There is a hum in the station unusual for early on a Sunday morning. Almost instantly someone wishes me good luck in the race, and by the time I've gone up the second flight of stairs, 4 people have stopped me to talk running. I am not feeling quite awake yet and the enthusiasm is totally overwhelming. There are not many places to hide in the station, but if you want to limit your exposure, the women's bathroom is a safe place to start.
I find Christina standing in the middle of the bathroom looking almost as dazed and disoriented as I feel. She's holding a towel in one hand and is three quarters dressed in her work clothes.
"I think I'm going to take a shower".
"Uh huh." I say.
"I think that might be a good way to relax."
"Uh huh, sounds nice."
Christina is a wonderful chef and works nights. It's 8 am and she's just come off her shift. We haven't really gotten past the “hi, how are you?” stage of our friendship, but suddenly we are rambling at each other. A half hour goes by and we are sitting on the ground, deep in conversation. Christina is my competition for the race, and I'm pretty sure she's faster than me. The winner of the race for both men and women gets a three day holiday to McMurdo station for a chance to run the McMurdo marathon. McMurdo is the largest base in Antarctica. US run, it is on the edge of the sea ice and woud be a chance to see penguins, birds, and seals, and enjoy some warm temperatures. Currently it's +40F there. I can't help myself, we start talking about training, our times, our motivations for winning. We're on the floor stretching, rolling about, giggling; sharing our secret hiding spot from a station buzzing with race speculation.
The more we talk, the better I feel. Our conversation has become personal and I'm seeing an emotional side to Christina I'd suspected but never seen. Winning the race means a lot to me, but suddenly I'm okay with her winning. I know she's faster than me, I've never been a fast runner and I've seen her training in the gym. But now she's a friend, and well, if I can't win, I want a friend to get the prize.