Chapter 11 ~ Lisa Faces A Tough Choice

Love to Run 

Chapter 11 ~ Lisa Faces a Tough Choice

Lisa’s dad was standing behind the spectator roped area. Lisa spotted her dad and jogged over to him.

Her dad bowed under the rope and hugged her, “You ran a great race. Where did you get your kick at the finish?”

Lisa shrugged her shoulders and said, “Oh, I just gave it all I got. That’s all. It’s no big deal. Thanks for coming dad. Did I hear you somewhere in the middle of the race?”

“That was me. I was at the start, then I drove ahead to the middle, and after you passed by, I drove to the finish. You had a terrible draw for the start. You might have surprised everybody and won if you had a good draw.”

“I don’t know dad. Mia, Marie, and Leah are really good. Coach said my coming in eighth clinched the victory for us. I’m happy I contributed.”

Her dad smiled at her and said, “Mom said to tell you she wanted to be here, but she couldn’t get away from work. I already called her and she said, we’re all going out for pizza to celebrate.”

Lisa smiled and said, “Thanks, dad. I gotta go.”

As soon as she got to the bus she grabbed her cell out of her backpack to text Nicole .

We won the invitational. I came in eighth. I drew one oh seven, way out on the edge. I didn’t think I’d ever catch up to the leaders. T2UL8R

It was nine o’clock in the evening when Lisa heard text ring. She grabbed her cell hoping it was Nicole.

Congrats Lisa. You’re making me proud. I already bragged about you to the coach and my teammates. I told them you and I are running in the Thanksgiving marathon. Can’t wait.

Lisa texted back.

If I qualify for states, it’s the week before the marathon. Think I can do both?

Nicole texted.

You have the stuff of a champ. We’ll run the marathon as a workout. That’s all. No pressure on either one of us. It will be fun run. It will be good to run together. CUL8R

Over the next five meets, Lisa became an important runner for the Jaguars. Each of the meets was a dual meet and she ran third for her team behind Mia Hale and Leah Landau. Mia and Leah finished one-two in all three races, Lisa finished no lower than sixth.

The cross-country season moved through September into October. The Jaguars won all the dual competition meets in their league. The cross-country season was rapidly coming to an end. The biggest meets of the year were always the last three races of the season. The league meet was the last week of October. After the league meet, all the teams ran at the regionals the first week of November. The regionals were important, because runners were selected to run in the state championship based on their times in the regional competition. The regional and state championships emphasized more individual effort than team effort. There was still a team championship, if a team had at least five runners whose time qualified to run at the state championships. The state championships followed the regionals and was the second weekend of November. Lisa was happy the season ended the Saturday before the Thanksgiving marathon.

On the Monday before the league meet, Coach Kappa asked Mia, Leah, and Lisa to meet with her in her office after practice. Coach Kappa didn’t say anything about what she wanted to discuss with the girls. They asked each other and no one could offer even a guess.

Mia, Leah, and Lisa showered and changed clothes and together went came into Coach Kappa’s office.

Mia said, “What’s up Coach?”

Coach Kappa waved her hand and wanted the girls to sit down. When the girls were seated, she said, “I got good news and bad news. The good news is I think we can repeat as state champions. No team has ever won the title five years in a row. This will be a first. We’ll make history.”

“We can do it, but what’s the bad news?” Mia asked.

Coach Kappa said. “They’ll all be gunning for us. Since they’ve had state championships in cross-country, only three other schools have four titles in a row. They all failed in their fifth attempt. We’ve got a great chance. You three will have to carry the load.
Leah said, “We can do it, Coach. Lisa’s really improved, she’s pushing Mia and me.”
Coach Kappa smiled, then said, “I’m hoping Marie and Sara, our numbers four and five can finish in the top thirty. If they do and you three finish among the top ten runners we stand a good chance at repeating as state champions.”

Lisa was silent. She knew it was not her place to speak when she was with the two co-captains.

Leah said, “Coach, what’s the bad news. It sounds pretty good to me. We just have to run our best race of the season.”

Coach Kappa nodded, she lifted her Jaguars ball cap and scratched her head, then replaced the ball cap back on her head, pulling her ponytail through the back. “Show of hands. Who’s running in the Thanksgiving marathon?”

Lisa raised her hand. Mia raised her hand. And, Leah raised her hand.

“That’s what I thought. I’m not saying don’t run in the marathon, but you can’t think about it. We got to be of one mind. Everybody on the team looks up to you three. If they think you’re not doing everything you can do to win the league, regionals, and states, they’ll let down,” Coach Kappa said.

“We won’t let up Coach. Can we do long runs on Sunday to prep for the marathon?” Mia said.

