Dave: “Long legs, strong thighs, and I like what he’s doing with his feet.”
Robbie: “Decent choice, but I wouldn’t pick him. He’s too pale. I’m not looking for physical attributes. I’m looking for soulless eyes, raw aggression—but damn that guy’s got a nice pair of calves. I’m going with him.”
Dave and I were at the Paul Short Cross Country Invitational, and we were betting on the runners. I had pulled a quick victory in the men’s college JV run by betting on a small, tan Seabiscuit beating out Dave’s tall, muscular stallion of a boy.
Dave was looking to get a comeback in the boy’s high school varsity race after we both flopped in the women’s. It turns out women tend to be hard to distinguish athletically based on physical attributes. A portly girl with a shuffle stride had somehow placed in the top five while the supple blonde with perky breasts that I picked started walking probably a hundred yards in and apparently wandered off the course somewhere around mile two.
Dave and I continued to walk up and down the starting line eyeing the racers.
Robbie: “I take my vote back. This is my guy. Can’t see the whites of his eyes. Facial hair. Lanky arms with a hint of definition. This coldblooded man-child’s going all the way.”
Dave: “Fair enough. I’m sticking with my guns on this one. I just saw something in mine that you don’t see every day. He had an aura.”
Robbie: “Aura or not, he had a narrow chest cavity. Little room for lung expansion. I liked his stride outs, but I think you’ve only got a top 25’er. My boy’s gold. But I’m a bit worried about this uniform they give him…”
I walked up to my runner and ran his jersey through my hands.
Kid: “What the fuck? Get away fa—“
Robbie: “Is this what they’ve got my guy wearing? This feels like cotton. His nips are going to be bleeding all over in this humidity. Damn it.”
Kid: “Who the fuck are you?”
Robbie: “What do you think Dave? Think it’s a deal breaker?”
Dave: “Your call man. Non-polyester definitely hurts his ante, but I think he still looks strong.”
Kid: “Yo, I don’t know who the hell you guys are, but you better get the fuck out of here before I kick your ass.”
I gave him a quick tap on the ass and turned back to Dave.
Robbie: “He’s perfect.”
We made our way to the top of the bleachers of Lehigh’s football stadium to get a good view of the start. There were a little over 300 runners lined up to run.
The gun fired and the herd of runners took off across the field.
Robbie: “Shit, I totally lost my guy. He had yellow shoes, right? What color was his jersey?”
Dave: “Don’t know, but my guy’s kicking ass. Top five right now.”
Robbie: “He’ll die I’m sure. Is that my guy in the back? What the fuck is that stride?”
My runner was hobbling along awkwardly in the back of the pack. Jesus Christ my guy sucked.
Robbie: “Jesus Christ my guy sucks. Probably his jersey. It’s time to take action.”
Dave: “What? No. You can’t interfere just because my guy’s a beast.”
Robbie: “As I’ve always said Dave, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, skew the results so that it appears you succeeded anyways.’”
Dave: “I don’t think you’ve ever said tha– where are you going?”
I had already started hopping down the bleachers.
Robbie: “Fuck you Dave. My guy needs a little boost, if you know what I mean.”
Dave: “No. No one ever fucking knows what you mean when you say that.”
Ten minutes later, Dave and I were sitting with security near the finish line as they were taking down our information.
Dave: “I’m actually surprised by the number of runners you were able to re-route through the creek.”
Robbie: “Yeah, me too. It doesn’t matter though. My guy’s still running like a bitch.”
I glanced across the field to see him tucking behind a fat guy to try and catch his drag.
Robbie: “This is just sad.”
Security: “Hey! This is the last time we’re going to tell you to keep your mouth shut! I ought to teach you a lesson, you little punk.”
I glanced up at the guard.
Robbie: “Watch it. I’ll poison you.”
Dave nodded his head in agreement.
We looked back to the race, where the runners had started sprinting down the chute behind us.
Robbie: “Holy shit! Dave is that your guy?”
Dave: “Whoa, I think it might be.”
Dave’s runner came through the finish line at well under 16 minutes around 15th place.
Robbie: “Lucky pick.”
Dave: “Hell yes! Where’s yours?”
Robbie: “Don’t know yet… He might be in the next group. Let’s get a closer look.”
Dave: “Good idea. I think I see an opening on the other side of the finish line.”
Security: “Where the hell are you going?”
We jogged over to the finish line while the security guard called for backup.
Robbie: “Yo, there’s my guy finally.”
He was trotting down the chute, being passed by runners left and right. Disappointed, I brandished the starting pistol I had taken from the security guard.
Dave: “Where’d you get that?”
Robbie: “Security guard had it. Dave, I think we’re going to have to put him down.”
Dave again nodded in agreement.
As soon as the kid finished, we walked up to him.
Kid: “It’s you again! What the hell do you want from me?”
I pulled the starting pistol from my pocket and looked at Dave.
Robbie: “This really is my least favorite part of the sport.”
Ten minutes later, Dave and I were again sitting with security.
Dave: “I’m mildly surprised they got upset about you firing off a blank with a starting pistol.”
Robbie: “Yeah, I really can’t see how I’m being made out to be the bad guy here. What about my guy who ran a 26 minute 5k? That’s the real issue. Did you see him sprint off after that? Like a goddamn bolt. Where was that the whole race?”
Dave: “My guy went sub-16 so I can’t really relate.”
Robbie: “Damn, good point. I owe you a beer.”
Security: “Alright bitches. We don’t actually have the authority to actually arrest you, so we’re just going to take you out back and beat the shit out of you. Sound good?”
I looked at Dave.
Robbie: “I think you know what you have to do.”
Dave was already on his phone.
Dave: “Way ahead of you bro. Hello? Yeah, Luke we need you.”