This story is by Mike Horner and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
As Dax ran into the meadow of exploding color little did he know that his life was about to change forever.
It had been a long, hot summer filled with monthly races and he was looking for some down time in the mountains he loved. He needed time away from everyone to look at what was important with no thoughts of the next race in November. He pushed out the thoughts of the current season, a successful yet disappointing racing season filled with podium finishes, yet also two pesky DNFs (Did Not Finish) where his stomach had revolted and he had to drop before the finish of two 100 mile races. More importantly it was time to listen to the sage advice of his mom.
“Dax, dear. I really am proud of you and all you have accomplished with your running while still maintaining such a stressful full time job but there’s something missing from your life…” his mom began on their monthly Sunday coffee together.
“Mom, please. Let’s not go there again. I told you. There is not a girl in the world who would be willing to share my passions with me.”
“What if there was? What if the perfect girl is out there just waiting to go on long runs with you? I go to your races and I see every runner coming through the aid stations. There are plenty of pretty girls just as tough as you. They can run as far and are just as dedicated to their running. Open your eyes and your heart son, she’s out there.”
“I once agreed with you Mom. There was a girl in college that I saw at races but good luck trying to find her ever again. Let’s just stop even talking about it. It wears me out more than a fifty mile run”
Dax seemed to be trying to run that conversation out of his head when he came out of the meadow with the beautiful aspen trees and their splendid colors of oranges and yellows exploding all around him. As he began the ascent of The Wall of Death (a 3000 foot elevation climb over 3 miles), he thought he could churn thoughts of love out of his mind.
“What if she’s right?” he said out loud as he topped up over the first long pitch and gathered in some much needed oxygen to continue up the second pitch.
His thoughts had been so much into the conversation in his head and the exertion of the climb that he hadn’t heard or seen the runner coming down the trail toward him.
“What if who’s right?” came a reply in a strong, opulent voice from in front of him. Startled he looked up to see a dream apparition in front of him. Long, blonde hair tied in pigtails flowing out behind a tan face beaming with a broad smile, and…those eyes. Deep, brown eyes that held his gaze steadily. As they both ground to a halt, her coming down the trail and he going up, they both just stared at each other as if they knew each other but didn’t know each other and both were searching for words or breath or both.
Finally Dax said, “Mom”.
The creature in front of him replied, “So you have one of those too. And here we all thought you descended out of the mountains and were mostly mountain goat.”
“You know me?” Dax stumbled.
“Everybody knows you. We watch admiringly and jealously as you explode by us on climbs. Of course we also want to trip you so we can at least say hi but you’re laser focused.”
“Well…I…uh…I…my name is Dax”, he replied. Feeling like a total nerd he thought to himself “See Mom that’s why I can’t meet girls, I can’t even carry on a conversation with these strange creatures. I need to get back to running.”
The chuckle held him though. “I’m Lacy from Ten Sleep. It’s good to finally meet you Dax.” the smooth, quiet voice replied. “Mind if I run up to the top with you? I’ll try not to slow you down.”
“Uh, sure…that would be great.” Dax finally managed to stumble out.
With that Dax and Lacy began the rest of the climb up to the top at a much slower pace than Dax was used to as they carried on a conversation about running, nutrition, technique for ascending and descending pitches on the trails. Before they knew it they were back at their cars at the head of the canyon, eagerly making plans for a dinner meet up that evening.
As Dax came into cell service, he pulled out his phone and called his mom. “Thank you Mom. I love you.” he softly whispered into the phone.
“I knew it Dax, you found a good woman to fall in love with.”
The following weeks were filled with a wonder and magical awakening Dax and Lacy never dreamed possible. Lacy, on a whim, entered the same November race as Dax and they set off for the last 100 mile race of the year together. Even more startling was that they both not only stood on the age group podium but also for the first time in their running careers both stood on the overall men’s and women’s podiums together – Dax second and Lacy third.
Following a whirlwind winter romance, spring training and summer race season, Dax and Lacy were ascending The Wall of Death together again. Only this time, they were preceded by family and friends to the summit to celebrate their wedding.
As Dax waited at the altar he glanced over at his beautiful mom. She looked so peaceful just gazing at him that he left where he was standing to go give her a hug. As they hugged he whispered in her ear, “Thank you Mom. I love you and I thank you for always believing that there was someone out there for me.”
“She’ll be there for life son. Just treat her right, respect her and cherish her.”
The wedding and all that followed was a glorious adventure and it was years later as Dax and Lacy made their annual pilgrimage to the summit of The Wall of Death, only a little slower now with their twelve and ten year old daughters in tow, that as Dax reached over and hugged Lacy he finally asked.
“Where did you come from that day anyways?”
“Took you long enough to figure it out. I left town early, determined that I was finally going to track down the notorious Dax, the Outlaw Runner. I set the fastest pace I had ever attempted on The Wall as I wanted to get in the right spot…and then I waited for you to come into view up the first pitch and began to slowly run downhill, trying to time hitting the first break point just right.”
“You’re a crafty one Lacy.” Dax said with a chuckle.
“Yeah, but that’s what love is about. You have always said that if you want something bad enough you’ll figure out how to condition your body and your mind to reach that goal. I wanted to see if we were meant to be like the dreams I had of you. I dreamed of running through life together with you since I first saw you at a race in college. I never even allowed other boys a chance. It wasn’t until a conversation with my mom that I decided to take a chance and see if I could ‘run into’ you.”
“That’s funny. What did your mom say?”
“She said, ‘Lacy, what if the perfect guy is out there just waiting to go on long runs with you.”.
“Holy cow!!!” Dax replied. “That is exactly what my mom said and was why I asked that question out loud on the trail. ‘What if she’s right?’”
“She was right dear and so was my mom. There’s something about moms you know.”
And as they stopped on the trail and kissed they couldn’t help but chuckle as their two daughters in a chorus yelled “Oooooooo, gross…stop kissing all the time!”