Coach Kappa shook her head, “What it means is no long runs on Saturdays or Sundays to get ready for the marathon. I want your total focus. It’s the only way we have a chance. A friend of mine from our biggest rival outside our league said she heard the Stinson coach say this is their year and they plan to knock us off. They’re undefeated in their league as well. I want a show of hands. Can I count on the three of you to give a total focus and be a great example for the team?”

“You can count on me coach,” said Mia raising her hand.

“Same here Coach,” said Leah raising her hand like Mia.

Lisa stood silently. There was no way she was going to miss running with Nicole for any reason. Her mind was on the marathon. Coach Kappa interrupted her thoughts, “Lisa, what about you?”

Lisa pushed her thoughts out of her mind and raised her hand, “Sorry coach, count on me. I’m all in.”

Mia, Leah, Lisa and Coach Kappa, placed their hands one on top of the other and on the count of three shouted, “STATES – BRING HOME THE TROPHY.”


Chapter 9, Love to Run, “The Medford Invitational”

Chapter 9, Love to Run, “The Medford Invitational”

Ten county high schools were competing in the Medford County invitational. Each year it was held at a different county high school. Coach Kappa chose the fifteen members of the high school varsity team a week earlier. Lisa placed fourth among thirty-five runners in the final practice race to determine members of the high school varsity cross-country team. The first fifteen runners to finish were automatically on the team. The next four runners were alternates. She knew she could have run a faster, but Nicole told her to only run good enough to make the team. She advised Lisa to run with the leaders, but not leave her best race on the course. Lisa wondered about Nicole’s advice, then she decided Nicole was usually right about most things. Lisa ran in a tight pack of Mia, Marie, and Leah. A half mile from the finish, Mia picked up the pace. Marie ran just off Mia’s shoulder. Leah dropped ten yards behind Mia and Marie, and Lisa stayed two strides behind Leah. Mia, Marie, and Leah sprinted the last one hundred yards to the finish. Lisa maintained her stride and finished ten seconds behind the three runners. The four upperclassmen on the team who finished in front of her came over to her and congratulated her on her run. They made her feel part of the team.

The team arrived at the Medford Invitational course an hour before the race. The race started and ended in Deer Park. Coach Kappa explained the course to the team. She told them about the two hills and where they occurred in the course. She also told them Mason’s Hill was a lot steeper and longer than these two hills. After the team meeting, Coach Kappa them stretch and loosen up. When Lisa finished stretching she ran a light half mile with Mia, Marie, and Leah.

Ten minutes before the race, Coach Kappa called the team together. She went over the team strategy. There were more than one hundred runners representing the ten high schools. The winning team would be the one with the lowest score for the first five runners. Coach Kappa told the team it didn’t matter if anyone from the Jaguars won the invitation, what mattered was having two Jaguars in the top ten and three other runners placing in ten through twenty. Coach Kappa was sure that combination would bring home the victory. She said the Jaguars won the Medford invitational four years straight and she wanted to make it five in a row. Lisa knew the first of the four victories began the year Nicole first ran as a freshman for the Jaguars. Lisa was in fifth grade at the time and she still remembered Nicole telling her how she placed second in her first Medford invitational. She won the next three Medford Invitational cross-country meets.

The race started at a large grassy field in Deer Park. The starting line stretched across the grassy field. The runners lined up on the starting line according to a number they randomly received. The number was pinned on their running jersey. Every runner was hoping for a low number because once the runners crossed the grassy field, the race route quickly narrowed into a dirt running path wide enough for only three runners. And, more importantly the lower numbers were closest to where the grassy field narrowed. The runners with the higher numbers had a fifteen yard disadvantage.

Coach Kappa was disappointed with the random drawing. Not one Jaguar was among the first twelve numbers selected. Mia, Marie, and Leah, were placed fifteen, eighteen, and twenty-two respectively. All but one of the remaining members of the team found their places between thirty and sixty. Lisa landed at number one hundred seven, nearly at the end of the starting line. Nicole always talked about how rough some of the starts could be but if you survived the first hundred yards, you had a good chance. Lisa was sure she’d survive the first hundred yards, but she might be two hundred yards behind the leaders by the time she got to the narrow path.

A voice over a loud speaker boomed, “Runners line up according to your number.”
The officials watched as the runners took their places. The starter stood with a megaphone in his hand and spoke to the runners, “I will give two commands, runners ready, and on your mark. The race will start when I signal with the air horn.” The starter blew the air horn once. Several runners started, then embarrassed walked back to the starting line.

The starter said, “The race judges will be watching closely. If they see anyone who tries to trip or knock down or purposely bump someone to gain advantage, the runner will be disqualified.”

The starter walked to the side of the starting line. He placed the megaphone to his mouth and said, Runners ready! On your mark. Lisa’s heart was racing. She’d give it her best shot. Then she heard the starter’s air horn signaling the start of the race.

