That One Idiotic Friend We All Need

“Because your phone might die, write my number on your arm. You might lose a piece of paper, but you’re not going to lose your arm… most likely.”

This is what I texted my friend Rin-Rin before they embarked on their first-ever trail half marathon, running from their place to mine. They’ve never gone more than a 10k before that, let alone running up and down a few very fun, very rocky, and very root-y trails. (It might seem at this point that making road-runners into trail-runners is my life’s purpose: I’ve already converted the one road-running friend I had into a trail-runner.)

This little adventure of theirs turned out well — they didn’t need to borrow anyone’s phone to call me to come and rescue them, and after I met them halfway, gave them refill on water and snacks, and paced them for a bit, they made it to my place where they demanded to be hosed down in the backyard.

This was about six months ago. Since then, Rin-Rin has been doing roughly a 10k every two weeks, if that. And this past weekend, they joined me out on the trails again. It was their birthday, but instead of celebrating like… ehm… normal people, they chose to spend the second half of what turned out to be my fastest-ever 50k run with me.

I didn’t plan to run a 50k that day. Both Rin-Rin and I thought we were just going to cut it short at around mile 20 or 25, which would give them roughly 5 to 10 miles. But at the same time, the moment I picked them up at their place (having run there), I also suggested that if I do manage to go full 50k, which would give them 15 miles, they should go for it and do a birthday 30k (which is 18 miles).

And it seems it stuck. I bloody ate it on a downhill at mile 18 (Rin’s mile 3) so there it was; a bloody knee, a damaged shoulder, and a hurting hip — a perfect excuse to just stop when we get to my car (the aid station and start/finish of this mildly crazy adventure) at mile 20 (Rin’s mile 5).

But what do you think? At the car, we ate some food, refilled on water and spirits (in the form of wasabi rice crackers, which I considered to have been a mistake two miles later), and set off for a 10-mile loop featuring the Wildcat Peak, which is not the tallest peak in Berkeley Hills (I believe that title belongs to Vollmer Peak), but which your legs won’t love at mile 27 (or, Rin’s mile 12 for that matter), no matter what.

A few more miles spent in silence (as we both became slightly non-verbal at this point) and Rin-Rin’s sprint (at least from my point of view; even a 12-minute mile seemed like a sprint at that point) to my car for more water later, we were debating our life choices. Mile 30 and 15, for me and Rin, respectively.

But nobody talked about quitting. Because apparently, me telling Rin-Rin that they could do a 30k for their birthday, and then continuing to push through when they thought they were going to have to just run to my car and come pick me up when I ate $h/t (Urban Dictionary, “B: To fall with intensity, smack against the ground, a wall, the dirt, or to otherwise collide with a solid surface against your will.” — this version of the expression) was exactly what they needed to take it into their head and just run through walls with it.

And so we left the car once more. I did one last 1.5 miles, while they went for double that, and we both finished something neither of us initially planned (or perhaps even thought we could).

“Well, happy birthday, I guess. I don’t know if this is exactly what you expected when you said you’d run with me, but it’s what you got,” I said when we were devouring food at Rin’s place.

“Are you kidding me? This is exactly what I needed, best birthday, really. Thank you.”

They were all smiles but had to notice the shadow of doubt on my face because they continued on to reassure me: “You’re, like, that one idiotic friend we all need.”

“Well, it’s my pleasure, I guess?” I laughed.

So here we go. This wasn’t exactly my thought, opinion, experience, or whatever you want to call the things I share here with you. It was my friend, Rin’s. But I wanted to share it with you, anyway. Because, after all, we all probably need that one idiotic friend to give us that final push to do things we might think a little too crazy, a little too scary, a little too… idiotic to do.

After a bit of reflection, I realized that Rin-Rin isn’t the only one whom I might have inadvertently inspired or pushed to do something they weren’t a hundred percent sure about before.

A few of my other feats include:

  • Taking Rin-Rin to run Mt Tam up its steepest (and probably rockiest) side at an ungodly hour long before sunrise.
  • Taking another friend of mine who has never hiked two miles on a backpacking trip up in the Sierras. (Yes, there are easier trails for first-timers, but those aren’t as spectacular. She’s hooked now, by the way.)
  • Getting that same friend into skiing.
  • Taking yet another friend camping, while said friend had never slept anywhere else than their own bed. I eased her into it though; there was a bathroom at the campground, so at least she didn’t have to dig a hole and pack the toilet paper out. (You see? I can be reasonable!)
  • Convincing yet-yet another friend of mine that he might enjoy running. Nowadays, he’s the one who initiates our late-night trail runs.

When I was little, my parents, like the parents of so many, hoped that one day, I’d be doing great things, perhaps changing people’s lives. I don’t think that being that one idiotic friend was what they had in mind when they asked for their wish to come true, but that’s what they got, at least for now.

Oh well.

I hope that you’ve got that one special friend — or that you are that one friend. Either way, as Rin-Rin said, you need such a friend in your life. And so, if a friend like this is still missing, go out and find them. Or become them. Or both. Or just email me and I’ll tell you to do that idiotic thing.

Or just take this as your signal to do it.

I don’t know what I’m saying anymore. Either way, have a great, great day, I’ll see you back here soon.

Oh yes, and go do that crazy thing. You know, that one. Yep.

Love,
—P

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