Episode the Eighteenth: Little Dot Goes Running

By: Mr. E. S. Stranger

As summer faded and fall arrived, Dot felt more and more that she needed to do something with her newfound good health. The garden was more and more accessible with each passing day, but she craved a change. 

One day, as she sat, playing a game, working a puzzle, and browsing the web for furniture, she decided she just couldnt sit anymore. She got up. 

Im going for a walk, she said. Whos coming with me? 

Im allergic to the outdoors, Toona reminded her.

Ill keep Toona company, Funny Bunny followed.

Okay, Dot said. Jimi, how about it? The temperatures great! Lets go outside.

Jimi perked up. On it, he said. Letss boogie.

He went to the door and waited. Dot went to the closet to get his leash. He looked around and realized what she was up to.

Oh, were doing that again? I thought we were past that.

I have to do this, or we cant go out, she replied.

Ive never seen a horse being walked on a leash, he said.

Horses have harnesses, Dot replied. If it will help you to feel more natural, I can ride you around a bit while were out.

Walking on a leash sounds great, he answered. He waited to be leashed, and they went out.

Hold on, he said as they walked past the neighbors house. I need to sniff something.

Dot slowed while he sniffed the features of the neighbors yard. Ok, she said after several seconds. Lets move this along.

Yep, yep, Im coming, he replied. They reached the next yard. Oh, I have to sniff this.

Dot started to get impatient. I came out here to walk.

I know. Just give me a moment. There are some interesting scents here.

Are you going to sniff the whole neighborhood?

He looked around and sized up the block. Welluhhow far were you intending to walk?

She sighed and pulled on the leash. Come on.

After a couple tugs Jimi obeyed. Dot heard his nose going as they went.

I didnt know horses were so into scents, she said.

Well, you learn something new every day, he replied. Hey, whats up there?

Up where?

Up ahead, he said, and he pulled faster. Dot walked a bit faster to keep up. Jimi pulled more. They went faster. Before Dot could realize what was happening, they were running. She struggled to slow Jimi down, and he finally did. She stopped, breathing heavily. He stopped but seemed impatient.

What is it? she said when she caught her breath. What are you in such a hurry for?

Umm…” he said, peering ahead, never mind. False alarm. He looked around, and his nose twitched. Hey, since weve stopped, do you mind if I sniff this yard a bit?

Go ahead.

Dots feet hurt. She was starting to think this might have been a bad idea. After a minute, she reversed course, and they went back home. Her feet were very sore at this point. She took Jimis leash off and went to her room. There, she removed her shoes and examined them. They were fairly broken down. No wonder her feet were in pain. She showed her mom the shoes and asked if she could get some new ones. Her mom hesitated, but she agreed that the shoes were in bad shape. They went the next day to buy some new ones.

At the shoe store, she marveled at all the different kinds of shoes. It was intimidating. She had no idea how to pick. She decided the process of elimination was best and picked ten pairs in her size to try on.

The first pair pinched her toes. The second was too tight in the middle. The third seemed okay at first but slipped on her heel when she walked. The fourth pair was lumpy, the fifth felt like the sides had spikes in them, and the sixth was the wrong shape for a human foot. The next four had features that were supposedly designed to help her run but that she worried would cripple her. She took the tenth pair off and sighed in despair.

The salesman who had been helping her thought for a minute and then took some measurements of her feet. He asked her to stand up and walk back and forth a bit, so she did. He watched, and then he disappeared into the back.

He emerged with a box. Dot looked curiously at the box and watched as he stopped and opened it up. Light seeped out. In went his hand, and out came an object so brightly colored that Dot and her mom had to look away until their eyes could adjust.

When Dot was able to focus on it, she saw that it was indeed a shoe. Most of it was a checkered pattern of electric orange and yellow that appeared to shimmer. Hot pink streaks provided contrast in spots, and the top of the tongue was bright green.

I dont think I care for the color pattern, she said.

Give it a try, the salesman insisted.

She took the shoe and put it on. It seemed to warmly snuggle her foot. She put on the second one. Her face lit up. She beamed at her mom.

The shoes are telling me to run, she said.

You like them? her mom asked.

Dot nodded. I want to run in these. The shoes want me to run.

Her mom asked the salesman how much they were. He answered. Dots mom looked again at Dot and saw how happy Dot was, and she agreed to buy the shoes. Dot wore them and ran in little circles as they went to the car.

When they got home, Dot went to her brother to show him her new shoes. He took one look and then turned his face away, holding up his hand to block the shoes from view.

Bright, he said.

Yeah, this was the only color I could get these shoes in. Theyre awesome. They want to run.

Theyre comfortable, then?

Yes. And they want to run.

Well, go run, then. Those shoes are too bright to be inside.

Ok. Ill take Jimi. Jimi, up for a run?

Lets do this, Jimi said, and he went to the door. Dot got his leash and put it on him. Oh, he said.

They went out, and Dot started running. Jimi tried to slow down at some of the houses they passed, but Dot kept going. They went down to the end of the street and then turned around and ran back. When they got back to the house, they were both out of breath. Jimi waited until his leash was off and then plopped down in the living room. Dot walked back toward her room.