Chapter 8 ~ Life Was Different

Love to Run

Chapter 8 ~ Life Was Different

Lisa lied on her bed replaying thoughts of her run with Mia. She knew she could have run better. She didn’t know why she didn’t. She felt Mia took it easy on her during the run, but let her know who was the better runner at Mason’s Hill. It bothered Lisa. Around 9:30 p.m. Nicole texted Lisa.

Hi Lisa. Mia texted me. Said you ran g8t. She liked your grit on Mason’s Hill. I told her you don’t quit.

Lisa read Nicole’s text eight times. She mistakenly thought Mia was not impressed with how she ran. And, she judged her wrong, Mia was trying to put her in her place. She felt a lot better. Her mood changed. Now, she was excited. She texted back:

It was a good run. Mia’s nice. Mason’s Hill is tough. It killed on the last two runs. My legs felt like rubber. I wished I did hill work with you.

Nicole texted back.

You have a few weeks to get ready for the season. Do double workouts. Train on Mason’s Hill in the a.m. Do your run in the afternoon. I’ll e-mail the workout schedule Coach gave me. Try it.

Lisa and Nicole continued to text for a half hour. Nicole caught Lisa up on the conditioning program the coach was putting the team through. She text about her roommate. She text about how she and her roommate walked around campus trying to figure out where they would be going to class.

Lisa didn’t have much to say. She asked some questions, but her life was pretty much the same. She’d be going to high school. It didn’t seem like a big deal to her.

For the next two weeks, Lisa trained on Mason’s Hill in the morning and did the same running workout Nicole was doing in the afternoon. Lisa’s mom and dad asked if she was pushing herself to hard. Lisa shrugged like it was no big deal. Not a day went by when she didn’t fall asleep by nine.

Nicole’s classes at State University started two weeks before they started for Lisa. Lisa noticed Nicole wasn’t texting as much. Nicole might send a single text at night, never during the day. Lisa knew it was different. It was no longer Nicole and Lisa. It was Lisa and her mom and her dad. She loved them alright, she just didn’t want them as friends.

Two weeks before school started, Lisa started running early in the morning with Mia, Marie, and Leah. They were the three best runners on the high school cross country team. Mia and Marie were seniors and Leah a junior. Lisa enjoyed running with them. They kept her in their conversations. They made her feel she was already a part of the team. Lisa felt she was getting stronger. She never told her teammates or Coach Kappa about her workouts. Her runs with Mia, Marie, and Leah were extra. She easily stayed with them. Once they finished running, Mia, Marie and Leah went off together, Lisa went home, had breakfast, rested, then ran to Mason’s Hill for her hill work. In the afternoon, she continued following the university cross-country workout schedule.

School was only in session a week when the Jaguars, the nickname for Nickerson High School, were having their first cross-country meet. It was an open invitational to other county high schools. The course was unfamiliar to Lisa. All she knew was that it was 5000 meters or 5K. She texted Nicole.

First race is tomorrow. We’re in the county invitational at Medford. You know the course?

Lisa hoped Nicole wasn’t tied up with school or friends and answered her. She stared at her iPhone. No answer. Fifteen minutes later, Lisa set the iPhone down next to her bed, turned off the light, pulled the covers up over her head when the text ring tone sounded. Lisa grabbed for the iPhone, did the fingerprint thing, and opened up the text.

Hi Lisa. Got your txt. 2 years ago I ran Medford. 2 major hills. 1 at the half way part, the other a quarter mile from the end. Don’t start too fast. Pick it up on the hills. Let me know how U do? Don’t forget the Thanksgiving Marathon. I entered both of us. Only 2 and half months. Good Luck. Nicole

Lisa’s spirits picked up. Nicole didn’t forget about her. She didn’t forget about the marathon. She even entered her. Lisa got out of bed, went to her desk, turned the desk lamp on, and opened her laptop. She made a countdown calendar, printed it out, and attached it to wall with sticky pins. She had a big red circle around the Saturday before Thanksgiving. That was the day for the Turkey Day marathon. She thought about it for a minute, 26.2 miles. She’d done a lot of distance work. She’d never run 26.2 miles. She decided tomorrow to text Nicole and ask if she should change her training for the marathon. .

Chapter 7 ~ She Refused to Quit

Chapter 7

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.

Chapter 6 ~ A Invitation to Run

Love to Run: A Story of Two Sisters

Chapter 6 ~ An Invitation to Run

Lisa was lying on her bed scrolling through social media apps when a text message popped up on the screen. For a brief second, she thought it was Nicole. Her heart sunk about six feet when it wasn’t Nicole, it was Mia Hale. Mia was one of the X-Country team’s co-captains. The other co-captain was Leah Landau. They were both seniors and Lisa thought they were really, really, fast. They were not nearly as fast Nicole, but they were really, really, fast. Lisa touched the text and watched it open.

