When I was young I was fearless. I would climb trees, man our backyard bonfires with a watering hose, and challenge all the boys to foot races at recess. I could do everything. Well, except for pull-ups. It took me at least 23 years to convince my body that pull-ups were humane and actually meant to promote one’s health, despite the obliterating pain, or embarrassment, of one’s first try. But with such uninhibited inhibition there is unending possibilities for success. Yes, that sounds inspiring, but the distribution of possibilities also highly favors the chances for a funny/embarrassing story. Remember I said I was fearless, which translates into a series of successfully funny, slightly embarrassing events. We’ll start with track and field.
Seventh grade was the year that began what I like to call Crush Cardio. So, there was this guy… One can already guess where this story is going… To my seventh-grade self, he was the absolute cutest thing I had ever seen. Black skin like royalty and athleticism like an Olympian, he floated past me in the school halls on his high-flying cloud never noticing my admiring gaze. Determined to make him see me, I devised a plan… The plot thickens… He was on the track team, the track team that spent every afternoon together practicing and most weekends together at track meets. My plan: If he was a track star, then I too would track the star, nevermind my complete disdain for running. Little did I know that challenging all the boys at recess had prepared me to survive my plan’s miscalculation, two weeks of estonishingly difficult, physical conditioning. Impossibly exhausted and about ten shades darker from the scorching Florida sun, I completed conditioning and was offered a spot on the team. Victory, right? Sure if you count haphazardly incurring fierce muscle tone in the pursuit of a boy that still never noticed I existed. Muscle tone was fierce, though.
For a whole year, the royal Olympian I had joined the team for had not even breathed in my direction. In spite of this, I returned to the team for another year. Though I was unseen by my crush, I was also good. I was pretty fast and enjoyed the challenge of pushing my limits and surprising myself with progress. My events were the 100 meters, 200 meters and the 4×100 meter relay. Let me be clear I did NOT believe in running long distances, and to me that was anything longer than 200 meters… The plot twist is palpable at this point… While competing at one of our big regional track meets, our 4th leg in the female 4×400 meter relay becomes a no-show. “Melissa! You’re running 4th leg!” If emojis existed back then, I would have definitely been the one with the blue face and bulging, disbelieving eyes. Trying to explain my short-distance, long-distance logic proved ineffective in talking my couch out of putting me in the race. Jesus be a rescue inhaler.
The race begins. Our 1st leg starts off strong on the curve. She completes her 400 meters in great time and seamlessly makes the pass to our 2nd leg. The 2nd leg passes to the 3rd, and the 3rd clears the straight-away with her eyes set on me… Dun, Dun Dun!… A confluence of nausea and regret rush over me as the baton meets my hand and I take off on the curve. The first 100 meters feel like gold. My stride proves long and my stealth, unmatched. I approach the 200 meter in soaring fashion, just entering my peak positioned for victory, as I had done in so many of my 200 meter events before. And then it happens. The dreaded inevitable. The 200 turns to 250, the 250 to 300, and 300 to a gaping black hole that slows time to nonexistence, where everyone becomes first and last simultaneously. I quite literally slowed to a morbid pace of nothing. Soon the only racing I could hear was that of my heart against the swiftly approaching panting and footsteps of my competitors. My legs were numb, my eyes were glazed and the lines on the track disappeared with my resolve. I was done. So done that I signaled a wave to the runner behind me to pass, like I was in the drive-thru at McDonald’s waving to the succeeding car to go around me, because my pies weren’t ready and the manager was going to comp me a meal. Done.
Needless to say, we didn’t win that race, and my lungs only threatened to collapse without fully committing to it. In the end, I finished what would be my last track season with a blemish of shame, that I easily ate off with a snack bag of Cheetos because I was still fearless and big on snacks, and no hopes for a Love and Basketball remake inspired by me and loveless, boy wonder. I had crushed the Crush Cardio, just not in the ways I had intended.
Here’s what I learned:
1. I might have discovered a wormhole in the space-time continuum.
2. I was fast under 201 meters.
3. I hate running, and not even a boy can change that.
So, take my advice. If you’ve just taken up running for a guy, don’t. Find the receipts for the fortune of Lululemon clothes and Nike shoes you just bought to impress him, and return it all. Instead, race him at recess, or even better, let him do the running.