"Wanna go for a trail run?”
It was an innocent question posed by my nearly new boyfriend. We weren't even three months into our relationship, but he was no ordinary guy and I wanted to impress him.
"Of course! Let's do it!" I replied excitedly. I mean really, how hard could it be?
Flash foward to a sunny July afternoon. At this point in our lives, we had all the free time in the world. I waitressed three nights a week while wrapping up my summer education classes and Rob, my above mentioned boyfriend, was trying to figure out his next step, having moved home several months prior to help take care of his ailing parents, particularly his father. We were living the easy life—eating out, staying up late, sleeping in, and now...trail running.
"All set, baby?" Rob asked as I tightened the laces of my new Brooks running shoes. I was also wearing new red running shorts. What they lacked in length they made up for in style; I was, after all, on a date. A running date. A sporty date! And while 'sporty' was never an adjective my friends would use to describe me, it would describe me today. I WOULD BE Sporty Girlfriend.
"Let's go!" I yelled. And we hopped into his Escape.
We arrived at Siedman Park and walked right to the trail map. After Rob briefly showed me the (very confusing) colored loops, we started down the trail and over the bridge. A turn to the right brought me to my first hill. Only two minutes in and I was already winded. But I kept up with Rob and remained optimistic. Sporty Girl would prevail.
Ten minutes later, I waved Rob on. "Go ahead. I'm fine. Don't wanna slow you down.” Rob, always the gentleman, double-checked. "You sure?”
"Yep! Just check back once in awhile.” I reassured him with a bright smile and he was off.
Good thing. Sporty Girl was exhausted.
I walked a bit and started back up. Another hill loomed ahead. I cursed and muttered under my breath, grateful Rob wasn't around to witness my bad attitude. He wouldn't want a sourpuss girl. I continued a slow jog and climbed for what seemed like forever. I noticed a bend in the trail and assumed the incline was evening out. Not even close. The massive hill hadn’t even peaked; it continued its upward climb with no end in sight. I started to cry.
I didn’t just cry. I sobbed. I wasn’t Sporty Girl, not even close! I was a loser. A loser on a date! My chest heaved and my eyes stung. I was in the middle of the hill, no energy to even walk, and where WAS Rob anyway?! My crying must have sent SOS signals because he miraculously appeared.
Seeing my distress, he ran full speed toward me. "Baby, what's wrong?? Are you hurt? What happened? " He looked me over, checking my arms, my legs, certain I was injured. He was so concerned I actually wished I HAD been hurt.
"I can't do this! It's too hard!” (Sob, sob, sob) ”You want a sporty girl! That’s just not me!” (Cry, cry, cry) My chest heaved up and down; I couldn’t catch my breath. All I'd wanted was to impress him, instead he was seeing the real me: a weak and whiny baby. A phony over-achiever.
But Rob didn't bat an eye at my hysteria. Always the calm one, he responded with gentle instructions: "Deep breath in through the nose, out through the mouth. Relax. Everything's OK. Let's just walk." Not an ounce of judgment or impatience on his face, just a mission to make me comfortable.
He took my hand. "We'll walk the rest. It’s no big deal. Trail running is really hard."
As my breath evened out, things got better. Through my sniffles, I noticed the massive trees against the bright, summer sky; I smelled the woods, so fresh and clean; birds chirped hello and leaves rustled with unknown animals running amok. Not only did I recognize the beauty around me, I realized my weakness wasn't a deal breaker. Rob didn't want Sporty Girl; he wanted me, Real Girl.
I enjoy trail running now. I love the friends I've made (we run through apple orchards and up ski hills!); I notice new strength I've gained (I was ecstatic the first time I ran up every hill on Robinette’s first loop); and I welcome the opportunity to share this sport with Rob (minus the weeping).
I'm also happy to say I’ve never cried again while trail running, well, not at Siedman anyway. Ada Peace Park? That’s a story for another day...