Hi. Coach Kappa thinks we should run together tomorrow. You up for a ten miler? Meet you at the high school at 8. We’ll run out to Twine’s Pond, cut over to Paley’s Farm then back to the high school. You in?

Lisa texted back, Sure.

A moment later, “We’ll run together. I want to see what you can do. Coach Kappa thinks you have a chance to make varsity.

Lisa felt her heart race. Mia Hale placed fourth in last year’s state tournament. The big race where Nicole won and clinched her full scholarship to the university. The three girls led the cross-country team to their fourth state cross country title in a row. Now she was going to really push me, thought Lisa. Lisa texted back, C U at 8. ~ Lisa Her stomach hurt.

She was sure Mia was going to enjoy pushing her hard and showing her who was boss
Lisa thought Mia probably invited the whole cross country team to go on the run, she hardly knew Mia. She’d seen Mia run last year when Nicole led the team. She looked at the time, it was 9 p.m. Lisa turned off the light, rolled on her side, and closed her eyes. She rolled on her left side. It didn’t work. She rolled to right side. It didn’t work. She tried sleeping on her back, putting a pillow over her head, and pulling the blankets up over the pillow on her head. Nothing worked. She was still wide awake. She’d never sleep. At 10:46 p.m. She heard a text come in. Lisa reached for her cell.

You awake Lisa?

It was Nicole.

Yes, What’s up? Lisa texted back.

She watched the little bubble, she knew Nicole was texting.

Had my first run with the team. They’re good. I mean really good.

Lisa texted back.

Bet U were at the head of the pack.

Nicole texted.

Coach told us to take turns leading. We ran eight miles lapping around the entire athletic complex. I led the team for the seventh mile. Then we went to the stadium and ran up the stairs until we all thought we were going to collapse. Coach told us after, today was an easy workout, then she laughed. U run 2day?

Lisa thought for a second about how she was going to answer. She didn’t want to tell Nicole she thought of quitting running before she saw Coach Kappa. And, she didn’t want to tell her Coach Kappa showed her the text she sent. And, most of all, she didn’t want to tell Nicole, Coach Kappa saw her dogging it. She simply texted:

I did our 6 mile loop. On the river trail, over the Lawson Street bridge, and looped the athletic fields at the high school, before I headed home. It’s not the same running w/o U.

Lisa saw the bubbles again.

I bet it wasn’t the same. U were probably faster. LOL.

Lisa smiled and sent her a text.

Mia Hale texted me. She wants me to run with her 2morrow. Said I would.

Lisa waited. No bubbles. Five minutes, ten minutes. Nothing. She guessed Nicole was busy with her friends. Then she heard the incoming text tone.

Sorry Lisa. The team captain, Allison, came by & told me I ran well today. Mia’s a good person. You’ll like her. g2g

Lisa lied in bed trying to imagine Nicole running around the university athletic fields taking turns leading the runners. No matter how hard Nicole said it was, she knew Nicole would probably be the best by the end of the season. She was always the best at whatever she did. Lisa fell to sleep seeing Nicole run in her mind.

