Jane Hulstrunk and Quentin Paquette








I don’t know if I ever told you I was once the collegiate intramural champion in the mile and a half.  That I haven’t seems odd to me today, since you’re probably the only one that would recognize the whole story.  But I was, got a t-shirt and everything.

The circumstances were accidental.  I was getting back from practice just in time to get in the dining hall before dinner service ended.  I was too tired to eat much, but I got a tray of this and that and leaned back in a chair at the tables my house usually sat at.  There were a few people still hanging around from the dinner rush, having a dessert or yet another cup of coffee.  I didn’t much feel like eating, so I closed my eyes and started thinking about what else I had to do that night.

“Do you run?”
No, I just had practice.
“No, I mean do you ever run?”


“Well, the intramural mile and a half is tonight, and Henderson house has got someone running.  We need someone to run so our house at least gets the participation point.  Right now we’re tied for the house lead, so we just need someone at least to run in the race so we don’t fall behind.”
Ah, well, I guess I could post for it.  What time is it?
“It’s, like, right now.  7:30 race, have to be there for registration by 7:15.”
I’m going to miss dinner.
“If you run, we’ll take you to Harold’s after.”
Geez, you should’ve said that first.

I was already in shorts, t-shirt, and sweats, so I didn’t have to change.  I just walked the block back to the field house.  I knew one of the students working the desk, who asked me if I’d forgotten something.  Wished me luck and told me registration was at the stands at the far end of the upstairs track.  I re-tied my captoe crosstrainers and headed up the stairs, followed by a small group that had caught up to me from the dorm.

You couldn’t run?  I mean if all we’re trying for is the participation point.
“Me? no, I didn’t even pass the mile and a half in the fitness test.  I’m going to have to take a quarter of P.E.”
Didn’t pass?  Isn’t the cut-off like 15 minutes?  I think you can almost walk that far in 15 minutes.  What are you going to take?
“I’m going to try and get in to Billiards.”
Billiards?  Really?  What’s the final like in that?
“I’ll let you know.”
Well, if you need anybody to help you with your homework…”

We get to the registration table, and some of these guys seem serious.  Oh, great, James is running.  James.  Ack.  Katrina and I went out, sort of, the first two months of school, long enough to know we weren’t meant to be a couple, that we were only meant to be friends.  You might remember Katrina, she showed up at the house one summer weekend and stayed for a couple of days trying to regain her feet after coming all the way out East only to have a relationship go bad.  She didn’t know anyone else around, I’m not even sure how she found me.  Anyway, we were awful as a couple, and after we quit trying to be, she started going out with James.  Which always made me think that going out with me might not have been terrific, but it had to be better than going out with that dude.  Only, I didn’t use the word “dude” when I thought of him.  There he was in his bright white indoor track shoes, short shorts, and mesh tank top from his High School track team days.  Except his 9th through 12th grade years weren’t at a place with a name that ended in “High School”, but rather “Academy”, or “Preparatory”, or, I’d bet,  “For Boys”.  Here he comes, maybe pretend I’m stretching.

“Ha, ha!  You’re running in this?  And like that?  In those shoes?”
Yeah, I’m going to give it a try.
“You ever do any running?  It takes a lot more than leaning on some other guy on a mat.”
Like I said, I’m going to give it a try.
“Try not to get in the way when I lap you.”
Yeah, I’ll keep that in mind.

Lining up at the start, he gets one more shot in about standing behind the real runners, since he in going to make a quick start.  I’d only be in the way again.  That’s fine with me, I always prefer to hold back a

little in the beginning until my opponent shows his hand.  He does start fast too, and is in the lead before the first turn, and I’m just going hard enough to keep up, figuring my best chance is to stay close as long as I can.  In the first turn, he looks over his shoulder and spots me.
“You still there?  Not for long.”

Had I ever done any running, he had wanted to know.  Yes.  Yes, I’d done some running before.

It was in the summer that I remember first going with you.  Late at night after the worst of the heat and humidity had eased up.  I didn’t matter to me that it was late; I didn’t have anything to do the next day.  To the track at the school, before I realized that that school would be my High School.  I don’t know how late the track would stay lit, but we would drive out there, start on our own routines of stretching and warming up, and then jog or run until it was time to go.  There was usually someone else jogging also, but sometimes not.  In any case, there wasn’t an audience to run for.  I just ran for myself, keeping track of how I felt, how much I could push myself, or just lose my thoughts in the rhythm of the running.  I did some running on my own through the neighborhoods, entered some races.  I came to think of myself as a runner.  I learned what parts of me I could draw on, and how much I could ask for, and how much I could demand.

“You still there?  Not for long.”
No, not for long.  I’ve got to get going now.  You coming?

About a mile and a quarter left, and I’m through with playing a game with this race.  I’m not relying on a strategy, or thinking about my opponents, or waiting to react to anything outside of me.  I just run, as fast as I can, as long as I can.  As I move into the lead, I run.  Entering each turn and releasing into the straightaway, I run.  When my breathing starts to get heavy, I run.  When my legs start to complain, I run.  The others, still only runners, cannot keep up with Running.  Before it ends, I’m not in the field house anymore.  It’s late at night in the summertime.