An out of the ordinary euphoria

Irunside was running along the river, light and fast as ever, when he heard footsteps quickly approaching from behind.

What the... he thought, as he picked up the pace to leave the other runner in the dust. Irunside was competitive on principle, even on easy days.

But the other runner was fast, very fast. Irunside couldn't shake him off. He picked up the pace further and realized he was running faster than 10-k pace... no change. He accelerated to 5-k pace but to his dismay heard the footsteps getting closer. Then he resorted to a runner's ultimate dirty trick ("in defeat, defiance"): pick up the pace impossibly until the next kilometer mark (every kilometer was duly marked at the river park) and then slow down suddenly and emphatically, while pretending to stop your Polar as if the "interval" (and the workout) had ended right there.

To his astonishment the other runner did not resort to the opposite trick, which consists of continuing at the same exact pace until safely out of sight to send the message you could continue like this forever, perhaps with your grandmother sitting on top of you. He heard a friendly voice instead, completely unperturbed by the sudden dash: "Hello Mr. Irunside!".

He looked at the beautiful athlete standing in front of him and recognized Laura P., two-times Olympian a couple of... well... decades ago. She was looking extraordinarily good, in spite of being past her prime.

"Defeat was never so sweet" he declared with a bow that helped soothe his coughing fit.

"Just as gentlemanly as I thought. Pleased to meet you!". Irunside was not exactly an Adonis as far as looks, but people (especially women) always warmed up to him whenever he spoke.

"Laura, I thought you had given up on running. I read an interview about you years ago, where you stated that you had had your share of 200-k weeks and couldn't bear the thought of running one more kilometer now that you had retired from elite competition".

"Oh, but that was long ago. I went back to running a few years later because I couldn't stand just sitting on my butt, you know...".

He looked at her closely: she looked and sounded wired up. He - and everyone else - had known her to be a very shy, very reserved and quiet marathoner but something about her current attitude just didn't fit his idea of her personality. She was talking loudly, gesticulated a lot and interrupted him a couple of times. Very strange, he thought.

"Hey, Irunside, I tell you what. I think you're really a very nice guy. Why don't you come and work out at this f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c gym I found? I assure you it's the best in town, Working out there feels better than sex!".

Strange, strange, very strange.

"Okay, where's this place?". She gave him an address and Irunside memorized it.

"I'll be there tomorrow at this time. I must definitely see this place". She kissed his sweaty cheeks three times and sped away.

Next day, same time, Irunside met Laura at the gate of the gym. She looked as beautiful as the day before but far more inhibited, which didn't hurt her personality a bit, Irunside decided.

She introduced him as a guest to a stupid-looking boy at the desk, who didn't show any recognition at the name "Irunside", to the great detective's enjoyment. Although his appearance was elusive and usually went unnoticed, gone were the days when his name could pass unseen. Celebrity had been particularly tough on Irunside, who valued secrecy as the greatest of virtues.

After changing he went into the gym, where Laura was already pounding the treadmill at a speed that would have made most advanced competitors die. He chose a stationary bike instead, and set it at a comfortable speed. After a while he was sweating profusely (warm environment, no speed wind) and so he got off the bike to get a drink of water from the water fountain. Then he pedaled for a few more minutes before switching to a treadmill next to Laura's.

She was doing intervals now, and her recovery laps were faster than Irunside's pace, a totally respectable pace for most people. After a few more minutes on the treadmill, he and Laura agreed it was time to go.

While showering he felt an uncommon surge of energy. He hadn't felt that strong in a long time. He met Laura on the way out and heard himself say "The day is young: let's bag work and go running together at the park!".

Laura smiled coquettishly and said: "Is that all you know how to do? Let's bag work, yes, but take me to a fabulous restaurant and let's get to know each other a little better!". So off they went and had a very nice lunch, but conversation waned. The initial euphoria gone, she crawled back into herself and he started thinking of the pile of work he'd left behind.

Back at work that afternoon, Irunside reflected.

He was no novice to endorphines, but that morning's euphoria had been out of the ordinary for him and in no way justified by an hour of mild exercise on a stationary bike and treadmill. The endorphines of running never interfered with his sense of duty, but this time he had felt... above the law. This was no ordinary runner's high... and Laura's attitude had been strange, too. As if she had been on...

Two days later, from the online page of CPN International:

Breaking news: a brilliant operation conducted by the Department of Narcotics in cooperation with the FBI and Scotland Yard led to the arrest of an international gang linked to the Mafia whose alleged conspiracy was to get runners of the park and into the gym. The gang operated a number of reputable gyms in Europe and North America and apparently got patrons addicted to a powerful narcotic called Tetramexydodrome-12. The side effects are not known but the primary effect of the drug is to stimulate massive doses of endorphines. The patrons ingested the drug every time they drank from the water fountains of the gyms. We interviewed a top executive at FBI who, on condition of anonimity, gave us this important clue on how the operation was conducted: "No high-tech gadgets, no satellites, no brilliant individual initiative. Just solid and basic police work. Strong team spirit. International cooperation".

Irunside finished reading and chuckled: he felt like a really solid, basic and international one man's team.

Since September 7, 2007 - © Aerostato, Seattle - All Rights Reserved.

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