Half a mile from the finish of the 2002 Cherry Blossom 10-miler, my running partner declared, “I want to see how fast I can go to the end,” and disappeared into the crowd. I was pissed. So I did what any runner worth her salt would do: completed the race as fast as I could…which wasn’t very fast. Because, to be honest, I was tired. I’d spent the first nine miles reminding my new-to-running friend and neighbor Izumi (whose hand I had held through many miles of slow and steady training for several months in order to prepare for this race) that if she started out too fast, she might bonk. For the 75 minutes leading up to that moment, we’d been moving at an 8 minute per mile pace, about a minute per mile faster than we’d trained together. I crossed the line…14 seconds behind her. Back in the day, I was a superior grudge holder and considered giving her the coldest shoulder EVER on principal. The only problem was that we had carpooled. I spent the next hour trying to make small talk as we made our way home.
It was an exceptionally quiet drive.
Afterwards, I thought about what had happened and chose to let go of my negative feelings towards her by realizing that I’d made a rookie mistake. Before you agree to run “with” someone, you should always have “the talk,” which is a discussion about what happens if one of the persons gets injured or doesn’t feel great or feels fantastic or wants to sprint the last half mile. I rarely agree to run “with” someone, but the few times I had, it was with the never-leave-your-wingwoman under any circumstances philosophy, which has not changed since. Two years after the race, we moved to the Pacific Northwest and we lost touch. And I don’t miss her. At all.
Five years ago, my sister JoDee became a rookie runner, when she took up the sport at age 51. At first, she stuck with 10K-friendly distances, and struggled with mileage above ten miles. I ran “with” her in Race the Reserve 2015 in Coupeville. It was a small, scenic, mostly flat course with sunny skies and temps in the sixties, in spite of which she started complaining of fatigue about mile 11 and continued with it to the end. I listened to her whining for nearly half an hour. We finished 4th and 5th in our division with a 10:21 pace. Later that year, I ran the Silver Falls Half Marathon “with” her and the same thing happened at the same place in the race. A year later, I ran the Iron Horse Half Marathon “with” her and…ahem…again, the whining, although she’d gotten faster. We cut 1:23 per mile off our previous half marathon pace.
Then something happened. And I’m not exactly sure what. But after the aliens (my best guess) removed the probe and returned her home, she had transformed into one of the fittest, fastest not just fiftysomething year-old but just plain any-age runners I have ever known, especially on trails, especially at high elevations. When we ran the same race separately, which we did twice in 2017 (Cutthroat Classic and Orcas Island Half Marathon), and she, the eldest of our friend group, beat us every one. At Cutthroat Classic 2018, almost canceled due to smoke from nearby fires, she struggled and realized that sometimes, anyone can have a bad day.
JoDee is a hard-working, dedicated person who has not only the right build but the right attitude to run for miles (and miles) on the trails near her home in East Wenatchee. During our last training run together along single track trail, my mile-lap indicator buzzed…we’d gone beyond our planned distance with the end nowhere in sight. She yelled back,
“Do you want to walk?”
“No,” I said, conspicuously pissed. And again, half a mile later…
“Do you want to walk the rest? It’s about another mile.”
“I’m not going to walk!”
When we finally reached the parking lot, my lap-indicator again vibrated. We had just completed 18 miles of a supposed “15 mile” route.
And that’s what happens when your sister gets addicted to running.
During the last weekend in July, JoDee and I returned to the Iron Horse Trail to complete the Jack and Jill Downhill Half Marathon. Fortunately, we had “the talk” about what might happen. And nothing did. Well…almost nothing. In the first three races I ran “with” her, results showed us with the same chip time, but listed my name first, (probably, we thought, it was alphabetical), but this time, with the same time and (8:25 minutes/mile) pace, her name was listed first, 3rd in our division. And for the first time ever in one of our joint ventures, we placed. I mean…she placed. Because they awarded only 1st, 2nd and 3rd and by some portion of a second, I had finished 4th. We’d spent 1 hour 50 minutes and 19 seconds flying downhill as fast as we could along a beautiful gravelly road, dodging puddles while racing in the rain and I felt conflicted. This was not part of any “talk” that one might have. As JoDee walked towards the bus with her medal, I pouted. Race officials said that there was no way to share 3rd place in spite of our same down to the second finish. Hours later, I thought about how far my sister had come as a runner in such a short amount of time. And I did what Elsa suggested, and let it go.
My sister is one of the best runners I know. And I’m proud to call her my best friend.
Now…if we could only cut that medal in half…KIDDING!