Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.
We turn not older with years but newer every day.
This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Success is the best revenge for anything. Keep ya head down and work hard to achieve.
Chapter 19 ~ Lisa & Nicole Promise to Make the Marathon a Fun Run
Lisa and Nicole sat in the back seat of the family SUV as their dad and mom drove home. Their mom promised them the best pre-marathon meal ever prepared. Nicole asked Lisa all about the race at states. She wanted to know how she got to the dam first. What sprinting up Falcon’s Hill felt like. How she reached down and found an extra reserve of strength as she came close to the finish line. She had Lisa tell her the story three times. Each time Lisa asked Nicole about her season, Nicole said she wanted to hear more about Lisa’s season.
Lisa couldn’t take it much longer. “Come on Nicole, tell me all about your season. Did you like it? Do you like running in college? How is your coach? Is she as good as Coach Kappa? I think Coach Kappa is the absolute best.”
“It was a lot harder than I thought. First thing, college is so different from high school. The course work is harder. No one reminds me to go to class or study. I have lots of friends, but we’re all on our own. Most of us for the first time in our lives. It’s all up to me. It takes a lot of self discipline to follow through. The good thing, I think running cross-country helped a lot. It’s a lot like college, no asks you to train, especially in the off season. No one tells you to get up early to get your work out in. You know how it is. It’s all up to you. I think that is why all the cross-country runners did well in classes. I’m pretty close to a 4.0 in all my classes. I think it’s the discipline we learn from training that helped more than anything.”
“But how did you do on the cross country team?” asked Lisa.
“I did pretty well for a freshman. I ran third on the team. Maria Torres is our top runner. She got an invite to an Olympic training camp in Colorado Springs for the 5000 and 10000 meters. Running with her made me better. I like her a lot. Maybe this spring you can meet her. Coach said if I work hard maybe I’ll get an invite to Colorado Springs in another year. My times really improved over the season. I thought Coach Kappa worked us hard. It was easy compared to this level. Coach wants me to run the 5000 and 10000 meters in track. I’m excited about that.”
“I think you’ll be the number one runner next fall. Maria better watch out, you’ll zip right by her,” said Lisa.
Nicole touched Lisa’s arm, “I’m not competing with Maria. Coach taught us that the biggest competitor anyone has is the one we have inside us. She told us to focus on getter better and better and everything else takes care of itself.”
“I guess. The Stinson runner don’t think that way. I was happy I beat them,” said Lisa. She reached into her backpack and pulled out the Thanksgiving Marathon race packets. It wasn’t a big marathon as marathons go, race organizers expected about six hundred runners. Lisa hand a packet to Nicole and said, “Here’s the packet I got at All Sports. It’s got everything we need for tomorrow.”
The sisters opened their packets and the first thing they pulled out were their bib numbers. They had to pin them to the front of their race shirts. Lisa’s bib number was 215 and Nicole’s bib number was 216. On the back of the bib number was a small electronic timing chip. The chip digitally recorded their times at different points of the race and transmitted the to the race officials who posted the runners times at checkpoint online. Their parents could follow their progress with their smart phones and still wait at the finish line.
It was Lisa’s mom who broke up the marathon conversation going on in the back seat of the car. She said, “I don’t want you girls to race in the marathon. It’s not about time. It’s not about winning. You’ve both had full cross country season. I don’t want two sick daughters hanging around mopping. It’s a fun run, promise? If either one of you feels tired or out of it during the race, the both of you stop. No competition and no finishing without the other. Promise dad and me.”
Lisa and Nicole reached over the seat and grabbed hold of their mother’s hand, “Promise mom, we’ll finish together or we won’t finish at all.”
Lisa laughed, “Mom worries too much. I was running under five minute miles for cross country. When I won states, I averaged four minutes and forty seconds for the course. I bet we can do five thirty easy.”
Nicole laughed, “I’m not a math brain, but I know times. If we did that pace for a marathon we’d finish under two thirty. That would be pretty close to an age record if you did that. This is our first marathon. Most marathons have an age requirement and you have to be at least sixteen or eighteen. You’re lucky this marathon set the age requirement lower. They do that for a reason. Coach told me I’d know I ran a marathon when I finished. We’ll need to cut back the pace a lot. It’s a fun run like mom said.”
“That’s not fair. I’ll feel like a zombie if we go too slow. Can’t we try it at my pace and slow down if we get tired?” said Lisa.
What if we try to maintain a bit over seven minutes pace. We’ll be right around three hours,” countered Nicole.
“That’s like sleep walking. I can walk that fast. Honest. Can we try to go a little bit faster? Please?”
Nicole said, “It’s time to listen to mom and your big sister.”
Lisa pretended to pout, then smiled and the sisters fist bumped.
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.