Chapter 5 ~ She’s a Natural

Love to Run ~ A Story of Two Sisters

Chapter 5 ~ She’s A Natural

Coach Kappa parked on Lawson Street, a short distance from the bridge. She got out of her car and walked to where she had a view of the river trail, but remained unseen by anyone on the trail. She looked west toward the running trail on the East side of the river. Coach Kappa saw three bicycle riders, riding single file on the west side of the river. The second and third riders were drafting of the the lead rider. Coach Kappa thought they were trying for a PR. She saw a woman walking a Brittany on the east toward the direction she expected to see Lisa. The Brittany was tugging at the leash and pulling the woman onto the grass. Two early morning joggers came into view, they were running at easy pace talking with each other. They skirted around the woman with the Brittany.
Coach Kappa waited. Five minutes later, she caught sight of Lisa. Coach Kappa looked at her watch, smiled and then looked back to Lisa. It was a bit over a mile from where Lisa entered the trail to where Coach Kappa spotted her. She studied Lisa’s form. Lisa was running effortless, her arms swinging in perfect form and rhythm. If Coach Kappa didn’t know the difference, she would have thought she was looking at a shorter version of Nicole. Coach Kappa had a gut feeling Lisa was a natural. Her job was to help Lisa reach her potential.
Lisa didn’t see Coach Kappa watching her. Everything changed for Lisa after Coach showed her the text message from Nicole. She felt something inside her change when she left Coach Kappa and headed toward the river trail. She remembered her first three strides on the river trail where she repeated Nicole’s words, ‘Make me proud.’ She kept repeating the words with each stride. It wasn’t long before she forgot about Nicole leaving for college and only thought of running to make Nicole proud of her. She couldn’t wait to text Nicole and tell her about her run.
The Lawson Avenue bridge was the half-way mark where Lisa left the river trail and began her loop toward home. When she reached the bridge, she bounded up the steps, two at a time, to the road. She turned left on Lawson and headed for the high school athletic fields a mile and half away.
Coach Kappa anticipated Lisa’s route, it was Nicole’s favorite early morning run. She often told Coach Kappa about it. Coach Kappa got in her car, and drove over to Maple Street, just down from the entrance to the faculty parking lot, but with a good view of the athletic field. She got out of her car and walked a short distance to where she could get a view of where she expected Lisa to come out of the high school athletic fields and head home. It wasn’t long before Coach Kappa saw Law come through the far gate near the softball field and begin her run around the perimeter of the field.
Coach Kappa watched Lisa glide along on the back side of the field following the fenced in boundary. Lisa came up the west side of the field behind the football stands and passed through the gate near the teachers’ parking lot behind the high school. She crossed through the parking lot, and took a right onto the high school driveway. She turned out of the driveway onto Maple Street. Coach Kappa stood next to a large maple tree on the opposite side of the road out of Lisa’s view. When Coach Kappa caught sight of Lisa, she looked at her watch and absentmindedly nodded approvingly.

Chapter 4 ~ It’s Harder to Quit When Someone Cares

Love to Run ~ A Story of Two Sisters

Chapter 4 ~ It’s Harder to Quit When Someone Cares

A promise is a promise is a promise. Sometimes, they’re harder to keep than other times. Lisa set her iPhone for 5:45 a.m. When the alarm sounded, she was in the middle of a dream where she was running with Nicole. Nicole pulled ahead of her and waved. Try as she might, she couldn’t catch up to Nicole. She kept hollering, “Nicole, Nicole, wait for me. Please wait for me.” Nicole looked over her shoulder, laughed, and waved, then sped ahead, soon pulling out of Lisa’s sight. When Lisa lost sight of Nicole, she woke up in a start. She thought her heart was going to break out of her chest. She looked at her iPhone. It was 3:15 a.m. Her heart was racing. Her nightmare was too much like her real life. It made her feel worse than she did before she went to bed. She tried and tried to fall back to sleep, without success. At 5:30 a.m. she checked her iPhone again. That was when she dropped off into a deep sleep, only to wake fifteen minutes later when the iPhone’s alarm made its wake up call.
Lisa pulled her pillow over her head. Her iPhone’s alarm was persistent. It sounded on and on. She reached her arm out for her iPhone and knocked over her lamp.
“Aaagh,” she hollered.
She tossed the blankets off her bed, and threw her pillow against the wall. She got out of bed, picked up the lamp and put it back on the table next to her bed. She pulled the covers over the bed so it looked partially made. Then she picked up the pillow and tossed it near the head of the bed. The pillow bounced off the header board and flopped onto the floor. Lisa ignored it.
Lisa went to the bathroom and brushed her teeth. She didn’t bother washing. She came back to her bedroom, slipped on the blue and gold running shorts and shirt she wore the last time she ran with Nicole.
Lisa decided to run the six mile run route she and Nicole often ran. They’d go a mile and half to the river, join the running trail along side the river for two miles to Oppenhourer Avenue. They’d leave the river trail at Oppenhourer Avenue climb the steps to the road, and cross the bridge and run another two miles to the high school ball fields. They’d circle the fields and take the route through Nickerson Park back home, six and one tenth miles.
Lisa set out on the same route, earphones plugged in, iPod strapped to her arm. She didn’t listen to the playlist she and Nicole used for running. Anything but that. She used a separate mix she made up. Lisa took it easy. She planned to run for one week and she didn’t care if she ever ran again.
Lisa wasn’t quite at the river, when a car pulled up alongside her. It seemed to follow slowly behind her. Lisa could feel the car over her shoulder. She didn’t like the feeling. It was only two hundred yards to the river, the car couldn’t follow her down there.
Then she heard a voice from the car, “You’re running like an old woman, Lisa.”
Lisa new the voice. She kept running slowly as she turned her head and looked over to the car. It was Coach Kappa, the cross country and track coach at the high school. Lisa turned and waved, continuing to jog in place, she said, “Hi Coach.”
Coach Kappa had the passenger window rolled down, she drove slowly keeping pace with Lisa, “I can’t see how you can run with varsity if that’s the best you can do. You have an injury or something?”
Lisa shrugged, she didn’t say anything.
“You lost your voice, Lisa?” said Coach Kappa.
Lisa stopped jogging and faced Coach Kappa. Coach Kappa put the car in park, and got out. She walked around the car to the sidewalk and looked at Lisa. She said, “I got a text from Nicole. She told me to check on you. Looks like she was right to worry.”
Lisa kicked at the sidewalk, “Nicole texted you? Why?”
Coach Kappa, who was now within an arms reach of Lisa, put her right arm out resting her hand on Lisa’s shoulder, “You love Nicole, right?”
Lisa nodded.
Coach Kappa smiled, “You two are about as close as any two sisters I’ve seen. You want her to be successful at the University, right?”
Lisa kicked at the ground, “Yeah. I suppose.”
“That sounds selfish, Lisa. Do you think Nicole wants you to fail?
Lisa looked away, wondering what would happen if she suddenly ran away from Coach Kappa. She mumbled, “No.”
Coach Kappa, still holding on to Lisa’s shoulder said, “I think you have a chance to make Nicole proud of you. I think you have a chance to giver Nicole something to brag about with new friends she is going to make at the university. Not everyone has your talent. Do you want to throw it away or do you want to make Nicole proud of you?”
Lisa turned her head back and looked at Coach Kappa, then turned her eyes back to her shoes, and said, “I guess.”
Coach Kappa took her hands off Lisa’s shoulders and reached into her pants pocket. She pulled out her cell phone, pushed some icons, then said, “Take a look at the last text Nicole sent. Go ahead. Read it out loud.”
Lisa reached for the cell phone, looked at the text messages between Coach Kappa and Nicole. She looked at the last text from Nicole and read it, “Tell Lisa to make me proud. I know she can break all my records.”
Lisa didn’t know what to say. She read it again to herself. She handed the cell back to Coach Kappa. “I gotta go Coach. Bye.”
Coach Kappa watched Lisa jog down the path to the river and disappear on the trail. She knew the route Lisa would take and drove over to Oppenhourer Avenue.

