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"Listen up, ladies," I said as I knelt on the sand. "If you don't want to wait around while I tighten up these shoe laces you can run on ahead without me. I'm sure I'll catch right up."
It was trash talk, plain and simple, and my wife, Kristin, an eight-time marathoner; and daughter, Charlotte, a National Guard soldier and ROTC Cadet, fresh off her first "Ranger Challenge" (a weekend-long decathlon of all things Army) were having none of it.
"Oh no, John," said Kristin. "You just take your time and do what you have to do. This is family time. I think it's best that we stay together."
That was certainly not what I had been hoping to hear. My stall tactics had already delayed our start by 10 or 15 minutes, and I had figured that with both of them pawing the sand like a pair of pony-tailed cheetahs, they'd be happy to take off and commence with whoopin' on each other. But there was a bigger fish to fry that morning on Daytona Beach, and neither of them would be happy until the one with the backward ball cap and three-day beard was turning on a spit.
I'm not entirely sure what lies at the root of the primal pleasure women derive from beating up on mild-mannered guys like me. I mean, when it comes to running I'm the least competitive man I know. And sure, I'm in pretty good shape from riding my bicycle more or less continuously for the past 30 years, but running is a different game altogether. I have no interest in running for recreational purposes. For me, running is something one does only when being chased -- and only then when there are no bicycles available.
Such was the case on the beach that day. For the first time in my adult life I had actually traveled somewhere without bringing a bike along. This was by design. Somewhere in my mind I thought it might be an OK thing to spend an entire week off the bike -- after all it had literally been years. Kristin thought it would be a good idea too. In retrospect, I think she may have had an ulterior motive.
Now I found myself being "chased" by the idea that as my womenfolk mashed out a half-dozen miles on the tideline each morning to earn their evening beer, I was lounging about the hotel lobby downing Belgian waffles and jelly rolls as if it was an Olympic event. All the while I imagined my fitness eroding like a surf-swamped sand castle.
I suited up to run not because I wanted to, but because without my daily dose of exercise-induced endorphins my tiny brain was telling me that by the time I got back to civilization I would be a 300-pound couch cushion. The women had begun to salivate the moment I suggested I might join them. Now I was literally on my knees trying to gracefully beg out.
Ultimately, it came down to something approximately akin to honor. I had to do what I said I was going to do or I'd never be able to live with either of them for the duration of the vacation. I tied my shoes, started my watch and we ran. Based on Kristin's previous runs, it would take us 20 minutes or so to get to the boardwalk on the distant horizon, then we could turn around and run back.
By the time my watch passed the 6-minute mark I was writhing in the sand as the pony tails disappeared into the sun; my seized quadriceps glistening like a pair of smoked hams. I had returned to my feet by the time the girls made it back around.
"I found an interesting shell and stopped to check it out," I said. "By the time I looked up you had both vanished, so I just stayed here so I wouldn't miss you on the way back! 'Family time,' you know."
For some strange reason I don't believe either of them were fooled.