I don’t run. I hate to run. Running hurts my boobs. My best friend, Becky, lovelovesloves to run. She cranks up Keith Urban on her iPod, sucks down a tube of espresso love energy gel and jogs off in her cute little running skort looking so toned and in her zone. It’s the combination of Keith and espresso love that gives her that extra sparkle.
Last year, Becky ran her first half marathon in Dallas – what an awesome accomplishment. I was so proud and excited for her! Judy (my other BFF) and I watched her cross the line, snapping pictures and screaming like we were at a Donny Osmond concert in 1972. Yay Becky! Good for her!
|See Becky Run!|
I wouldn’t run a half marathon if Keith Urban was standing at the finish line naked, waiting to sing a brand new song he had written and recorded especially for me. I just wouldn’t. Not for Keith or anyone else. Ok, well, except maybe for Coach Graham. There was actually a time I ran for Coach Graham. He was the Keiser Jr. High girl’s basketball and track coach. All the silly, giggly, goofball teenage girls in Keiser were C-RAZY about him. He was our Keith Urban. He motivated us to run even as he tortured us daily! But, we didn’t care. We would have jumped off the Keiser water tower for Coach Graham. And still would.
As part of our basketball practice, we “jumped benches” – hard, wooden benches – with both feet, at the same time. If you mis-jumped, you dragged your tired butt home with a purple goose egg on your shin. (I can no longer jump benches. I am certain of this, because I tried during bootcamp last year. I even envisioned Coach standing there, swinging that whistle like always he did, but I still could not get both feet to work together. One jumped and the other lagged behind like a delayed reaction.) We also ran suicides and bleacher laps and held the chair pose against the gym wall until our thighs screamed for mercy. Then, at the very end of practice, as we were sweating out Coca-cola (we didn’t know about GU gel) and very near tears, Coach made us run from the school gym to the Keiser Experiment Station (pronounced “spearmint” station for you non-townspeople).
Keiser, Arkansas is a small town – there were only about 600 residents when I was in junior high and probably about the same now. It’s surrounded by soybean and cotton fields, right between Sandy Bayou and Hall Town. The Keiser Experiment Station was a big deal I guess, like something from the Dharma Initiative. As a kid I wondered, “Just what exactly were they experimenting on at the edge of town?” It was somewhat of a cool mystery, intriguing but not enough so to quiz my mother on it, just something to ponder now and then. Were there dead bodies there? Dead chickens? In junior high, I came to understand “they” were performing research for the University of Arkansas – research on crop production and pesticides. (woo pig sooie!) Although I was a farmer’s daughter, and those crops put cornbread in my mouth, I didn’t think that was all too interesting. For me, the experiment station meant one thing – the absolute worst part of my teenage day.
Even though the road was flat and it probably wasn’t a mile round trip, it was exta-long with Coach tailing behind us, very slowing, in his truck. He always had his window rolled down to shout out words of “motivation”. Why didn’t he get out of that truck and run with us? That was one of the biggest debates in 7th grade. By the time I passed by Mrs. Mills’ house, I had painful stitches in my side. I could hide behind Mrs. Mills’ house, catch my breath, and fall back in line when my girlfriends came running back from the spearmint station. But NO, helicopter Coach was on to me, back there following with his trust issues. By the time I made it to the big tree where we looped back, I was seriously considering hiding out behind the cotton trailers at the spearmint station – I would stay there until high school. I didn’t care what the hell kind of odd things they were doing. I would volunteer to be experimented on, if it meant not having to run back to school. It wasn’t until we were a bit older that we learned, not only was crop research happening there, but at night, when it was dark, especially on the weekends, the experiment station was the place teenagers made out – a whole different sort of spearminting.
Becky never ran to the Experiment Station. She didn’t play basketball or run track. I have no idea how she weaseled out of it, but obviously that strategy boosted her long-term running career while mine was completely stunted. When Becky planned to run her half, Judy and I reluctantly decided to participate in the 5-K. Best friends since elementary school, we did want to be supportive of Becky. We wanted to be there cheering her on when she crossed that finish line, just not sweaty. Plus we really wanted one of those cute Big D Marathon t-shirts.
The night before the big event, Becky educated us on proper running attire. Judy and I were none too happy to discover that you NEVER wear your new shirt for the actual event referenced on the shirt. It’s too new and not broken in yet, and people who do that are total novices. She said we couldn’t wear it until the next event, or maybe the Big D run the following year. What? Judy and I looked at each other but did not speak. There was going to be a next event?
On the day of the run, the serious marathoners started first. And they were an intimidating bunch sporting state of the art, water-wicking, coconut-infused, anti-chafing, UVA-protecting technological running gear with tubes of gel and energy packs wrapped around their waist like gun holsters. Heck, even I might be able to run if I had all that groovy crap! Suddenly I was very self-conscious of the getup I was wearing: hand-me-down gray sweat pants from the floor of my son’s closet and my faded yellow “Life Is Good” t-shirt. And Becky was so right – thank God she saved us! No one except a family of dorks wore those cute baby blue Big D Marathon t-shirts we received in the registration packets. How uncool were they? Ha!
Judy and I totally missed Becky out of the gate. We were standing in line at the nasty port-a-potties. But finally, it was our turn. Our crowd was pretty respectable as well. We politely cued up in the very, very back of the crowd, certainly not wanting to slow down anyone. Plus part of my strategy was to draft off some over-achieving quick chick who should have been running with Becky, instead of us. (I learned about drafting running to the spearmint station behind Carrie Jones.) I was carrying both a water bottle and my iPhone, so clearly this was not an activity in which I anticipated breaking a sweat, but more of a social event for Judy and me – time to catch up while we walked. The announcer was speaking over the loudspeaker, but we couldn’t hear him very well – they had a poor sound system. I took a picture of Judy, and she took one of me. How fun! Evidence for Facebook:) The announcer continued to babble on like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Suddenly, and without warning, the entire crowd of runners, except us, turned 180 degrees around to face the opposite direction, and Judy and I were in the very front of the crowd! OMG-OMG-OMG. Apparently our route was different from the marathoners, and we were soon to be trampled to death, never getting to wear our cute new t-shirts… Quickly, we scurried to the sideline so the true runners would not have to hurtle over us as we lay dying on the asphalt. I reminded myself, I would never see these people again.
|Coach Graham. He’s still got it!|
Once the crowd began to thin a bit, we disappeared into a group of Asians jogging in jeans. Ok, seriously? Jeans? We could not let these people in JEANS cross the finish line before us. Really? Did they just suddenly decide to register for the run on their Sunday morning field trip to the Science Place across the way? Sensing Coach Graham in his truck behind us, we picked up the pace. He would be so proud.
Peter Frampton, “Do You Feel Like We Do”