I exercise five times a week. I either run or do Zumba or some workout DVD, or engage in ultimate fighting (OK, so I guess wrestling my one-year-old into her pajamas isn’t exactly ultimate fighting), but I am still not what I would call an ultra fit person. Moderately fit? Yeah. But I am not a paragon of fitness, waiting to be asked for my next photo shoot.
The other day I was jogging on the trail I use most often when my one-year-old proceeded to throw something out of the stroller. This happens at least twice a run, so when I say I run for forty-five minutes straight, what I really mean is I run until my toddler whines or chucks something, then I take a break and furiously suck in wind while I’m tending to her needs (and to my own side ache). Then I get back to running. While I was stopped, picking up the dropped object du-jour, another jogger passed me. This jogger was Ultra Fit Mom. It’s not hard to pick out Ultra Fit Mom. She’s always got the latest jogging stroller; I use my regular Graco. She’s always got the nicest MP3 player strapped to her arm; I just sing tunes in my head, which disturbingly cycles through “The Wheels on the Bus” and “Itsy Bitsy Spider” all too often. But, what defines Ultra Fit Mom most of all is her clothing. She proudly sports a sports bra and running pants that are so tight they must have been painted onto her skin; I wear an old t-shirt three sizes too big and my sweat pants with bleach stains on the leg. My video fashion blog will soon follow. I choose my attire because I believe in “standing as a witness at all times and in all things and in all places,” but also because, after four kids, most places on my body resemble jell-o more closely than toned muscle, and the one place I wouldn’t mind having enough heft to jiggle is now reduced to what could aptly be described as deflated balloons or rolled-up tube socks.
As Ultra Fit Mom passes me, I decide one thing. I will catch up. I will dog her every step. I will not be beaten. Now, I ‘m not saying I’m competitive. In high school I made certain I was always the top score on the test in AP European History. And I may or may not have done a little happy dance after beating my husband at Rumikub for the third time in a row. That tiny, insignificant competitive streak crops up every once in a while. And it came roaring to life when Ultra Fit Mom passed me. I kept up with her, running slightly faster than my usual pace so I was right behind her every step of the way. My one-year-old giggled at the wind rushing through her hair. I was doing well but secretly wondered how long I could keep it up.
Then, what’s this? Could it be? Ultra Fit Mom had an object chucking moment of her own! She had to stop. Ha! Now I was in the lead! I took great joy in passing, yes passing! Ultra Fit Mom. I could hear her footsteps start up behind me again. I had a little Gandalf moment, you know, when he proclaims to the Balrog, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” No, I didn’t scream it out loud in Ultra Fit Mom’s direction; I really didn’t want my run to end at the police station waiting for a psyche eval. But, instead of the incessant tunes that usually cycle through my head, I kept picturing Gandalf, bringing his hands together and banging down his wizard’s staff. I would not let this runner beat me. Each time I heard her footsteps getting closer, I would speed up my pace so she wouldn’t feel the need to go around me. “Take that, Ms. Sports Bra! Take that Ms. iPod! Take that Ms. Lycra!” These were the catty remarks that kept pounding in my brain with the pounding of every footstep. (I’m not proud to say those were in there, just honest.)
I was almost at the end of the trail when I realized I no longer heard footsteps behind me. I surreptitiously glanced back over my shoulder and saw Ultra Fit Mom had disappeared. She had apparently turned off onto a connecting trail sometime before. I had been so lost in my diabolical inner monologue I had failed to notice.
So, to the anonymous Ultra Fit Mom, thank you. I got a great work out. I ran harder and faster than I have in a long time. Though you’ll never know it, your presence will probably continue to motivate my runs and speed my footsteps for a good, long while.