When we tell people that we have a “history” in Virginia Beach, most people wink and nod and make some reference to the state’s slogan. The true story, however, is that our experience in Virginia Beach predates our relationship…something that’s pretty tough to do, considering that we’re on year 11 of “relationship.” This trip down memory lane is officially ancient history.
It is the late 1990’s. A certain young megarunr was running (when was she not?) summer track and had advanced to the AAU National Championships in the 3000m run. One of the other qualifiers (also in the 3000m) was a cute, funny boy from a neighboring town that our heroine was infatuated with to the point of ridiculousness. One day, the local paper (which no longer exists) visited the track to get a photo of the National qualifiers. That photo — the first that we both appear in — has been preserved in all its grainy, black and white glory.
A few things to note about this photo: I don’t remember for sure, but I’d be willing to bet the original intention was to photograph the people most likely to medal at nationals, i.e. the three fellas in the back row wearing the official “Track Club” tank tops. (They are, from left to right, a Division I javelin thrower, distance runner, and decathlete.) Apparently, the rest of us missed the memo…or were included as an afterthought. Hmm. Also, I find it hilarious that my brother’s best friend is standing on his toes (far left) in an attempt to be as tall as the thrower whose mom always had to bring his birth certificate to sporting events. A good plan, but it sort of backfires when there’s no one in front of you! Randomly, I kind of miss my short hair. It was somewhat annoying not to be able to put it in a full ponytail, but I think it looked cute. I may consider that this summer, when I want to shave my head. And, of course, the ridiculously infatuated found a way to be photographed next to the boy she had a crush on. I was in deep, folks.
Where does Virginia Beach fit in? It was the venue for Nationals that year. (Well, technically, Virginia Beach, Hampton Roads, and Norfolk were the venue…I remember all three names on the t-shirt!) Scott’s family stayed in a hotel on the boardwalk, but I only got to spend one day actually on the beach. I’m a little embarrassed (but not really, since I end up getting the guy) to say that I spent most of that day looking for Scott. Sure, there are several thousand athletes on the beach in addition to all the normal tourists…it’s completely plausible that we’d bump into each other! Finally, while walking to dinner, my insanity paid off. I saw Scott, and the conversation that must have consisted of “hi,” “the beach was fun,” and “see you tomorrow” left me positively giddy.
The next day was race day. I only have a few clear memories: (1) The track was green. Tracks are usually black or red, so the occasional blue or green definitely gets remembered. (2) Long before the race, they corralled us by age group in a tiny, cement-floored enclosure just off the track. Standing in spikes, on concrete, with no possibility of jogging around to loosen up was one of the more nerve-wracking pre-race experiences I’ve ever had. (3) The whole time I was stuck in the “cell,” Scott was outside the fence talking to me and encouraging me. (4) The race did not go very well…for either of us.
After my race, I convinced my parents to stick around long enough to watch Scott run. We were driving all the way back to Kansas that day, so they were eager to get started. I watched his race and even managed a few minutes to talk to him before I was whisked away for an 18-hour car ride. It was the end of the summer track season and — I thought — the last time I’d get to see him, so it was a bittersweet moment for me. Little did I know that more than a decade after our first trip we’d be returning together for another race. It turns out that I wasn’t the only one in deep…
He liked me a little, too.