A few months ago, I joined my mom and our friend, Beth, for their last 10 miles of the Rocket City Marathon. Mom had requested that I show up with a donut and some stories to tell to help them along in their race. On my way there I thought about some stories I had and I remembered this one, which dates back to the very beginning of my running experience.
I discovered the joy of a “longer” run (and by longer I mean more than 3 miles) at the ripe old age of fourteen. Once I got up to running four miles with my mom, I thought the sky was the limit, and it wasn’t too long before I’d take off on my own through the neighborhoods of Panama City to see how much further I could go.
This was running at its purest. I had no idea how fast I was going and no idea how fast I was supposed to go, or that anybody would need/want to run faster for that matter. It was just running because it felt good. Running because it felt wild and free. Running because I was 14 years old and able to run 4 miles.
One afternoon after school, I put on my bright blue umbros and a t-shirt, laced up my shoes and set out. I don’t remember much about the day except that it was sunny and I was happy to be out there. I ran to the 5 mile turnaround spot (feeling like hot snot because I could run that far) and headed home.
Many of these neighborhoods were familiar because I’d either lived in them or had friends who did. Sometimes I’d see people from church or school that I knew and wave to them.
This particular afternoon as I was running, I passed two boys on skateboards who seemed to be about my age. I didn’t pay them much mind as I ran by, but they paid attention to me. It turns out they knew me from elementary school and, unfortunately for me, I’d been kind of a nerd in elementary school.
These two boys (their names were Joey and Brad I eventually figured out) decided to chase me down on their skateboards. This scared me to death. I don’t remember what they said to me, but it wasn’t very nice. I began to pick up my pace, running as fast as my 14-year-old legs would take me, but it wasn’t enough to outrun a skateboard.
I ran down one street to the next until I finally reached Jenks Avenue, which is a busier street intersecting the street I was on and the street to my neighborhood. I flew across on-coming traffic into my own neighborhood, hoping to lose the skateboarders. And there, across the street, sitting in her car waiting to pull out onto Jenks Avenue was my mom.
(Pause here for triumphant music)
I should interject here that my mom is a force to be reckoned with. She was a high school guidance counselor and very accustomed to dealing with kids of all sorts. She has helped a ton of people, but cross her and you might as well wave the white flag. Unfortunately for Joey and Brad, two middle school boys on skateboards had nothing on my mom.
Mom rolled down her window as I ran up. She could tell something was wrong. Trying to breathe and not cry, I told her that those two boys (who were stupidly still standing on the other side of Jenks Ave.) had chased me since before State Ave. That was all she needed to know. With fire in her eyes, she took off after those two boys, and I ran the last half mile home, collapsing in the cool grass of my front yard when I got there.
Now, a skateboard can outrun a runner, but a car can outrun a skateboard. Mom chased Joey and Brad all the way back to where they’d started their taunting chase. Now it was they who were out of breath and afraid, and with good cause. When they could skateboard no more, Mom pulled up next to them and asked how they liked being chased by someone, and what did they think their parents would think of them chasing down a girl on their skateboards. Mom told me later that they apologized and apologized and promised never to do it again and apologized some more. With eyes wide and lungs heaving, they promised that they would never do it again.
Mom went on her merry way after that, going to wherever it was she was headed before I found her on Jenks Avenue. I eventually went inside for a bowl of cereal and a shower. I have no idea what Joey and Brad did, but I don’t remember seeing much of them after that day. Eventually I was brave enough to run those same streets alone, pushing to six and then seven and then eight miles, to my amazement.
The moral of this story? There probably isn’t one unless you are a kid on a skateboard with nothing better to do. For me it was the first of many more running adventures to come.