Chapter 3 ~ Growing Up Isn’t Easy

Love to Run ~ A Story of Two Sisters

Chapter 3 ~ Growing Up Isn’t Easy

Nicole lived on the second floor of Robinson Hall. The family all pitched in to help Nicole get her stuff into her room. The room was empty with a bed against the side walls.
“Do you know who your roommate will be?” asked Lisa.
“Yes, it’s Maria Cortez. She’s from out of state and placed second in the championships last year. She’s a freshman like me. She’s nice. We’ve been texting,” said Nicole.
“You didn’t tell me,” said Lisa, her hurt feelings showing.
Their mom interrupted the girls and said, “I’m starving, let’s go out to lunch.”
The family went out for lunch to a pizza place near campus. Lisa, who normally loved pizza, ate one piece. All during lunch she didn’t say a word. When the lunch was finished, the family drove back to the dorm. Everyone got out of the car for a final hug. Nicole was the only one smiling. Her mom and dad put on brave faces. Her dad gave Nicole more advice about being careful. Her mom reminded her to text often.
Lisa said, “I hope you text me as much as you did your new roommate.”
Nicole hugged Lisa, “I love you, little sister. I promise I will text you everyday. Okay?”
Lisa shrugged, “Okay.”
As soon as Lisa got in the car, she scooted over to the corner sat of the back seat behind her dad who was driving. She put her earphones in, and plugged into her iPhone. She chose a playlist, then pulled her dark green hoodie tight over her head and tugged on the strings to the hoodie and nearly obscured her face. She closed her eyes and to block out the world in which she was living. Her mom turned to glance at her and said, “You’ll feel better in a few days. I know it’s hard now. But, trust me, you’ll feel better.”
Lisa didn’t respond to her mother. For the two and half hour ride home she lived in another world.
As soon as Lisa and her parents got home, she went to her room, lied on her bed, opened her iPhone and began to scroll through photos. There was Nicole and she finishing a 5K together. It was fun run. Another photo of her holding Nicole’s state championship cross-country trophy. Another photo of Nicole and she running on the river trail. She tossed the iPhone on the bed and stared at the ceiling. Her mind couldn’t stop thinking about running with Nicole and how she’d miss it. She decided she was through with running. That was it, she made up her mind. She dozed off. A half-hour later the cymbal sound on her iPhone woke her up. The cymbal sound was the sound for incoming text messages. She looked at her iPhone, the message was from Nicole.
Waz up Lisa? I already saw coach. We have to be up by six tomorrow morning to go on an easy six mile run before breakfast.
Lisa read the text two or three times, then texted,
Miss you already. Just hanging around doing nothing. There’s nobody to talk to. Nobody to run with.
Lisa saw the the little bubble working on the text message.
Lisa, coach has a sign on her door, No Excuses. No Feeling Sorry. Get Up, Get Going. That’s what you have to do. Can you do it for a week? For me?
Lisa took a deep breath and texted.
I’ll do the same as you for one week. That’s all I promise. Let me know your workouts.
The bubble appeared.
Tomorrow means you’re up and running at six a.m. I’ll think of you while I run. Deal?
Lisa texted.
Deal – CUL8R
Lisa wasn’t happy. She felt trapped into doing whatever Nicole did for one week. She decided after a week, she’d quit running. She didn’t feel like running anymore if she couldn’t run with Nicole.

