When we were dating, Jerry would sometimes throw out physics riddles for me to solve. So it makes sense that Jerry would have assigned me to run a 5k, as he was clearly put on this earth to cause me pain.

Not that he hasn’t been a great coach – Jerry’s been sending me links to possible races & running tips via text message. Having someone who genuinely wants me to succeed is a terrific motivator.

The trouble is, I’m awful. I am not one of those people who run five miles “for fun”. I am not someone who “feels great!” after a jog. I’m someone who runs about eight blocks then stops because her lungs are clawing their way out her throat. I crawl back into my apartment & splay out on the floor, panting & praying to sweet God that my death rattling won’t wake up my sleeping boyfriend – not because I value his sleep, but were anyone to see me in that condition I’d probably have to gouge their eyes out so it would never happen again.

There’s a surprising amount of shopping you can do when looking for the 5k you want to run. Jerry, again, had several suggestions, but I finally settled on the Athletes United For Peace Spring Chase, taking place at the Hearland Cafe on May 24th. I like the AUFP runs because they’re supportive of all skill levels, they’re local, & their mantra of “friendship, respect & trust through athletic activities” is one I can get behind. Also, it is free.

Until May 24th, though, I have quite a way to go. You see…I run in secret. I wait until most people are at work before I even think of lacing up my sneakers. I wrap my face in scarves & wear big, floppy hats & when I finally do take off, I run as far away from civilization as I can. With a Chicago Public High School on one side of my home & a StreetWise Youth Media down the block, escaping the cruel ridicule of teenagers is much more easily said than done. Slowly – very, very slowly – I trudge through alleys & near parks, avoiding the busier streets, tucking my head down whenever I near a dogwalker. I loop around the nearby cathedral & look down at my legs as I go, silently yelling “WHY? WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO ME? DO I NOT LOVE YOU? DO I NOT LAVISH YOU WITH CREAMY MOISTURIZERS & TENDERLY SHAVE YOU DAILY? DO I NOT MASSAGE YOU EVERY NIGHT, PRESSING OUT ACHES IN SCREAMING MUSCLES I DID NOT EVEN KNOW I HAD? REALLY? I MEAN, COME ON. HOW CAN THAT PART OF MY THIGH HURT? WHAT IS THAT? WHAT DOES THAT EVEN DO?” until, stumbling, I make my way to the gate & crawl in the door. Falling into the house I pause, listening for signs of boyfriends, crooks, evil ghosts, anyone who might spot me sucking in air with great, audible force, then walk around with my hands on my head for a “cool down”, trying to understand how anyone, anywhere, could ever call this “fun”.