One of the things I love about running is all the stories I have involving other people. They go back a long ways for me. Let me tell you one brief running story from a long time ago.
When I was in elementary school one of the gym teachers marked out a 50 yard dash course for us. I was the third fastest kid in my school. I couldn’t tell you what my time was. The other two in the top three were the strongest kid in the school (number 2), and a girl named Michelle (who was crowned the fastest).
I should back up a little. Michelle also happened to be the second girl I ever had a crush on. I thought she was something else… but I was more than a little shy. I had recently (a few months prior) used my allowance money to go buy a giant chocolate Hershey’s kiss, wrapped it, written a card, and rode my bike in the snow to deliver it to her house as a Chaunukka present. Fun fact: Chaunukka can actually be spelled more than ten ways in english- but I digress.
I was not particularly upset about the girl I liked beating me at the time but it’s important to keep in mind for what happened shortly thereafter. Apparently (as it was told to me) the girl I was crushing on (at the wise old age of 10ish) was at a sleepover playing truth or dare and a friend of hers was dared to kiss me. And this is where it gets interesting- she traded one of her dares with that friend so that she could kiss me.
So after school (the following Monday) they cornered me on the walk home and told me some version of the story above. While I really wanted to kiss her I suddenly became very afraid. I panicked. My response was to bolt. In that moment I decided to start a second race… with the fastest kid in school. I took off. In the process I dropped my backpack and kept going. My books were useless to me for once. She gave good chase. She was on my heels for almost a half a mile- but there were a few differences that I learned about that day.
First, I was afraid and she was not. Second, a half mile is a lot different than 50 yards. And lastly I had a different tolerance for physical pain than she did. In one of my first real experiences with fight or flight I ran back to school, around the school, and through 10 feet of thorny bushes over both our heads to escape through the swamp with mud halfway up my knees where I was able to hop a fence, sneak through someone’s back yard, and take the long way home alone. I think I actually l lost her at the thorns- but i didn’t need a heart rate monitor to tell you I was pushing over 90% for more than a mile.
So I I beat my crush the second time we paired up in a race… but I don’t think I could really say I feel like I won that day.
If I were to time travel and give my younger self advice I would tell little me to just kiss the girl and discover you were more of a distance runner some other way. I would also say, don’t give in to fear, it won’t help. I think back to that day often. Michelle, if you’re out there, I owe you one.