Chapter Two ~ You’re Something Special

Love to Run: A Story of Two Sisters

Chapter 2 ~ You’re Something Special

Lisa lied in bed staring at her iPhone. She swiped through images of Nicole and she running together. She wanted time to stand still. It didn’t. The family was driving Nicole to the university on Sunday. It was only two days away. It bothered Lisa that Nicole was excited. Lisa didn’t understand why Nicole could be so happy leaving to go to college and she wasn’t. Lisa refused to go with Nicole and their mom to buy clothes and other essentials for college.
When Nicole and her mom returned from shopping, Nicole couldn’t wait to show Lisa all the things she bought to take to the university. Lisa felt like rolling her eyes, but made a half-hearted attempt to appear interested. She didn’t understand why Nicole needed so many clothes. Then there was the makeup bag, a rain jacket, new jeans, a casual and formal dress. To Lisa, it looked Nicole was packing to leave forever. The worse part was all Nicole talked about was going to college and running cross-country for one of the best women teams in the country. She even had a countdown calendar on her wall.
Sunday happened. Lisa couldn’t do anything to stop it from happening. Lisa, Nicole and their mom and dad piled into the SUV with all Nicole’s gear stuffed in the back. Lisa stared out the window as they pulled out of the driveway. She watched as they turned off their street. She looked out the back window and saw their house disappear. She watched as they passed by Lincoln park where Nicole and she ran wind sprints. She watched as they rode up Mason’s Hill where they did their hill work on the way to the Interstate. The more she thought about Nicole going away, the more her stomach hurt.
Lisa wished she took earplugs to block Nicole’s voice. Nicole couldn’t stop talking. All through the ride she talked about her dorm. She talked about the cross-country schedule. She talked about her classes. She read the schedule three times to them. She read the training rules to them. She read the recommended foods runners were supposed to eat. Lisa wanted to stick her finger down her throat.
A mile from the university, Nicole reached over and grabbed Lisa around the shoulders and hugged her, “Come on Lisa. You wouldn’t want me to pass up a great chance now would you? What do you think I’d say if you had a chance to go to an Olympic training camp and train with the best runners in the country in the Colorado mountains. What would you say?”
Lisa wiggled her head free, she gave Nicole a hint of a smile, “You’re that good Nicole. I’m not that good.”
Nicole went to grab Lisa again. Lisa ducked out of the way and squeezed next to the window.
Nicole said, “Your time in the mile last spring was better than I did in grade nine and you were only in grade eight. When we ran the cross country course for time last week, you set a PR and that was as good as I did in grade ten. Yah, I think you’re something special. I really do.”
“You really think I’m pretty good? You’re not trying to make me feel good, right?” Lisa eased herself away from the window.
“Let me show you something I never showed you before.” She opened her wallet, pulled out a translucent plastic case. She handed it to Lisa. “Take a look. I’ve been carrying it since last spring,” said Nicole.
Lisa took the case and looked at a photo, her blue eyes grew wider, “Where’d you get this?”
“I took this picture of you crossing the finish line in the county middle school meet against Logan last fall. Do you remember the race? You were tripped at the start and fell down. You got up and gave it all you had. When the finish line was in sight, you sprinted and caught the leaders five yards from the finish. You fell across the finish line. I took the picture as you fell across the line. I had it printed at the drug store so I could carry it in my wallet,” said Nicole.
“Why do you carry it?” Lisa asked, still staring at the picture.
“Whenever I get down. I pull it out and look at it. It reminds me to try harder. I make myself get up and never quit. That’s why I carry it Lisa. You’re something special,” said Nicole. The sisters hugged.
Lisa turned away and looked out the window. She didn’t want Nicole to see the tears in her eyes.

