing that’s driving me forward like a racehorse.
We sit at a weekly club meeting. After regurgitating our ideas to obtain more funding and publicity, the topic shifts into running. My favorite.
Our president used to run, she says, until she got a knee injury. What a bummer, I think.
The publicity officer says she has recently become interested in running. We chat. Naturally, I propose we go running. It’s 7:30 p.m., but what is a midnight run? We’re all in college here. She agrees, as long as I promise to not overdo it.
That’s a promise I can never keep.
We meet at the campus gym and depart. For a non-runner, she’s swift on her feet. The conversation flows as we complain about the lack of progress the club is making.
I decide to take my favorite running route, a greenway that winds by the main highway. It ends on a bridge overlooking traffic — a sight to behold late at night. It’s my secret getaway.
It’s only after we arrive at the gate that I remember the trail is on private property. The three-foot high gate is so minuscule I have blocked it out of my working memory. Whoops.
This girl is extremely trusting to follow me.
Through the woods
Objectively, this situation is everything a college-age girl is taught to avoid. She is by herself with a guy she only considers and acquaintance. In the dark. In the woods. Late at night.
She doesn’t know where she’s going. I tell her we’re heading 1.5 miles up the greenway, but she has no idea if it’s the truth.
I must appear very innocent at face-value, because I wouldn’t have said yes.
To make up for it, I decide to scan for kidnappers that may decide to attack us from the tree line.
There are no kidnappers, which bores me, so I propose a race. She vehemently shuts down the idea of a race.
I push the issue again, not about to give up easily.
She says no. We’ve already been to the bridge, and now we have about 100 feet before we leave the woods. After that, we have just over a mile back to the gym. Let’s make it a good night, she says.
I refuse to listen. “I’ll even give you a 90 second head start.”
“A two minute head start!”
“A three minute head start!”
No. No. No.
“I’ll give you…” I pause, and audibly gulp this time, barely able to comprehend what I’m about to say. “A five minute head start.”
At our current pace, I need a sub-six minute mile to win. That’s high school cross country pace.
She gives in. My stomach turns. I really had not expected that to work.
This is going to hurt.
Ready set go
Despite devious urges, I decide against a hollow victory. Making sure to enunciate each Mississippi, I agonizingly count to 300.
Then I go.
Quickly my thoughts shift to how much this hurts.
Where is she? Where is she? Where is she?
My legs really burn as I pass three false blonde ponytails. Who knew midnight was such a popular time for blondes to go running?
The route goes uphill. My calves start shrieking.
I swear off competing. As with most of these promises (drinking, eating sugar, sleeping in), I will not follow through. But for now, it’s helping ease my anger at how hard I’m pushing myself.
My quads can’t take the banging much longer.
Finally, I see her. Just ahead. And just beyond her, the gym, which is the finish line. As if someone put a jet engine behind me, I push even faster forward.
Terrified I’m not going to pass her in time, I begin audibly wheezing. The summer humidity has made it hard to consume enough oxygen, which is causing my legs to burn ever hotter.
This is going to be close.
The next challenge
She’s extraordinarily competitive, so it is no surprise she’s furious I beat her. Both of us are gasping, but she manages to convince me to a re-match.
Kickboxing. Drunk off adrenaline and victory, I agree.
Image from: Pixabay.com