You guys. I’m dating a runner. Like, a real one.
Now, this has never been a goal of mine. Just last Christmas, I was out for a hike with St Molly and we were talking about how we felt blessed to be a family that wakes up Christmas morning to the smell of baking cinnamon rolls and not a family that wakes up to do some “Polar Plunge 10K” together and eat bananas. Not saying my family is anti-healthy stuff, it’s just when it comes to the holidays, we’d rather worry about keeping our mimosas balanced than our electrolytes.
Anyway, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me when 007-b asked me to do a “Glow Run” with him for Fort Carson’s Freedom Fest this year. Now, I’ve run my share of 5K’s. I’ve run 10K’s and a handful of Ragnar Relays. But I haven’t done any of those runs recently….like in the past 5 years. Still, although I know I have never liked running, I have always liked being someone who does runs for fun (even though they are so not fun to me). I said I’d do it.
Then, the slow icy hand of panic began to grip my soul.
What if I couldn’t do it?
What if I came in dead last place?
What if I got so far behind on the course, I got lost and never found the finish line and had to keep running forever?
If the running anxiety wasn’t enough, there was the fact that this run was on a military base. Now, I spent a fair bit of time in the Coast Guard and still remember my customs and courtesies (to an extent). But I also remember the anxiety of every minute I was in the Coast Guard. It doesn’t come as a surprise to most people that the militant lifestyle and I didn’t seamlessly come together. Some people have good military intuition. I don’t. This got me into a lot of trouble – usually on accident, but I still look at military establishments as places of really strict rules that don’t always make sense to me. And I know first hand what happens when you break those rules, accident or not.
What if I was running and colors went off and I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to do?
What if someone stopped me and asked for my ID?
What if everyone else was in step and I just couldn’t get my double time to left-right-left at the same cadence?
What someone spoke to me in a very authoritative tone?
If any of these things happened, I was likely to become the runner who publicly pissed herself.
Lastly, I’d never run with 007-b before. And he’d never run with me. Now, it didn’t take much imagination for me to see he’d be great at these races. I’m not saying running is *easy* for him because I know he works hard, but it’s natural for him the same way running is natural for a long-legged graceful gazelle. He’s built for it. Me, on the other hand, I run like a bear that hasn’t fully woken up from it’s hibernation; it’s sloppy, slow, ineffective and I’m probably thinking about food the whole time. To be honest, I was worried that I would triple 007-b’s time. That he’d see me running and decide he really didn’t want to continue dating me. That I’d embarrass him before the whole US Army and he wouldn’t want to be seen with the girl that got lost/ended up in last place/was escorted sobbing across the finish line by some very stern faced MPs. 007-b works hard to compete for first place in this race. I’m praying to all that is good and holy to be in last place.
The day of the race came. I hadn’t run a trial 5K that week to check my time. I hadn’t fully hydrated. Every aforementioned worry was on a playlist in my head stuck on repeat. About 20 minutes before start time, it began to rain. 007-b wanted to very sensibly stay out of the rain and wait in his car, about a quarter to half a mile from the starting line. I got into the car and almost started hyperventilating. The voice in my head screamed at me, “HE IS GOING TO MAKE YOU RUN TO THE STARTING LINE.” I told him I was ready to go to the starting line. He said to relax, we had plenty of time and would head over in a few minutes, maybe the rain will lighten up. I shrilly declared, “NO, YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE ME RUN TO THE STARTING LINE!” and then I said I was going to walk there now and see him later. His eyes got big. I think the voice in his head told him not to argue with crazy.
I walked to the starting line alone. I got there 15 minutes early, watched the Zumba competition and felt my spirits lighten. Look at all the sizes and shapes of all the runners. Maybe this will be a “fun run.” I cracked my glow sticks. Right before the start, 007-b strolled up. He was like a seasoned racehorse, sauntering up to the gate and I was a flighty filly keenly aware of how out of my league I really was. Still, I mustered a smile. I gave him a kiss and wished him luck. I made him promise to come back for me after he finished. He said he would probably stop for a funnel cake first, but he’d come back and finish the race with me.
Runners Take Your Mark, Get Set…..Go!
007-b was out of sight almost immediately. But it was ok, he was leading the pack and he’d be back for me. I felt better with every step. They explained the course as a straight shot to a turn around point and right back – I wasn’t very likely to get lost (although all things are possible, am-i-right!?). I started to get into my groove. I was in a huge pack of runners pacing off someone who looked like she was still recovering from a major leg surgery (she smoked me). I got smoked by a mom pushing a double wide stroller (she was pretty much GI Jane so I didn’t take that one too hard, though) and I got smoked by 101 other runners including children, tiny ones. I fell into my groove and out of my groove and asked myself ten thousand thousand times what the heck I was thinking. I gave 007-b a high five when he passed me going back. He was flying, wings on his feet like Hermes. He was going to run this race 2-3x faster than me, but it was ok. I was just going to keep on running.
I saw that familiar shape again trotting towards me to help me finish my last mile. He’d come back! He was going to run with me across the finish line. He asked me if I was ok. I looked like I was dying, but I was feeling fine. He said my face was really red, I told him it was just the vasodilation and spared him the physiology lecture because I was literally sucking wind into my lungs and trying to look good doing it (I didn’t look good doing it). 007-b had some critiques for my form, style, and we certainly have vastly different ideas of the pace and timing of the “finish line sprint,” but I crossed the finish line ahead of 90 people and didn’t even double 007’s race time. I felt victorious! There were wings on my feet too (well, after a cool down walk) – not like those damn wings could have made an appearance during the race for me.
We walked back to the car and came home. We talked about the race, our performances relative to our own PR’s and the look on the MWR lady’s face when she tried to register me as “Mrs. 007-b.” Since he was too shocked and appalled by the idea of matrimony to correct her, I did. I informed her we were neither married nor close to it, were likely going to be breaking up by the end of the race and I spelled out my last name clearly and carefully – for the record. It’s hard to say who was more horrified by the whole exchange: the lady who felt like she was in the midst of a couples therapy session, 007-b who just kept gaping at the line where his last name had briefly appeared with my first name, or me, who was aghast that 007-b didn’t correct the MWR lady’s misspelling of his name. I would have corrected it (obviously), but I’m not Mrs. 007-b…so it’s really none of my business. Besides, I won’t be dropping the Dr title I worked so hard for to be called anyone’s Mrs, even Hermes (who really rocked the 5K, for the official record).