Stands teeming with parents. Kids sucking down juice boxes. Everyone had their warm-up routine, no doubt something their suburban parents picked up in high school or college sports and forcibly passed down the generations.
I was ready. Anchor for Fourth Grade Relay Team, champions for as far back as we could remember, which was since Nick Brinkerhoff’s brother’s team won it two years prior. Ready. Stance. Shot. Wait. Pass. Wait. Pass. Wait. Jog. Faster. Faster. Fast — there it was. The baton hit my hand like a crack of lightning. Eyes only for the curve beyond the finish line, I had no idea where the other runners were.
All a blur after that, until high school. New high school meant the first thing finished was the football stadium (Texas, remember?). Some blonde girl and I ran that track every day, cutting our time cleanly in half every week. Nothing could catch me. As far as I was concerned, I could go to the mats with Usain Bolt.
Pain. Doctor. Shins.
Heart broken, I hit the track Monday morning. Walking. Just walking. The 300lb drug dealer from down the street lapping me with his waddle. That year the Boy Scouts asked to borrow my shotgun. Skeet? What’s that? Hooked, I never looked back.
Wake. Rush. Rush. Where are they? Oh. Crap. Shoes pounding. Heart pounding. Head pounding. Rounded the corner. Woe. Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial.
Jet-lagged, totally disoriented, not understanding any Chinese getting spat at me, I focused on one thing: that feeling was back. That exhilaration of the baton hitting my hand to crossing the finish line played over and over, my grin getting too wide for my face. Followed-up with Sister Tanner, the most crazy-obedient sister missionary I’ve ever known who drug me out of bed every morning to run around the river in TianMu. Her pace was double mine, but she had no problem doubling back to keep within sight and sound. She was totally happy just to be there, keeping her own pace and minding mine. Not judging. Just minding. And giving me a high five every time we passed.
Moves. Dancing. Sick. Drama. Hot. Cold. Exchanges. Hot. Sick. Slow. Fast. ……. Let’s just say running was more variable than constant in my missionary experience. Sorry President Grimley.
Home eight months and I’ve struck gold. His name is Rio. He runs when I run. Runs ahead when he thinks I’m too slow, but always doubles back and is happy to see me when he does. And has no other opinions on the matter. We’ve run twice every day this week and last. The doctor still repeats “no running” like he’s broken. But I’m old enough to seek a second opinion. My 13 year old life coach and favorite convert says: YOLO!
Rio, let’s go. Hup.