inmandyland

Getting Schooled By My New Running Partner

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Feeling the tiniest bit overconfident after my successful, and surprisingly fun, 5K, I texted my friend Tara, "How about a run from your house and around the lake?"

Seconds after I hit send, she replied with an enthusiastic yes.

The lake in question is more of a puddle at the moment, but has a nice long loop with few hills. From her house and around, it's a little over two miles. That was nothing to a woman who just finished a 5K covered in a rainbow of powdered dye (Run or Dye), I told myself.

While I've been very honest and have complained long and loud that I'm not a runner, there's a part of me that likes to see myself as a runner. A part of me that visualizes long legs gracefully eating the pavement as I take a quick lap. 

Granted, I don't have long legs. Nor am I a particularly graceful runner. Still, there was that 5K and the others I want to do this summer — and that fact that my Ultimate Self would absolutely want to run.

I arrived at my friend's house with my new (smaller sized!) running pants on, my shoes tied, and my boobs secured. I gave a jaunty wave to her family as we walked up the stone pathway to the street. And then she began to run.

My friend is a tiny little thing, shorter than me by a few inches and much, much fitter. What I didn't realize at the time is that her usual jog partners include her daughter who rides a bike as a "pacer" for her mother who chases her pushing a stroller containing a three-year-old.

I didn't stand a chance.

Her jogging pace was my sprint. Gamely, I tried to keep up, my breath coming faster before we'd gone a block. She chatted about her recent vacation the entire time, not even stopping as we climbed the steep hill to the lake trail. I tried to contribute to the conversation but grunts and gasps came out rather than words. A quarter of the way around the lake, I got a stitch in my side. Halfway through our run, I knew I wouldn't be able to continue much longer.

I finally admitted defeat a mile and a half in.

We made it back to her house, said our good-byes, and I drove home, consumed with a coughing fit that wouldn't stop. I checked my symptoms on Google and found them on a runner’s site. Because I was being a runner that day, I came to one very clear conclusion.

Exercise-induced asthma. It's apparently a thing.

The next morning, I could barely move. I looked at my Facebook screen and saw a message. "Next Tuesday?"

"Of course," I typed back, ignoring my aching legs, throbbing knee, and the feeling that I'd bitten off more than I can chew.

A week later, I arrived at her house, ready to go. This time, I made it a little further, passing the 1.75 mile marker. I coughed a little less, I regained my breath a little faster, and while my legs were still stiff the next day, I barely batted an eyelash when she sent me a message, "How about twice a week from here on out? Maybe we'll be able to make two laps by the end of summer."

I may become a runner yet.

Photo: Getty