Challenges and Surprises

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The past 48 hours:

I poured a large bowl of granola. They said online to eat a couple hours before you run so you won’t get sick. I pulled on an old t-shirt I’ve had since my freshman year of high school and grabbed some tennis shoes. My mom told me to keep my old tennis shoes after she bought me new ones. They would be perfect for ruining.

I was ready for my first (and possibly only) 5K.

I met up with a few girls I met in a small group at church and we made our wave to Zephyr’s stadium for the race. Of course this race would parade us past the Saints’ training facilities and alongside a major road. Our wave didn’t run until 10:20am, so we had an hour to kill. A few people who looked like they dove into a pool rounded the corner into the stadium to finish the race. Their lack of actually muddiness confused me. We walked around and stretched for a while. By 10am, the temperatures soared well over 90 degrees with that heavy New Orleans humidity sticking us to the ground. None of the girls in my group were particularly athletic, but I’d heard them talk about running before, so I assumed they actually trained for this. My knees shook just a little when we began lining up.

“10, 9, 8, 7, 7, 7, (New Orleans education at work) 4, 3, 2, 1!”

We stood halfway back through the small crowd and it took a minute to begin shuffling our feet. Each heat unleashed 200 people along the course every 20 minutes. Tall men in cut-off shirts ran around us. Tasha blazed ahead while the rest of us run together. I tried keeping their pace, but they moved too slow. I jogged a little ahead of them to the first obstacle. We climbed up and over a crude ladder constructed of 2×4’s tied between trees. It shook a little as we moved. We began jogging to the next obstacle around the bend, and the distance between Tasha and I shortened as the group fell farther behind. Tasha stood at the next hurdle.

“Alright, Alyssa. I guess you’re coming with me.”

My eyes popped out of my head. I’d met Tasha twice before, and I really liked her. She’s crazy in a funny and entertaining way. As we jogged side by side, she told me about the two marathons she’s run and a few other races. This race was small potatoes for this girl. After clearing the hurdles through the trees, it was about a quarter mile of open field. We ran around the field along a fence and then zig-zagged across it. We climbed over a net, where my head met a teenage guy’s tennis shoe with force. But we kept jogging along. I couldn’t make it. I needed water. I needed shade. The heat blazed over me.

Finally we reached the first tubes through mud and slid through. I soaked my clothes in the cold water a little more than necessary. We ran past our first water station and grabbed a couple sips before continuing on. Tasha kept a consistent pace, but the heat wore me down quickly. I walked until I saw Tasha reach the next obstacle. She called out to encourage me and I jogged to catch up. It went on like this for the next ten minutes or so. Soon, we were back in the trees and running became easier. I didn’t keep her pace, but I jogged in longer spurts.

Our first real mud pit was about fifty feet of army crawling through mud. It didn’t smell sanitary. The rest of the race was pretty easy. The frequent breaks for obstacles meant I could walk if I couldn’t handle the running. Plenty of trees shaded the course. Sprinklers and mud kept me cool. At one point, I stepped up to climb out of a mud pit, but my foot slipped and I basically tackled a girl before catching myself. The next pit I sloshed through lapped water up to my chin.

The home stretch became the hardest. We ran on concrete now and there were people standing all around talking in the middle of the course, not noticing people trying to run by. Some people encouraged us and shouted to us. We crossed the finish line and immediately began being handed towels, medals, and t-shirts. We finished in just under an hour. Considering the number of obstacles and waiting in line for obstacles (see giant blob obstacle and scary net we had to roll down), I don’t think that’s too bad.

The rest of our group finished about twenty minutes later and we all showered in the make shift shower powered by the fire hydrant. I didn’t feel too sore or too tired even, but I spent my afternoon watching television on the couch recuperating anyway. I attended the Saturday night service at church to reserve Sunday for rest. Facetiming Heath at 7:30pm, I began drifting off.

“Come to Mont Belvieu. Let’s go. I want to see you.”

“My eyes are closed already. I can’t drive five hours.”

“Pleaseeeeeee,” Heath begged. I loved Heath’s crazy ideas, and I’d drive to Houston to spend just 24 hours together before. But not tonight.

I couldn’t keep my eyes open or hold a conversation. We hung up at 8:04pm, and I passed out in my bed. I awoke somewhere around 5:30am, and instantly hated it. It wasn’t groggy weekend awake; it was ready to get up and move around awake. My phone vibrated next to me and I answered Heath’s call.

“Hey baby.”

“Hey. Were you sleeping?”

“No, I woke a little while ago. Why are you up?”

“I’m always up this early.” Lies. “Hey I forgot, did you get a package from me?”

“No…?”

“Will you go check? It was really expensive.”

“You want me to check my mail before six in the morning?”

“Humor me, okay?”

“Fine. Whoa. Stood up to fast.” My room spun around me a little and I walked down the hallway to my front door. I half expected to see him shadow through the glass, which would be terrifying and perfect at the same time, but I didn’t. I hoped quietly that he would surprise me.

I pulled open the curtains and saw him standing on the side walk. I didn’t see his car anywhere. Did he drive all night?

I unlocked the door in shock and he greeted me with a hug before I could step outside.

“How did you get here? Why?” I whispered while we hugged. The delusion of just rising out of bed blurred my sense of reality.

“After we hung up, I really wanted to see you. I looked up times for a Megabus and there was one leaving at 11:15pm from Houston. I called and bought my tickets, threw stuff in a bag, got gas, and sped there. And then I got a taxi to bring me here.”

Only Heath would would do something so crazy. So perfect. The spontaneity, the joy, the surprise, yesterday quickly and easily became the best day of my life. Heath slept a few hours while I rushed around trying to make my apartment more presentable. We ate breakfast in bed, biked to Cafe du Monde, devoured some French donuts. There’s nothing like a four mile bike ride to loosen up the soreness in your legs and concentrate it all on your butt bones.

We watched a movie, ate popcorn, napped, talked, cooked, painted, and relaxed all day. It didn’t begin feeling real until after noon. I still couldn’t believe it. We fell asleep wishing we could be together and woke up to each other.

I dropped Heath off at the Megabus at midnight and he made it back to Houston this morning, just in time for traffic.

It’s amazing the risks we take in life. I wouldn’t have run this 5K if Heath and I hadn’t talked a week ago about running a half marathon together.

It’s amazing the risks we take in life. Not many people would give up two nights of sleep to ride on a bus with 60 strangers from New Orleans to Houston just to spend 18 hours together. Love Does.

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