She dreamt she was running with Nicole. It was a Saturday. They were on a country road. The road they were running on took them past cornfields where the cornstalks were so high she couldn’t see over them. There was a group five runners clustered close together ahead of Nicole and she. They belonged to the Jaguars an elite running club in the community. They all wore blazing red running shorts with a gold stripe on both sides. Their running shirts were the same color red with a black Jaguar on the back of the shirts.
Nicole touched Lisa’s arm and said, “Sorry Lisa, I’m going to run with the big girls now.”
Lisa tried to stay with her. She ran faster. The faster she ran, Nicole ran even faster and pulled further and further away.
Lisa hollered at Nicole, “Wait for me. Wait for me.”
Nicole paid no attention to her. Her legs became more difficult to move. They were tightening up on her. The faster she tried to run, the slower her legs moved. That’s when Lisa woke up, she found her legs tangled in her blanket. Her heart was racing.
Lisa tried to go back to sleep. You might as well asked the sun not to rise, or a mockingbird not to sing. She couldn’t stop thinking about the dream. She pulled her pillow over her head, it didn’t help. At five-fifteen, she got up and started her stretching exercises. She stretched out her hamstrings, holding each stretch for thirty seconds. She stretched out her quads, and then her achilles tendons. She concluded with the four way stretch loosening up each of her hips. It was the same stretching routine Nicole and she followed before every workout. Today, she was stretching nearly three hours before she would run with Mia Hale and whoever else Mia brought along.
Three hours passed and Lisa was on the high school track going through her stretching routine for third time since she woke up. She was stretching her hamstrings when she heard Mia Hale, “You ready to go Lisa?”
Lisa leaped to her feet. Mia was already to go and looked like she already worked out. Mia was six feet three inches tall and as thin as a string bean. Lisa was nearly eight inches shorter than Mia.
Lisa looked for a car or bike. She didn’t see any. She said, “You run over?”
Mia said, “It was an easy three mile run I did for a warm up. I wanted to be ready for workout. You ready? All warmed up?”
Lisa wished she ran to the high school instead of having her dad drop her off. She said, “Yes, I’m all warmed up, let’s go.”
Mia led the way off the high school athletic fields, through the parking lot and on to Maple Street. Mia turned left and headed toward Hanson Road. Hanson Road led out of town and into infrequently traveled country roads. Initially, Mia set an an easy pace. Lisa had no problem keeping up with and ran along side. Neither Lisa nor Mia spoke. Lisa felt Mia pick up the pace at mile two. She stayed with her. Lisa was feeling good, she was keeping up with Mia.
Mia glanced over at her, “You’re running pretty good Lisa. Let’s take a detour to Mason’s Hill and do a few sprints up the hill. We’ll sprint up the hill three times and recover in between by jogging down. We wont’t take a break, we’ll keep moving. You think you can handle it? Mason hill is pretty steep.”
Lisa shrugged and said, “Sure.” Lisa all the while thought how she hated hill work. Nicole loved hill work. She told her it built stamina. Lisa usually begged off from training on Mason’s Hill, the biggest hill in the county. She knew she had no choice now but to do the hill work with Mia.
When they reached Mason’s Hill, Mia glance over and said, “Let’s sprint to the top.”
Lisa gave it her all on the first sprint up the hill and ended up a couple of strides ahead of Mia. The second sprint up the hill Mia, ran effortlessly and finished ten yards ahead of Lisa. The third sprint was worse for Lisa. She was three-quarters up the hill when she saw Mia at the top waiting for her. Lisa’s legs felt like they weighed a ton. She refused to quit. She looked down at her legs thinking her knees were going to explode.
Lisa made it to the top and bent over, her hands on her knees. She was gasping for breath. Her knees killed her. They felt twice their normal size. Mia came beside her, “I felt the same way when Nicole started me running Mason’s Hill. I thought I was going to die the first time. Try jogging in place it will get the blood flowing through your knees, it will get a lot of the lactic acid out of there.”
Lisa didn’t want to jog. She wanted to lay down and die. She never wanted to see Mason’s Hill again in her life. Then she remembered Nicole carrying her picture in her wallet. She wasn’t about to let Nicole hear about her quitting. She stood up straight and started jogging in place. In a few minutes she said, “I’m ready Mia. Can we try it one more time?”
Mia Hale looked at her, “You sure Lisa? It’s not going to be easier.”
Lisa said, “I’m sure let’s go.” Lisa started down Mason’s Hill. She remembered what Nicole taught her. Visualize, visualize, visualize. She started to visualize the run back up Mason’s Hill. She saw herself making her legs run. She saw herself making it to the top and not bending over in pain.
When Lisa and Mia reached the bottom of the hill, Mia and Lisa looked at each other and nodded. Lisa stayed with Mia half way up Mason’s Hill, then Mia pulled away. Lisa felt the pain coming back into her legs. It wasn’t so much that she was slowing down as it was that Mia was picking up the pace. Mia reached the top and turned around to look down for Lisa. Her eyes widened, Lisa was only fifteen yards behind her. When Lisa reached the top, she said, “Let’s go.”
Mia and Lisa fist bumped. The two continued their run to the high school.