On Saturday night I ran in my first 5K…yippie! You may have read about the super-professional training schedule I employed that allowed me to only NEARLY die a foot from the finish line. Shame on me for being an English major, but who knew that 5K meant “3.1-something miles”? Seriously…who can even walk that far without needing an ambulance?
All kidding aside, I am seriously going to have to murder the misinformed Plantation resident who told me that the track I had been training on was one-half mile long. Simple math should have told my calculator that every two laps or so was one mile. Multiply that and…okay I OBVIOUSLY miscounted the number of laps I was running. In reality I was getting myself in tip-top shape for the next sack, egg, or three-legged race.
My favorite three word phrase (aside from “God help me”) is ignorance is bliss. The old adage had never rung more true than in this case. Seeing as this particular 5K was sponsored by a church organization, I figured worse case scenario I could run a bit, then walk a bit if need be. There would be plenty of God (and shin-splint) fearing individuals to surround me with all the love ,support, and Gatorade I’d need. Boy was I wrong.
I arrive at the event donning a Puzzle Peace Now logo tee, my infamous fifteen year old gym shorts, and no doubt Jim Fixx era kicks. For good luck, my girlfriend Brenda had bought me (among a ton of other fun things) a set of peace sign adorned shoelaces. With those dialed in I felt invincible, if not at least peaceful. Until I face the so-called church marms.
Let’s just say those homies were IN IT TO WIN IT. Everyone was as serious about this race as the heart attack I was to have at its conclusion. At every turn my eyes were blinded by Nike swooshes, funny fitting spandex pants, half naked 90 year old men, and cases of Muscle Milk. Forgetting that my sister Julie was the one who roped me into all of this, I am surprised as she and my other sister call me over. Not used to seeing them all geeked out in sleek exercise gear, my jaw drops at the sight of their severely tone bods. And they are nearly TEN years my senior. Urrrrrgh!!!! I’m pretty sure they correctly introduced me as half-sister for the rest of the event. I swear I heard one of them describe me as slow, and I don’t think they were talking about my runner’s pace.
So I didn’t look the part, but I had trained for this (as far as I knew). I am actually excited. I spy my friend Jenn / soon-to-be-fired life coach at registration. She is so energized that she took the liberty of gathering my materials as well. I follow her lead as she straps a contraption to her leg, pins a number to her shirt, and does some funny yoga move (she said it was called stretching…who knew?).
Remember my favorite three words? No silly, not “I’m outta here.” Ignorance is bliss. After Jenn says how proud she is of me, she reminds me that it may be tough to breathe, noting I was suffering from a sinus infection.
“Jenn, it’s just a cold. I’m fine,” I say.
“Kristi, you have had that congestion for weeks. You’re going to have a tough time breathing, so you’ll have to compensate for that,” she says. She may as well have been speaking in tongues, because I had no idea what she meant. I was a lean, mean, ignorantly blissful green fightin’ machine. So what if my kid who had the flu last week puked in my mouth (NO I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP); I had TRAINED.
Reminding Jenn for the seventeenth time since we signed up for this godforsaken (ooh that sounded bad) event that she NOT TRY TO RUN ALONG WITH ME, a voice comes over the loudspeaker (no it wasn’t God, LOL)….the race is about to begin!
I thought I had time for one last appeal. Jenn runs marathons. I get lapped by toddlers. If Jenn tried to run alongside of me today, she’d probably INJURE herself. My pace was damn near close to standing still. I could NOT let her hang with me, but before I can get the last word in I see Jenn is mouthing “Boom Boom Pow.” Far be it from me to get between a girl and her tunes. Time for me to channel the Bee Gees. My sisters are lined up just ahead of me.
I had been told that it was normal in running to have a difficult time getting into a groove until one reached a mile or so, and thank goodness. This was definitely true in my case, so I was happy to be in a bit of a bottleneck in the beginning stage. But this meant I could not shake Fergie.
“JENNIFER, do NOT run with me. I am serious! Don’t make me kick you!” I yell out to her. She sooo can hear me.
“Jenn, I am so 2008. Get AWAY from me!” I try again.
“Oh no. You are my star student and I am going to see you through this Kristi,” she finally replies.
Let me tell you a little bit about Jenn. If that girl gets an idea in her head (for better or for worse) LOOK OUT. She is one determined bitch. I have never met anyone like her in my entire life. Impossible does not exist in her vocabulary, and once she’s wound up, watching her go is just half the fun. In other words, she would be running with me.
Right away I thought oh Lord, pardon the pun, this is going to be tough. I completely understood that even though (I thought) I had trained for this, when it comes down to brass tacks the actual experience is way different. My adrenaline had me running a tad faster than my normal speed of a person on crutches, for one. This would definitely have me gassing sooner than normal. Then there were the “signs,” and I don’t mean burning bushes.
After realizing that the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack had in NO WAY distracted me, and right before thinking this is probably almost over anyway, I see a sign that says “.5 MILE MARK.” That’s POINT five.
“Look Kristi, you’re doing it! You’ve totally got this!” Jenn says, pointing to the sign. I am not sure if Jenn thought my eye-roll was my eyes actually rolling back in my head, but somehow she got the hint that I did NOT have this. Another thing you must know about Jenn is that in a pinch, she is as cool as a cucumber. I have witnessed one of her children choke, on several occasions bleed profusely, and another pass out from dehydration (all while we joked that we took her shopping for so long that she just dropped). Jennifer VanBuskirk never breaks a sweat. I on the other hand had somehow managed to look like I was swimming the English Channel, even though I had enough decongestant in me to kill a horse.