Chapter 1 ~ It’s Tough Growing Up

Love To Run: A Story of Two Sisters

Chapter 1 ~ It’s Tough Growing Up

Nicole and Lisa Denner were at the tail end of an easy seven mile run along the Drowning River trail. The hot summer day and coolness of the river were too inviting to finish the last mile of the workout, without a break. They hardly spoke during run. Nicole. the older sister, knew something was bothering Lisa. They were close, best friends and sisters rolled into one. Nicole had an idea what was bothering Lisa, but she wanted to hear it from her.
The river trail began at Lincoln Park and headed three miles south along the east side of the river, crossed over the river on Mason Street and came back on the west side of the river to Lincoln Park. The girls were sitting on the grass under a giant oak on bank of Drowning River just off the trail. Their backs were against the enormous tree trunk. The temperature hovered near ninety-five, the sun burned bright in a cloudless blue sky. If there was a breeze blowing, the leaves in the oak tree didn’t feel it. Nicole picked up a rock and tossed it in the river. Lisa did the same. Nicole, four years older than Lisa, was Lisa’s hero. Everything Nicole did, Lisa wanted to do. It was the same in their taste in music, iPhone apps, movies, and running gear. Today, both girls wore similar blue running shorts with a gold stripe down the sides and blue and gold running tops. Nicole was Lisa’s big sister, friend, and hero. Given a six inch difference in height, Lisa literally looked up to Nicole. Nicole’s friends often chided her and asked how mini me was doing. Nicole laughed it off, she and Lisa always had a tight bond.
Nicole turned her head toward Lisa, “Something bothering you?”
“Nope,” said Lisa tossing another rock into the river.
“You sure? I think I know what’s bothering you, but I wanted to hear it from you. Come one, we’re best friends, You won’t hurt my feelings,” encouraged Nicole.
Nicole knew she was headed off to college on a cross-country scholarship in a few weeks. She’d be living away from home for the first time.
Lisa turned toward Nicole, “It’s hurts my head to think about it.”
“What hurts your head, Lisa?”
“You know, Nicole. Your leaving home. What am I going to do without you? You’re everything I want to be. My stomach’s hurting talking about it. Can we drop it?”
Lisa could talk to Nicole and know Nicole would give her good advice, and, she could trust her. She could tell Nicole things she wouldn’t tell their mom or dad. They’d talk about stuff girls talk about. What they mostly talked about was running. If running was important to Nicole, it was important to Lisa.
Nicole was the top runner on the girl’s high school cross country team since she was a sophomore. She had a half dozen scholarship offers but wanted to stay in state to be closer to her family. Nicole tossed another rock into the river, “I’ll be leaving for college in three weeks Lisa, this summer is going faster than any summer ever.”
Lisa tossed a rock close to where Nicole’s landed, “Do you have to leave so early? Classes don’t start till the end of August, right, Nicole?”
Nicole used a stick to unearth another rock, “It’s my cross-country scholarship. There is a preseason camp, everybody who wants to be on the team has to show up. I’m nervous about how I’ll do. They have a lot of great runners.”
“You won state last year. You came in second in the 5000 meters this spring. You’ll probably be the best runner they have,” Lisa said using a stick to dig at a rock, then tossing the loosened rock into the river.
“We’ve been running together all summer. You’re pretty good yourself, Lisa. You’ll be one of the top five on the high school team if you keep working hard,” Nicole tossed a rock into the center of the ripples caused by Lisa’s rock.
Lisa tossed another rock into the river, “I was born one year too late for us to run together in high school. I wish we could run together this fall. Can we text and connect on FaceTime?”
“Of course, Lisa, we’ll always stay connected,” said Nicole.
Nicole stood up and stretched, grabbed hold of a low hanging limb, curled her legs, and swung from it. Lisa got up off the ground jumped to grab hold of the limb and swing next to Nicole.
“You do everything I do, don’t you?” said Nicole.
“Not everything Nicole. I can’t go to camp with you. I can’t take classes at the university. I can’t drive a car. I have to take a stride and a half to your one when we run. Sometimes, I don’t think it’s fair,” said Lisa.
Nicole turned her head toward Lisa, “I got an idea. We’ll both be running this fall and in great shape by the end of the cross-country season. The Thanksgiving marathon is coming up on Saturday before Thanksgiving. We can run together in it. We’ll make it a fun run.”
Lisa gave a weak smile and said, “I’ve done 10K’s but never a marathon. You haven’t done one either. Last summer you ran twenty miles when you went to camp. I remember you telling me about it.” Lisa dropped from the limb at the same time as her big sister let go and dropped to the ground.
Nicole said, “The twenty miles was at an easy pace. We ran as a group at running camp. We were supposed to stay together. Right now, I know you could run twenty miles at the same pace. I’ll talk to my coach about the marathon when I go to camp. If she says it’s doable and gives me a training schedule that works with the cross-country season I’ll email it to you. We can text each other all during fall on how we’re doing. Fist bump?”
The sisters fist bumped then ran the final mile leading from Drowning River toward home. Lisa felt a little better as she and Nicole headed toward home. She’d be running with Nicole in the Thanksgiving Marathon. It was better than nothing. They’d text each other about the training and about the cross-country season. Still, Lisa knew it wasn’t the same.