Wednesday, July 20, 2011

8 days 'til 45

For Jessica M. :-)

A little over five years ago, I decided to run a marathon. Well, I was convinced to train for a marathon. This was the first year that Jessica and I worked together. She's very peppy and talkative and had high hopes for the school year. I tried and failed to look excited when I met her. I still feel bad about that. I think she now knows why I was skeptical about how the teaching would go that year and that it wasn't about her at all, but even today I wonder if she thought I was one those doom and gloom Eeyore types. It was hard to resist her enthusiasm for everything though, so when one of the other teachers at our school mentioned that she would be training for a marathon and that we should join her, Jessica got excited and I got swept up in the excitement.

We were assured that ANYBODY can run a marathon. I was as close to any BODY as you can get--39 years old, not known for athletic prowess, and at least 25lbs above what is considered the "ideal" weight of someone under five feet tall. Twenty-six point two miles was a long way to carry 140lbs of low self-esteem, but I was going to try.

So, along with a few other teachers from the school, we joined Round Rock Fit, an organization of runners who would help train us for the marathon. Eventually, all of the other teacher quit and it was just Jessica and me. We got up early on Saturday mornings, warmed up with our running group, and ran the long distance goal for the day. Each week the distance would increase. The leaders of the group decided that we would end our runs at the same time each week, so as the distances got longer, the running groups met earlier. Then the time changed and we were running in the dark.

This would not have been so bad if we were running in the city where you could find lights, convenience stores, toilets and people. We were out in the undiscovered parts of Round Rock, running on country roads in abject darkness. One morning, I told Jessica to run in front of me so that if a car came it would shine on her white body and maybe we would not get killed. She liked that. Just a day after hearing about a woman who was attacked by dogs while she was out running, we found ourselves on that country road listening to the howls of the animals hiding in the darkness, wondering aloud what the hell we thought we were doing out there.

The runs were grueling and satisfying. I remember the first time we ran ten miles. We were at the halfway mark and marveled at how good we still felt. These bodies ran from one city to the next almost.

The best things about the run was getting to know Jessica. We always ran at a speed that let us talk comfortably. Talking was what got us through the worst days and made the best days even better. We spoke about issues in her relationship, "she who must not be named" at our school who gave us grief, and whatever we were watching on television at the time. We stretched, cried, and complained together. But mostly, we laughed.

I did not get the chance to run the marathon with Jessica that year, but I was there when she crossed the finish line. The next year, she was there when I finished.

Today, we are still there for each other.

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