Run for Chocolate 5K

Let’s be perfectly clear: Lydia and I did not sign up for the Run for the Chocolate 5K because we’re such major fans of Valentine’s Day or cheesy romantic comedies or chocolate hearts or codependent sporting events. Sure, you might have seen us zipping around Columbia, Mo., in matching spandex on a custom-built tandem and thought to yourself, “Those people spend a lot of time trying to be painfully adorable,” but believe it or not, we don’t. We’re very tough. A chocolate-themed Valentine’s Day Couples’ 5K is just something that happened to us, not something we came up with while reading Cathy cartoon strips and brainstorming “cute things to do involving social constructions of romance.”

So with that disclaimer out of the way, I’ll proceed to tell you about the Run for the Chocolate 5K in St. Louis. I gave Lydia registration to the race several months in advance because she needed something to motivate her winter training. As you might recall, she started running in barefoot shoes to mitigate recurring knee problems, and progress has been pretty slow. Run for the Chocolate was well scheduled for motivational purposes, but since the race seemed intended as a sort of dating event (with opposite-sex leaders in each age category winning a date with each other), I was a little concerned the website would make one of us register as a dude. After all, we do live in Missouri, where Rick Santorum won every single county in the recent Republican primary. Luckily this turned out to be totally unnecessary gay paranoia on my part. (Although perhaps not that unreasonable—this race was scheduled for the same day in St. Louis, and two lesbians were initially barred from entering as a couple.)

By the time the day of the race rolled around, the “Feels Like” weather index hovered around 5 degrees, and we both reconsidered all our life decisions. Lydia was very grumpy, which made me feel like the abusive stage mom of the 5K world—the kind of person who signs people up for things they don’t want to do and stuffs them into funny clothes for cute photos.

Masking grouchiness with cuteness.

I’ll let Lydia describe the actual race because if I do it, it’ll become an epic hero’s journey through a fortress of hardship, wintry tribulation and frozen chocolate. She’s more to the point:

“The Run for the Chocolate 5k was the first race I have participated in. I started running again for the 200th time recently, and as usual, I was having a hard time getting myself to stick with it. The race seemed like a good motivator—I’m brilliant at finding every excuse possible to not go running, but once money has been sunk into an event, I stop procrastinating. To be totally honest, I’m pretty sure the real reason I got my act together for the race was pride. The fear of embarrassing myself in a crowd of runners was just more than I could take.

Cait signed us up for the run in December when the weather was still a disturbingly pleasant 55 degrees. When we drove to St. Louis for the race, the temperatures were hovering more appropriately in the lower 20′s, and even though I packed all my warmest running clothes (including the toe socks to go with my Vibram Fivefingers) and was prepared to run looking like a deep-sea diver in head-to-toe black tech gear, I woke up in a panic the morning of the race wondering why I thought that running on a February morning was a good idea.

After a 20-minute pre-coffee grump that poor Cait was forced to endure, I pulled myself and my wetsuit together, and we drove downtown to the race. We couldn’t find parking and drove around for ten minutes before parking in a gravel lot next to the river, dashing in front of an incoming train and arriving at the starting line just as the national anthem ended, and the crowd started moving forward. I’m happy to say, not having to wait around in the cold was the most exciting part of the whole event.

Somehow Lydia managed to make a balaclava look like the kind of cheap beard a third grader might wear for a report on Abe Lincoln.

Aside from almost being run over by a stroller, and Cait nearly eating pavement from running backward into a sign while trying to take my picture, those were the easiest five kilometers I have ever run. The race was exciting and fun, and it couldn’t have hurt that I had a patient and supportive girlfriend to run my very slow pace with me. I can’t complain about the chocolate I was given for finishing, either.”

See? My account of the event would have been at least twice as long. I would have played up the drama of darting across the icy train tracks and nearly missing the beginning of the race, only to be trammeled by a baby jogger and nearly clothes-lined by an unexpected construction sign.

The shot I snapped while crashing.

I also would have mentioned that we crossed the finish line “in a dead heat,” as described by the announcer, at around 31:00—hardly the “very slow” pace Lydia describes. It certainly wasn’t enough to win in the Happy Couples category, but we both managed to avoid frostbite and tragic death beneath a train, so I’m calling the day a success. And now we have another pair of matching shirts to gay out in.

So maybe we are into things like chocolate bon bons and heterosexual mating rituals and Valentine’s Day. If things get any more nauseatingly coupley over here, we might have to start our own fight club. I mean, a fight club that’s not about tickling. But as tough and unsentimental as I am, I have to say that running a race with a partner is a lot more fun than participating alone. Team Catjokes: marathon-ready by summer!