I had been looking forward to today’s run for weeks. The Albuquerque Academy boys cross country team invited me to run with them way back in December at Nike Cross Nationals, (where they raced and I did TV commentary,) and senior Alex stalked me on facebook last month to hold me to my promise.

Academy Boys TeamWe arranged to meet at the trailhead to the foothills, and he would bring whichever teammates were willing to wake up by 10:00am on a Sunday morning. I would have loved nothing more than to go on a 90 minute run with those guys, powering up the hills and showing them what women are capable of. But since my longest run is 45 minutes for 2010, and just yesterday I didn’t even run because I was hacking up my lungs, I drove to the trailhead with trepidation.

I couldn’t help wishing that I had planned this run two weeks from now. But I really looked forward to seeing this boys team and hanging out in the way runners do…running, followed by eating. I decided I would just let them know I needed to go easy, and then no matter what, refuse to let them drop me.

Within 30 seconds, I felt like someone stabbed an electric carving knife into my chest, and then lit my lungs on fire. When I checked my watch at 4 minutes, I had serious doubts that I’d be able to make it two miles, much less finish the run. The guys were chatty and the trail was extremely hilly. Well, it wasn’t that hilly, but at altitude even the smallest hills increase respiration, so this was very bad news for my lungs. Talking made it almost impossible to run. But then when we hit a little downhill, my lungs relaxed, and I saw a potential strategy that could help me survive the run.

I would only speak on the downhills and right before it went up, I’d ask a question. They would talk the whole way up the hill, (slowing them down,) and I would try my best to let their story distract me from my discomfort. Several times I had to go to a happy place. I’m not kidding.

But when we hit the turn around point, the way back was a net downhill so I only wanted to fake a sprained ankle six times. When we finally rounded the last curve back to the parking lot, I let it slip to one of the runners, “you have no idea how hard that was for me today. I tried so hard to be tough, and I wasn’t going to tell you but I need someone to know what that was really like!” He just looked at me like “ok.” He wasn’t impressed.

We only ran 7:30 pace for just over 6 miles, but for me on this day, that was big time. From there we all went to a breakfast joint to refuel and shoot the shit. They are a great team, good story tellers, and fun to be around. But most impressive to me was the way they actively kept me involved in the conversation, asking questions and building off new topics. Their ability to have a two-way conversation puts them way ahead of many men 10 years older than them. I look forward to meeting up with them again when I’m not sucking wind so bad. I still need to show them what a girl can do. 🙂