I have become one of those people.  I am the woman who approaches you when you are sipping your latte in the coffee shop to strike up a conversation about how much caffeine the residents in southern California drink.  I am the person who makes eye contact with you while you are enjoying a glass of wine at dinner (were you on a date?) and then walks up to your table and starts asking questions about the restaurant.  I am the woman who sits next to you at the park, and as soon as your kids start entertaining themselves, delves into a discussion about neighborhoods and preschools. I am the mom you meet at the smoothie stand who calls you up immediately and invites her daughter to play at your house.

Yep.  That’s me.

So you should also know –  I am the crazy lunatic runner who tried to outrun you at the beach with my stroller.  I couldn’t.  Instead, I  decided to sprint another hill.  As I was singing along to the Hannah Montana songs that my four-year old was listening to, wishing I could be a “real” runner and find a group to train with, I decided to find you.

I whipped the stroller around and raced towards the only parking lot I could see hoping to find you there.

Why I thought that chasing down a group of women that all looked like models on the Athleta catalog seemed like a good idea I do not know.  But, I did.  I hunted them down in a parking lot and asked questions in the middle of their plank countdown.  I pretty much invited myself to their next workout.

This morning I laced up and went to meet this group of locals whom I had decided to run with.  It didn’t dawn on me until I was there that I might not be able to keep up with them.  Not until I unloaded the stroller and stuffed the back full of food, music and DS games did I realize that I may be making a huge mistake.  My North Carolina legs are on lactic acid overload every time I head out to run in SoCal, so the idea of trying to push myself with a group of runners that I knew nothing about was suddenly terrifying.

Negative splits.  Out and back.  Comfortable on the way out and then at least 85% on the return.  I heard this.  I smiled. I nodded my head.

Shit –  I was screwed.

This group of women headed out running “easy.” Funny, the pace we were running at felt more like my 85% effort.  I couldn’t start slow, nor was lagging behind in the first mile an option, so I ran.  I talked.  I smiled.  I was euphoric. Weird.  It seemed to good to be true.  We got to the mid-point and took a “break” for some core work and I started to assess the run back.

My euphoria quickly diminished and shifted into panic.  I had felt so good because I had been running downhill for 24 minutes.  Now I was supposed to push the damn stroller uphill and get back to the starting point in less time?  Really? NOT HAPPENING.  I wished everyone luck and reassured them (who am I kidding, I reassured myself) that I would get there eventually.

Which, would have been much easier had the spunky, ridiculously talented, naturally gifted runner who was coaching the group not offered to push the stroller.  This was not good.

Refusing the suggestion would have meant I didn’t want the challenge of seeing what I could do.  I did.  I just didn’t really want to face up to all that I couldn’t do. Not today.  At this point in my life, I’ve become rather accustomed to running behind the stroller, blaming the stroller and talking a lot about what it will be like someday without the stroller.

However, I was here for a reason.  I relinquished my grip and ran. It felt great to be challenged.  I loved the bar being set for me and suddenly wanted to tap into the repressed runner that I am convinced lives inside of me.  Oh yeah. This was going to be good…

Until I look up and saw the hill.  My mind was reeling.  Desperate.  Please running goddesses with whom I am training today please, please, please give me back my stroller so I can hide and blame and maybe even stop behind it.

My nonverbal, telepathic pleas were not successfully communicated.  Instead, the amazing coaching goddess with whom I had entrusted my workout flew by me, with MY stroller, and cheerily yelled out to me to keep up with her.

“Shorten your steps,” she observed.  “Umm, does that mean walk?” I wanted to ask.

“Tighten your elbows,” she encouraged.  “So, what your really saying is stop and stretch?” I silently prayed.

And then, we were at the top.  I finished behind the stroller which hurt.  The traffic light was red and we had a thirty-second reprieve.  We briefly plotted a strategy for the finish and I took control of the stroller again.

The light turned green.

I love running with groups but I also love running alone.  It offers me a lot of time to self-reflect and today, for this last stretch, I was alone.  Time for self-reflection:
1) I was totally out of my league.  How in the world had I ever thought I was going to be able to hang with a group of runners that all look like they belong on the cover of a catalog and who run like they are record-holders?  2) Why had I stalked this group, thinking that their workout looked like fun?  3) When am I going to be able to accept that I am a mediocre runner at best?

I was totally out of my league, but I want to be in the league. I want to be able to show up, run my ass off, feel good. So, I’m going back.  The workout was hard.  But, it was fun. Really.  I finished smiling. I’m smiling now just thinking about it.  As for mediocrity, I’ll keep pushing the stroller. When I am running behind it I convince myself that without it I will be faster.  I’ve tricked myself into thinking that the stroller makes me stronger and when the time comes for me to train alone, maybe I will be.

Truth be told, it’s easier to be a crazy stalker when you’re pushing 50 pounds in front of you while singing Hannah Montana’s “I got nerve.”

Yep, I am one of those…


5 Responses to “stalker”

  1. Oh my gosh…this made me laugh out loud!! I loved the “crazy lunatic with a stroller” part. You WILL be stronger without that extra 50 pounds you’re pushing! You go, girl!!!
    Love your writing…it’s really good!

  2. 2 Jenise

    Good for you! Keep it up.

  3. 3 Beth & Stephen

    Now, let’s see, Amy dear…who is it that we know who would find a group of people who have been running uphill WITH A COACH for most of their lives, and whoever this is thought she could out run them all the first day? It’s a mystery. We sort of think you will rise to the occasion although, if you were counselling others, you would tell them it would take 3 to 6 months, or at least weeks.

    Seriously, from our own experience, albeit yesteryear, it does take a year or two to really feel like you are part of a community when you move someplace. Having children in school and working compress the time a lot, but, if you don’t mind some none of our business advice, just relax and enjoy the place. And don’t forget that you just might miss that &@#&%%$#@ stroller very shortly!


  4. 4 Michelle

    Yes, you are a stalker. But I live with one myself and without him, I wouldn’t have half the friends that I do. It’s a good thing.

    So maybe you’ve been one of the Athleta runners all along but your NC friends have been holding you back….ever thought of that? You pushed us and we wanted to cry! I can’t even imagine how hard this must have been. You are up for it though, I know it. There’s nothing you can’t do girl.

    Guess us MO girls are going to have to kick it up a notch if we want to run with you again.

    • 5 Jessica

      I laughed so hard reading this, regardless of already hearing the story from you. You have just said what so many of us want to say about our workouts with you.
      It’s time someone pushes you past the comfort levels of running to maximize your own abilities. I look forward to running the hills with you in SoCal this summer. In the mean time…I need to train so that I may be able to keep up. Just keep looking forward to the next workout…kick some booty.

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