Monday, December 16, 2013

Go Deck Yourself

How many times has she insisted she is not competitive? Too many to enumerate.

How many times have I insisted no one will pull the wool over my eyes? Same answer.

It was a few month ago when Susan announced she had signed us up for the “Santa Shuffle” on Mount-Royal. The event has been happening in Montreal for several years; conclusive proof, yet again, my address remains, “lives under a rock”.

She had also signed us up for the 5K “Color Me Rad” run last June, which turned out to be fun and quite survivable for someone with zero appreciation for running. She explained the “Santa Shuffle” was also a 5K run for which participants dress in festive colors and garb.

To me, it also sounded like harmless fun!

We left the house early December 7th and, without issue, found parking on Mount-Royal. The day was bright and sunny with a slight bite to the air. The wind chill was listed at -10 Celsius.

We found the starting line at the chalet right on top of the mountain. I had done some token training; running on the treadmill at the gym for a few minutes here and there. Stupid, really. It was meaningless training and probably begs the question, “why bother?”

At the starting line
With impressive dispatch, Susan had already completed the popular “Couch To 5K” running program, while I, with equal dispatch, perfected the far less effective “Couch To Kitchen” version of the program.

Surrounded by holiday hats and Christmas tuques and armed with several warnings on the part of organizers about icy running conditions, the run began. I started running, making certain not to set off at too aggressive a pace. Running too quickly at the outset would surely burn out my non-existent energy reserves in no time, plus, after sweetly offering to run with me for the entire distance, I didn’t want Susan to complain I was running faster than she wanted.

Most of the time, I ran behind her, cautiously, quietly muttering and cursing myself. Most of the time, she chatted away, inevitably ending verbal sequences with a question. I was sure she was deliberately torturing me! I could neither find enough air to answer beyond a desperate one-syllable grunt, nor could I find enough air to compose rational thoughts!

In the end, I tended to ignore her questions when they came. It might have been more considerate to have at least spray-painted the letters “SOS” on my forehead. That way, when I didn’t answer, I could, between  deafening heaves, turn my message in the direction of her indignant gaze.

Finally, after three kilometres or so of straight running, I asked if I could walk a bit. She sweetly agreed. People roared past. Santas roared past. Elves roared past. Dogs on leashes roared past. Lopsided squirrels with their cheeks full of nuts roared past. With only the slightest hint of impatience in her voice, she asked when we could start running again.

A few moments later and against my better judgement, I resumed the run.

Please allow me to go down on record here as saying how much I hate the runners who effortlessly floated past me in those final kilometres, cheerily singing Christmas carols! Go deck yourself.

There might have been less than a kilometre to go when we circled the marker signalling the final stretch of the run. As we circled the marker, we could see the runners who were behind us. Sensing my fragile mental state, as well as my embarassing physical state, Susan exclaimed, in a barely patronizing tone, “Look, you’re beating all these people to the finish line.”

At least it wasn’t a question.

Laboring mightily, I gasped, “There’s only one person I want to beat.” Sweetly, she responded, “Don’t worry, I’ll let you beat me.” At that point in the run, it consoled me to know that if ever I were to write a memoir, I would be able to get some positive-sounding mileage out of this infernal run’s finish. The thought provided my sputtering tank with a meagre spark.

I thought I was falling backwards when, with 100 yards to go until the finish line, she suddenly sprinted ahead. I hoped it was a nightmarish scene from an exhaustion-induced hallucination! It wasn’t. I sprinted after her and I use the word “sprinted” here very loosely, because what I did was more like stumbling, toppling and flailing in a pathetic effort to catch her long, bobbing Christmas hat.

Gleefully, she streaked across the finish line well before my tattered form. I wouldn’t talk to her. In truth, I couldn’t talk to her; my head and eyeballs were spinning in opposite directions!

On so many levels, the outcome served me right. It served me right for believing she wasn’t so competitive that she would trounce her struggling husband. It served me right for failing to put in the adequate training I’d need to defend my pride in the event my true love were to make a sudden and ruthless dash for the finish.

She says she’ll be signing us up for the "Santa Shuffle" next year. Oh, good. Scarred though I may be, with my vision newly-obscured by a wooly substance, I will probably be there for next year’s Santa Shuffle, as unprepared as usual. After all, it’s a time of year for spreading good cheer and if Susan can spread her own at my expense, we seem to be good with that.