I’ve secretly been competing with you all semester…you’re winning
My heart rate picks up and I can feel the tension in my chest. As I place my feet down on the moving rubber belt, energy escapes my restless legs. The puff of my heavy breathing is overcome by an army of humming treadmills.
My feet pound in perfect synchronicity to Nelly’s bass. “Heart” (thump) “of” (thump) “a” (thump) “champ” (thump) “-ion” (thump)…” It’s my first trip to the gym this week and for a rare occasion, I’m feeling good.
But with one glance to the side, the moment of euphoria comes crashing down.
There she is, in that stupid green headband, bobbing up and down two treadmills away. I should have known better; it’s a Thursday.
She’s a religious Tuesday-Thursday gym-goer, with an occasional Friday appearance. Not last Friday though, I waited because I needed to blow some steam but she never came. We’ve never spoken and I avoid eye contact, but she must recognize me by now. We’ve been running next to each other for three years now, pushing each other to sprint faster, work harder, run longer. Little does she know, it’s a competition. I intend to win.
She’s not on her usual machine, which makes it difficult to sneak a peek at her stats, but I can tell from the ring of sweat around her t-shirt collar that she’s being going for a while. She typically doesn’t start sweating until at least after the first mile.
I stretch my neck and quirk my head but it’s no use. The football player between us blocks my vision. I pick up my speed, just in case.
No matter how hard I try, I can’t help but look her way. It’s like my eyes are controlled by a brain of their own and I’m oddly reminded of Eli, my seventh grade crush, who sat across the room in Mr. McMonigle’s science class.
I time my footsteps to her Nike Frees those — shoes mean business. Right. Left. Right. Left. This way, I’m forced to keep pace.
The guy between us slows to a walk and gets off the treadmill. Unfortunately, I still cannot see her elapsed time or speed.
I glance around, paying heed to common gym courtesy, careful not to let my eyes stop on anyone in particular. Nobody appears to be making a move towards the open machine. This is my chance but I’m afraid she’ll become suspicious.
Just in case, I make a scene, bringing my treadmill to an immediate stop, cursing it for interrupting my workout. Then I casually switch machines.
She doesn’t seem to notice.
Ah, a clear view at last! I was right, she’s been running over ten minutes, 1.2 miles in, and seems to be going strong.
Assuming she’s doing her regular Friday workout, she will be taking a break in .3 miles. I decide to walk until then.
This semester she’s run a total of 64 miles, give or take a few. Average pace: 6.7 mph. Average calories burned per workout: 343.
Right on cue, she begins to walk, but the minute is short-lived. She increases her speed to a jog and I, too, start jogging. Two minutes later, she increases again. I follow suit. She attempts to look at my speed and time so I cover them with my magazine. We hit the two-mile marker and I pray she’s stopping soon.
To my despair, she pushes through without a break.
I start to feel nauseous but I refuse to let her win. NOT THIS TIME GREEN HEADBAND GIRL! I keep pace for half a mile until she ups her speed to 7.2 and I can’t keep up. I add an incline to compensate, staying at 6.6. This way, she will be fooled into thinking she’s pushing herself harder than I am.
As we approach the last lap of mile three, she increases to a sprint. I know this means the end is near. I up my speed to match hers until the finish line and all I can think about it what I’m going to make for dinner. A quesadilla? I don’t think I have cheese. Chili? Not in the mood. Curry? Yeah, that sounds good.
This lap is never-ending. I refuse to let myself look down at the numbers. I know, I’ll count to 50 and by then the lap will be over. 1… 2… 3…4..5..6..126.96.36.199.11.12…
Her fingers creep toward the speed button. No, no, don’t do it. Please, for the love of God, don’t do it.
7.5. I can’t. But I will! 20 seconds left. If green headband girl can do it, so can I! In fact, I’ll one-up her. 7.6!
We race to the finish line, one foot after the other, my legs moving faster than I ever thought they could. The little green dots on the machine complete the lap at a tortoise-like pace but together, we make it!
I frantically press the stop button, collapsing my upper body forward onto the machine, on the verge of passing out. Intense pain shoots through my abdomen. I can’t catch my breath.
Green headband girl finishes her cool down and strides off the machine with her head up, humming to the beat of her Ipod. I want to stare her in the eyes and scream but I can’t blow my cover.
Oh well, at least I’ve got better fashion sense. Green headbands are so middle school.
Abby Sophir is a junior TVR major who may not be good at cardio, but is a beast when it comes to Zumba. Email her at gsophir1[at]ithaca[dot]edu