Jenna, Schmoozer and I have been meeting at the running trail along the Chattahoochee River three times a week. The after-work crowd is sparse compared to the Sunday-morning crowd; however, the ratio of hotness among the runners is greatly increased: only the fit and tasty hardcore runners are out on a Monday night at dusk.
Jenna and I maneuvered around the mudpits that had formed with the recent rain. We leapt through puddles, sometimes landing with a squish and a scream of "Ew!" Schmoozer had run ahead: he ended up running 4.9 miles in about the time it took me to run 3.3. While we were doing sprints, I called ahead to him,"Why didn't you run like this when we played kickball?!"
He shouted from over his shoulder, "I had to get on base first!"
It wasn't long before Jenna assured me to keep running and let her fall behind again. Over the last two weeks, all of us improved exponentially on the running trail. I've learned that I can run outdoors and finish and no, my lungs won't actually explode. I'm excited for the race this Saturday.
I heard footsteps and looked over my shoulder. It was Schmoozer coming up on the inside. He slowed down to my pace and I felt his fingers in the notches of my spine, gently prodding me forward. It was a completely platonic gesture, but it's the most I've been touched in months; I couldn't stop myself from being thrilled at the intimate contact. I obeyed and pushed myself harder than I thought I could do. My breathing got heavy.
"Just to those benches up there," he nodded.
"No, the mile marker behind it," I puffed.
I am stronger than I think I am. I need to remember this.
Schmoozer then branched off on another portion of the trail, adding more distance to his run. It was becoming dusk out and I wondered at the safety of the three of us alone on different portions of the trail. It would be the kind of story that Dateline would cover: Not-fast runner disappears in woods. There used to be a serial killer in the city in the early 80's and he'd dump the bodies not far from where we were at. The police actually found him by staking out the highway bridges that cross over the Chattahoochee River and literally wait for a splash from when he dumped a body. It was all very high tech then.
I saw the end of the trail, marked by a single lit lamp post. I was the first one there. I coughed and sputtered and heaved. I leaned over the water fountain and ended up drooling in it. I drank until I belched loudly and then collapsed on a bench with my knees splayed open: I was the picture of femininity.
A few minutes later I heard foot steps in the dark; Schmoozer was approaching. I stood up and cheered and clapped like it was the end of the 5k race. He paced in front of me and coughed and sputtered and heaved, exactly like I had done minutes earlier. I felt better.
Jenna soon followed, pounding the trail so hard that it sounded like horse hooves.
"We'll meet again Wednesday and then no more running before the race," Schmoozer instructed. "And eat pasta Friday night."
It feels good to be a part of something. All of my life I've been a WASP: my connection to things come in the form of white wine spritzers. I've never really felt like I belonged to anything. Until now.