Challenge Accepted

The following piece was originally published in the February 2015 issue of Féte Greenville. Since that issue did not survive the evolution of the Interweb, I am bringing it back to life here.

Every group of friends has that one guy. You know the one… the friend that will say things that, no matter how ridiculous it sounds, you know they are serious. If they say they want to do something stupid, it means that they are going to something stupid and you are probably going to do it with them.

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Turning to my circle of friends, let us call this guy “Keith” - mostly because that is his real name. He knows he is That Guy and is just fine with it, so there’s no reason to change his name for this. Plus, he regards reading for entertainment as physically offensive so he will not even know this story was told publicly unless his wife rats me out.

If any other friend had sent me the text I received on a Wednesday in January, I would have written them off as drunk or in an otherwise altered mental state. From Keith, however, a 9:39 AM text from his office is indicative of a legitimate proposal that would have to be answered.

“I challenge you to a 40 yard dash this weekend! Best two out of three!”

And so it came to pass that on the following Sunday, Keith, myself, and our friends Dan and Chad found ourselves and our families at the neighborhood middle school track. Typically if the four of us were together on a Sunday afternoon it would be in the presence of bar stools and sporting events where our involvement was limited to spectator status. This Sunday, on the other hand, found us preparing to do something that no beer drinking, approaching-the-age-of- 40  group of guys should ever consider… we were going to compete in a 40 yard dash, best two out of three.

Unlike a lot of things dreamed up and organized by dudes, the afternoon was actually well executed. We all showed up reasonably close to the start time despite three of the families in attendance suffering from more-than-one-child syndrome. Without any prior planning or discussion we managed to coordinate to look like fools for this event. I commandeered some spandex shorts from a female neighbor, Keith apparently raided a Goodwill specializing in 1970’s athletic apparel, and Dan showed up in his high school AND middle school letter jackets to project an aura of athletic accomplishment.

None of us actually brought a tape measure or means of establishing start and finish points that were 40 yards apart but that is beside the point.

We stretched and made guesses at which one of us was going to, at a minimum, pull a muscle or, more likely, injure themselves to the point of missing a few days of work. We agreed on the official start and finish points marked by a water bottle and pair of shoes. We lined up to race and then waited patiently while our wives searched their phones for an “app that would make a sound like a starter pistol” until someone convinced them that “on your mark, get set, go” was still a valid method for starting a race. Eventually we ran.

Everything is life should be viewed as a learning experience and there were some interesting lessons to be found in this little event.

The first lesson is that Keith knew what he was doing when he planned this whole thing. The shortest legs of the group and the body of a 38 year old father of two are a clever disguise but the truth is that the little bastard is fast. If the two of us ever find ourselves running from the police or a wild animal, I will be the one that goes to jail or gets eaten. Of this, I am certain.

Personally, I was disappointed to not take home top honors but I held down the second place spot two out of three races. For some, this earns me the title of “first loser” but I prefer to think of myself as “a solid number two”. I might start training in secret, not to improve my health, physique, or lifespan, but to really stick it to those guys the next time we do something this absurd.

Also, we were correct in our assumption that someone would get injured. Chad limped to the sideline after the second race, excusing himself with a knee injury. He later suggested that if we were to seek other forms of athletic competition, they should be feats of strength or, preferably, something like drawing.

Most importantly, we learned that the most memorable events can be borne out of a ridiculous idea. Unlike many absurd ideas we often have in groups, this one did not result in any risk of jail or serious bodily harm beyond strained hamstrings. Instead, it was a fun way to spend an afternoon with friends, do something quite a bit different than we usually do and, to our wives’ delight, embarrass ourselves in front of our families. For that, we all need to be glad that every group has a Keith because things would be a little less fun without one.

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