Don’t Tonya Harding me, sis.
Updated: Jul 2
“No!” I cried to my sister. She was starting to make a scene.
“Just catch me!”
“No! You’re too heavy. You’ll take us both down.” I yelled back, my concern was mounting that I might actually have to catch my sister if she did, indeed, jump.
“I’m going to jump into your arms. Just carry me across the finish line.”
A split second later we collapsed into a pile on the ground. Tears filled my eyes as I gasped for air. My pants pooled with pee. Shrieks of laughter pierced my ears.
She jumped and, as expected, I peed my pants.
I never thought I’d be Tonya Harding’d by my own sister. After everything we had been through together, I really thought she had my back. But just a mere 18 hours before the start of the 2019 Grandma’s Marathon, I was being taken out by my own flesh and blood.
It was June 2019 and my two older sisters and I found ourselves in the small, lake town of Duluth, Minnesota. Much to my dismay, we were preparing to run Grandma’s Marathon. We had trained over nine months for this god-forsaken race. We had put blood, sweat and tears—so many damn tears—into training for the event. And, honest to God, I couldn’t even tell you why. If I had to guess, I suppose it would be peer pressure that got us there in the first place. Sister pressure, if you will. My sisters and I, we’re the three best friends that anyone could ever have. Truly. We run together, we raise our kids together, we even wrote a book together. We provide each other the camaraderie and companionship that only sisters can. But with that comes competition, which—for us—has reached a nearly lethal level.
You see, one simply cannot let her sisters train for a marathon without her. This would induce such anxiety as, “What if I become the fat sister?”, “Do they really think they are faster than me?” and “What if they cut me out?”. All rational fears, of course.
So there we were—my two much older sisters and I were about to cross the finish line. This wasn’t the real finish line, obviously. No, that would have to wait one more day and 26.2 excruciating miles. It was the night before the race and, as all of us elite runners do, we were at the marathon expo scouting the competition and stealing as many gel packs as we could carry.
That’s when my sister, who is well on her way to senior citizenship, had an idea. I can only assume her aged and delirious mind led her to believe that this would be a great opportunity to mess with her younger, thinner, more beautiful sister. It was her final opportunity to Tonya Harding me before the marathon that I would undoubtedly beat her in. We had trained together for almost a year and she knew she didn’t stand a chance. Not only was I half her age—she really is quite old—I was also twice as fast. Okay, not twice as fast. Certainly not as fast as our sister, Kathryn, but I am faster than Bridget. Bridget can barely break a 9-minute mile. It’s really very sad. We all have something we’re good at and running just isn’t her thing.
Bridget, the elderly one, handed her camera to Kathryn, the nice one, and said, “Here, take our picture.” We were standing in front of the faux finish line photo booth. This was Bridget’s chance to take me out in one fell swoop. And take me out she did.
I laid on the ground, in complete and utter shock. My knees had buckled below me. “Why, why, why,” I cried, “did you think that was a good idea?” I knew. I immediately knew why she did it. She wanted the Winn sister glory.
But the fame she craved never came. In true Nancy Kerrigan style, I rebounded. You can’t stop a bullet, after all. I breezed through the marathon in thee hours and fifty five minutes. Bridget, however, did not. She came at an embarrassing four hours and five minutes. On the bright side, she did place for her age category (W55-59).
As she crossed the finished line, I handed her a walker and whispered in her ear, “Good job, Tonya.”
June 2019, photo from the actual Grandma's Marathon finish line