I’m only five minutes into a treadmill run¹ and already the first bead of sweat is trickling its little rivulet down my forehead. I swipe at it with the back of my hand, wipe my hand on a towel, then crank up my pace.²
A ridiculously tall, frustratingly thin, and enviously athletic woman steps astride the treadmill next to me. We will hence forth refer to her as “The Villain.” The Villain unwittingly stepped into the battle zone. We are about to battle to the death. Or, at least until I pass out.
As she escalates her treadmill to a jog, I sneak a sidelong glance at her treadmill readings. She’s set at 6.0. Puh-lease. She’s, like, seven feet tall. By my mathematical calculations†, 5.3 is an equivalent pace for my five-foot-two-inch frame. Now, we run. The goal? Stay on the treadmill longer than the Villain. Preferably in an upright position.
Ten minutes later …
I’m sweating profusely. My bottle of water is within arm’s reach and taunting me — seducing me with its siren song of cool refreshment.
I. will. not. yield.
Oh, sure. I could try to drink while running at this pace, but I’ve made this mistake before. 11:30-minute pace = water anywhere but in my mouth. Treadmill neighbors are not generally appreciative of this.
Ten more minutes later …
The Villain drops her pace to a brisk walk. HA! I elevate my treadmill to a 2.0 incline.
As the room starts to blur (either because I’m slipping into unconsciousness or because there are four gallons of sweat in my eyes), I start bargaining with myself. Just make it through this song on your iPod, then you can lower the treadmill back to flat. One song. 4 minutes or less. You can do it. Don’t be a sissy!! What would Jay-Z say if he was here right now? Huh?
Before my song ends, the Villain starts running again. 6.5 now. She’s totally cheating. She’s probably taking performance enhancing substances. Someone urine test this bitch.
Song over. (Yeah. Great idea, genius. Put the extended version on your playlist.) I lower my elevation and crank the speed up to 5.5. I’m practically flying!³ My lungs feel like they’re in a vice, my calf muscles are complaining to my quads, and my quads are complaining to my hips. My hips are bypassing my spine and sending an SOS directly to the part of my brain that supposedly allows for reason and common sense. We’re sorry. All circuits are busy now. Please try your call again later.
I. Will. Not. Yield.
The Villain isn’t even sweating; she’s glistening from the slight moisture emanating from her flawlessly tan skin.° I am red as a Maine lobster immersed in a boiling kettle. The sweat and oil oozing from my facial pores may as well be a side of butter.
I. WILL. NOT. YIELD.
I slow down to 4.3. I feign iPod troubles. I gulp down the sweet, clear nectar that is ice water. I do a Tanya Harding shoelace check. Karma deals me a vicious blow by turning my eyes to the clock – an act I’ve assiduously tried to avoid. I learn I’m 30 minutes into the death-match. The Villain is running again. I decide she’s not human.
I turn the treadmill back up to 5.3 and try to ignore the pain. I focus on the shiny bald head of a man using a stationary bike in front of me. I practice my Lamaze breathing (because this is the only time that shit EVER works).
Two minutes pass.
Dammit! Why is she still running? WHHHHHHHYYYYYYY?
Then, just as I think I cannot go one step farther … as my muscles ache and cramp and scream profanities … as my head spins, and the guy on the spin bike in front of me turns into 12 guys on spin bikes on front of me … the Villain does the unthinkable. She stops.
I AM VICTORIOUS! I AM THE WINNER. I AM A GOLDEN GOD!
I keep running just to be sure the Villain didn’t slink off for a drink of water only to return and mock me. When I’m sure she’s gone, I touch the treadmill screen to stop it and look at my stats. I am stunned. I ran 4.67 miles in less than 60 minutes.
I step off the treadmill and feel the same weird sensation you get when you exit a roller coaster. I am elated. I am pumped full of adrenaline and endorphins. I am exhausted in a way that feels infinitely good and stupidly painful. I am so full of WIN, I would need to pee if I hadn’t already sweated out twice my body weight in water.
Never you mind that I went home and ate a Dove bar and four extra-strength Advil. There will be another leggy treadmill victim tomorrow. And, I will be ready.
As soon as someone helps me off this couch.
¹By “run,” some people mean a fast-paced forward momentum that moves a person about a mile in eight or nine minutes. Personally, I prefer a much looser definition for “run,” which includes forward momentum that’s slightly faster than … say … walking.
²Hey, there’s a serious difference between a 12-minute mile and an 11:50-minute mile. Just ask my knees.
³Seriously, the breeze was flowing through my hair. It might have been because the air condition vent was right above me, but I think not.
†I totally made this up.
ºFake ‘n bake. I’m just sayin’.