Without missing a beat (of the Black Eyed Peas) Jenn gets to work. “I don’t know if you like to talk while running Kristi, but I once ran with a friend and I told her that I did NOT like to talk while running yet she proceeded to just talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk until I realized how RUDE it would have been for me to just listen to her talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and not respond to her obvious need for me to contribute to the conversation and it was JUST THEN that I realized that I actually CAN talk while running and you are JUST LIKE ME Kristi which means I KNOW you can run and talk at the same time even though you may feel like it will wear you out but it actually will NOT do that so if you feel like you need to TALK I think you can at least try to talk so what would you like to talk about?” she said. In one breath.
I would like to tell you that I took one look at Jenn and said “You are going to die by my hands today,” but I can’t. That would suggest that I was able to turn my head. I do admit that the “you are JUST LIKE ME, Kristi,” comment sealed the deal for me. It had me thinking, no, I am nothing like you Jennifer. And for the past six years you have insisted on that one false assumption.
Jennifer and I met at the Gap. Not a lot of people know that because we lie about how we met. Nobody would believe the truth. J.R. was just a few months old and I just wanted out of the house. I don’t even shop at The Gap. I was feeling so bad about myself. I was still carrying a ton of baby weight, and I had no idea what I was doing as a mom. I will never forget vowing that if the cute, pulled together mom whose baby appears the same age as mine strolls over to me I will RUN AWAY. After Miss Perky corners me, I learn that her Ryan was born in the same hospital as J.R. Using the same doctor. I am so nervous that the girl will become repulsed by my librarian hair that I agree the kids were actually born on the same day. “Wow, you are JUST LIKE me. I’m Jennifer. What’s your name?”
Since this Jennifer girl practically programmed her phone number in my cell phone, I felt the need to call her the next day and admit that I was not truthful when I agreed we were “so alike.” J.R. was actually born on the 28. Her response? Ryan was born the morning of the 29, so they were just hours apart. And so began our relationship- me pointing out what’s wrong, and she making it right.
When neither of our boys were talking much by age two, she thought we had that in common- until J.R.’s delay could no longer be called as such, and he was diagnosed with a disorder we now know is autism. Jenn may have known on some level that our kids would find different paths, but she NEVER let me think we weren’t on the same journey. She educated ME about autism when that information would thankfully prove useless in her son’s case. She put ME on the right course of doctors and therapies after painstakingly researching the topic that at the time nobody knew shit about. She constantly and joyfully compares our boys when I see no comparison. Simply stated, she has put herself in my shoes from the day we met, and has, well, run with it. Thank you God for the girl who is nothing like me.
Speaking of his holiness, by the 1.75 mile sign I just pray Jenn won’t have to carry me on her back to the finish line which she has constantly threatened since mile marker 1. And she would. I finally muster up the energy to say “keep talking girlfriend.” So for the next mile she talked nonstop about everything from the holiday sales she hit to her current life drama (which I suspect she OVERdramatized for the sake of getting that many more words in). Then there was “the plan.” Urgh it is so like Jenn to have a plan.
Plan A was to pick up the pace significantly at mile two, and run as hard as we could around mile two and a half or three. Naturally that plan was out the window once my face started to appear like the drawing on those red hot ATOMIC FIREBALL packages (at mile one). Fucking sinuses! On to Plan B. Up until about mile two my aging sisters were smoking me, but now they were in what was left of my eyesight.
“Okay Kristi, I know you can see your sisters ahead of you. The new plan is to run up behind them, slap their asses, then race past them. I’ve got Jamie. You slap Julie,” Jenn orders. Did I mention that Jamie was running with pneumonia? Unfortunately I had mentioned it to Jenn before I lost my ability to speak.
My inability to respond to Jenn’s demand cued her in to the fact that this pace would be my only pace and the only thing I could do quicker at this point was fall down. Duly noted, using impeccable timing, Jenn kicked Plan C in to high gear. She knew in her heart of hearts that falling down was something I was actually entertaining.
Now don’t get me wrong. Throughout the race Jenn had told me no less than twenty times how AWESOME I was doing, and how proud she was of me, even complimenting my running pose. But now it was time for tough love.
“Kristi, you so have this. Don’t you quit on me now. You are a BEAUTIFUL, TALENTED, AMAZING PERSON. You WILL DO THIS. In fact, you are a FORTY YEAR OLD GROWN WOMAN WHO TAKES CARE OF A HUSBAND AND TWO KIDS…ONE WHO HAS AUTISM. YOU CAN DO IT! DID I MENTION YOUR 50 YEAR OLD SISTER IS KICKING YOUR ASS WITH HER ONE WORKING LUNG? NOW NUT THE FUCK UP!”
Totally mute, I scream (on the inside) “YES DRILL SERGEANT!”
It’s not so much the words that motivated me to finish. It was the thought that Jenn was grasping at straws, refusing to give up on me. And before I knew it, BOTH slow and steady crossed the finish line. Arm in arm.
In a closing prayer, I thank the man upstairs for my steady friend. Then I proceed to throw up in my mouth, just a little. Then in the grass, a lot.