When I was a sophomore in high school, and Luke & I first met, one of us challenged the other to race a mile. The loser had to take the winner out to dinner. This is a perfectly mature and reasonable way to ask someone on a date without actually asking someone on a date. We talked about this hypothetical race for weeks. We told our friends. We told our families. Everyone agreed there was an obvious winner. ME.
Fitness-wise, I was in the prime of my life. I guess Luke was in his prime too, but it was clear that my prime was better than his. I ran cross country. Luke ran...never.
We decided to race the "Wilson mile" (.8 of a mile actually) after church one day. A good portion of our youth group came out to watch. Luke's dad came too, but primarily to talk him out of racing. He said there was nothing to be had by doing this. Best case scenario he beats a girl, and where is the glory in that? Worst case scenario he loses to a girl and shames his father for life. Luke would not be dissuaded.
Luke's good friend gave him a pep talk and jogged a warm up lap with him. I watched. He was winded half way through and walked the last 100 yards. I almost felt bad for him.
And I am sure you can guess where this story is headed.
So we lined up at a designated start/finish line, and someone started us off. As I anticipated, he started off way too fast for a mile long run. I couldn't let him get ahead so I stuck with him and waited for him to hit the wall. As we came to the half way point, a corner, he didn't so much hit the wall as jump the fence. Literally. He hurdled the chain fence with arrogance the likes of which I've not seen before or since. Then he started sprinting down the hill.
And out of sight.
My heart sank. The better part of my youth group was on the other side of the block, and though they didn't yet know who would round the corner first, they were about to find out. I had an overwhelming urge to flee. Or cheat. Or fake injury.
I turned the last corner and I might as well have just run to the bus stop. The crowd had their victor, and I was of no interest. Everyone loves it when an underdog wins, except the big dog. They don't like it at all.
I finished with no pomp, no circumstance, no breath in my lungs. And then someone turned around - and it started.
"Hey- that's crazy that Luke won huh?"
"Don't you like run all the time & stuff? Weird!"
"Don't worry- everyone has their off days!"
"That was a total fluke- you would win if you guys raced again."
Their pity stung more than their disinterest.
The only consolation was that Luke's blaze of glory was extinguished. He sat slumped up against a tree, heaving, and looking rather green. The crowd muttered concerns about heart attacks, spontaneous fatality & suggestions for lunch.
Burger King. That's where we went for lunch. And as I self medicated with a whopper, Luke was still too sick to eat. Which made me feel a tiny bit better.
Despite the initial catastrophic upset, the rest of the story is rather predictable. We had a romantic dinner at the Lloyd Center food court, fell in love, and here I am fifteen years later trying to type with his squirmy son climbing on my lap.
I ran to Wilson High on my last long run. I sent him this picture, and asked if he recognized this particular corner.
His response: "That's where I race hot girls for dinner and their hearts. Now come back home."