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Digital Running Club » Running Mishaps » Where did John go?

Where did John go?

Brian navigated Van 2 up through the mountains just outside of Jasper, Tennessee, during leg seven of the Ragnar Relay, questioning what he might have got himself into. The hand off from the last runner of Van 1 to the first runner of Van 2 was flawless, so flawless that team captain Brian thought a little mingling between the near-strangers who called themselves teammates was in order.

Brian’s original plan for the Relay team was simple enough: consolidate a group of folks who were all looking for a team and make a team out of them. The consequence, however, was a conglomeration of unlikely personality types that one would expect if random decks of family reunions were shuffled together and thrown into an indiscriminate hand of cards. Fortunately, they all seemed to have a healthy sense of adventure, but, having all met each other face to face a mere few hours ago, they still had the uneasiness of strangeritis.

“Oh, shoot… We gotta go!” Brian called out to his Van 2 runners at the exchange zone as he glanced at his watch.

The crew packed in to the oddly decorated white van sporting witty comments and a jovial Halloween skeleton named Charlie who was retrofitted with strategically placed phallic marks of window marker.

Leg seven led up a mountain for roughly five miles, climbing 1303 feet up with no downhill reprieve. John seemed, like many others on the team, enthusiastic about the race. But having just met the guy himself, Brian wasn’t all too sure what to make of him.

“Wait, what was he wearing?” Raffi, the Van 2 navigator and official Team Mom, asked.

Brian in his elephant cap and John in full bunny mode

“Bunny. He’s dressed as a bunny,” Brian said. His eyes searched the runners out on the shoulder for bunny ears as the van creaked its way up the mountain. Van 2 had recently made a Walmart run and helped the store clear out a few remaining Halloween rejects. Most members of the team opted for subtle animal-shaped hats, cheaply slapped together with felt and hot glue. John, on the other hand, snagged a bunny kit intended for a five-year-old girl; which included fluffy bunny ears, a bow tie, and a cotton ball tail. The ensemble layered over John’s running clothes would have made Heff shudder.

As Brian rounded one steep curve after another, he spotted a pair of runners who left the exchange zone roughly the same time as John. His hands tightened on the steering wheel as he prepared to report the found runner to the rest of the team. He rounded another curve, and then another, and then another. But there was no John.

“Is that him?” someone called out from the back of the van.

“No,” Brian shot down as he got a closer look at the runner they were passing.

“What was his costume?”

“A bunny! He’s a bunny,” Brian called to the back, somewhat more irritated than he was trying to sound. Leading a team of strangers involves a bit of glass walking, never knowing what comment or tone might rub someone the wrong way.

He rounded a sweeping curve, driving close to the opposing traffic on the narrow two-lane road. As he did, he eyed the cliff just beyond the guard rail on the opposite side of the road. Brian’s imagination flashed with morbid thoughts of John mistakenly running on the wrong side of the road, taking a bad misstep to avoid oncoming traffic, and tumbling head-first down the rocky mountainside. This thought was a distant possibility at first, but as they continued to climb leg seven and passed runner after runner and did not spot John, this possibility slowly began to solidify.

“Did we miss him?” Raffi asked.

“No. Well… I don’t think so.” Brian considered doubling back, but his instinct was pushing him forward.

Rounding another curve, they passed a side road that split off of the main road. He wondered if John might have detoured or mistakenly taken the side road. The thought seemed ludicrous, but again, how well did he know John anyhow?

“Is that… yeah…” Raffi began. Brian’s eyes perked up. Then Raffi finished, “Yeah, that’s the one mile to go sign.”

Brian’s heart sank. We should have seen him by now!

He looked ahead and spotted a tall, rough runner who looked like an escapee from the old Eastern Bloc countries. He knew for sure that this questionable-looking character had a good half mile lead on John out of the exchange zone. And as they passed this giant of a man, he could see he was trucking it up the mountain at a fairly decent pace.

“We must have passed him,” Raffi said, practically reading Brian’s thoughts.

“Well. The next exchange is probably right over this next hill. We could drop off Mysti and…”

“There he is!” a voice called out from the back.

Just over the summit of the last hill, Brian could see John’s sweat-matted, floppy hair. In one hand, he held onto the bunny ear headband that he must have tossed off his head.

Brian called to the back, “Mysti! Get ready to jump out!”

He accelerated forward. A mere hundred yards ahead, the wheels squealed to a stop right in front of the next exchange zone. The van doors flew open and Mysti leaped out, accompanied by four other runners. With the slam of the doors, Brian sped off down a side road to hastily park the van. Meanwhile, Mysti strided out to the line of orange cones marking the runners’ exchange point, as the race officials repeated, “146! Team 146!”

Mysti jumped in the exchange chute just as John swung down and smacked the slap bracelet onto her arm. She took off running.

As John shuffled his way up to the van, Brian gave him a friendly nod and thought to himself, “Crisis averted.” Letting out a calming sigh, he announced, “Okay, let’s head out!” – not wanting to repeat the near-missed hand-off again.

Written by

With about 19 years and 27,000 logged miles under his feet, John strangely still enjoys a friendly run with complete strangers who happen to be in the same race, cracking jokes and/or singing songs along the way. He finds the camaraderie of a running team about as appealing as the isolationism that long distance running provides. We think that’s a complement. A bit strange and cartoonish on the outside, John enjoys the quiet introspective moments experienced when joyfully sweating blood and happily hacking up a lung.

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2 Responses to "Where did John go?"

  1. Mysti Nichole says:

    …I would like to mention that it was more like I got SHOVED out of the van by four other runners, maybe even kicked. Hahaha

  2. Brian Darrow says:

    I like how accurate John’s depiction is even though he wasn’t actually in the van!

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