How was your run? her mom asked as she went by.

Great! Dot answered. She went into her room. She felt fresh and alive. Her frog greeted her first.

Hey! You look chipper!

Thanks, Frog. I feel awesome. I like running!

Alright! I do know some running songs. Lets see…”Running Down a Dream”…”Running on Empty”…oh, and I do okay at the theme to Chariots of Fire.

Maybe later, Dot replied. I plan to do more of this. I wonder if Jimi will go running with me once a day.

A tired no drifted from the living room.

Frog? Dot asked.

I cant, Little Dot, her frog replied. Id never be able to keep up.

Funny Bunny? Toona?

Toona and Funny Bunny halted their debate about the comparative properties of carpet fuzzies and dust bunnies and turned toward Dot.

Whats up, Dot? Funny Bunny asked.

Will you go running with me? Dot asked.

There was much hemming and hawing, then.

Im allergic to the outdoors, Toona reminded her.

I dont know, said Funny Bunny. I dont think I can keep up, either. I dont have the legs or the feet for it.

Hmm…” Dot said. You are all very small. Youd fall behind.

Maybe Zoyla will run with you, Frog suggested.

Maybe, Dot said. I can ask, anyway.

She picked up her phone and started to key in Zoylas number.

Hello? Zoyla said as Dot was halfway through the number.

Um…” Dot said, caught off guard.

Yes? Hello?

Uhhey, Zoyla, I was wondering if youd be interested in being my new running buddy.

Oh, yes! I had actually been thinking of entering a 5K coming up. We can train together!

Whats a 5K? Dot asked.

Fun, thats what, Zoyla replied. Ooh! Well wear matching running outfits, matching running accessorieswhen do you want to get together?

Ummnow works, said Dot.

Ok, great. Youll be right over.

Ok. Waitwhat

But before Dot could finish the question, she was in what she assumed was Zoylas room. It was hard to tell exactly what color the walls were as they seemed to change a bit whenever she blinked. Furniture in a variety of irregular shapes was all against the walls, and nearby was what appeared to be a nearly-finished wooden bed frame.

Sorry for the mess, Zoyla said. I havent even finished making the bed today. Very busy. Would you like some tea?


Me too. I really wish I remembered where I put it. Oh well. Oh, wow! Are those your running shoes?

Dot looked down at her feet. Her new shoes were still on.


Awesome. Ive been meaning to get myself a pair. You can tell how great they are by the color.


Oh, yes. They dont make good shoes in neutral colors. The brightness and contrast add that extra special something. Ill need to buy mine before our running group tomorrow.

Running group? Dot asked.

Yes. For training. For the 5K. We discussed this. I signed us both up. I hope I got your sock and shirt sizes right. You didnt give those to me the last time we spoke.

Well, I didnt

Its okay. Youll be better prepared next time. So, shall we?

Uhshall we what?

Go buy supplies. Gosh, Dot, your head is sure in the clouds today. We have a lot to do. Are you ready?


Ok. Planes outside. Lets go.

She opened up a window and flew out. Dot clambered over the sill and found herself on the wing of Zoylas jet. She walked carefully to the body of the plane and climbed to the top. She stopped for one moment to wonder how she had done this when she and Zoyla first met and then slowly, carefully, walked to the cockpit. Zoyla closed the glass and started the plane.

She taxied the plane down the street, around the corner, and down the block to the parking lot of a huge sporting goods store.

Were here, she said.

Why did we need the plane for this trip? Dot inquired as they climbed down to the pavement.

Zoyla shrugged. I havent been able to figure that one out, either. She strolled off toward the door. Dot followed.

Dot was amazed at all the running-related merchandise inside. The clothing alone was a bit much to take in. For every article a person could wear, there was at least one variant for runners, from the top of the head to the tips of the toes and everything in between. Dot considered some water-wicking thermal-regulating shirts until she saw the price tag. Zoyla was disappointed none of the clothing could accommodate her wings. They moved on to accessories.

They passed on the assortment of step counters, progress trackers, and heart rate monitors. When they came to a selection of carrying devices, Dot stopped for a bit. Despite the prices, she felt it might be wise to invest in a way of carrying her things while she ran. She got a fanny pack with holsters for water bottles and the bottles to go with them and saw Zoyla puzzling over one of the pouches.

Whats wrong? Dot asked.

Zoyla huffed in frustration. The capacitys not what I hoped for.

Oh. How big a bag do you need?

Well, I was thinking of something along the lines of the bag I carry on a convenient belt. None of these are very spacious, though. Look at this one. Maybe a hundred cubic inches of space. I couldnt put much in there. Missouri, for example, is way too big.

Will you need Missouri while youre running? Dot asked.

Zoyla shrugged. You never know when youll need the state of Missouri.

Why not just get a belt and attach your bag to it?

No, that will never work. Its not made for running.

Dot nodded. She was sure Zoyla was making a valid point.

Next, they toured the running food. Dot had never heard of any of it. There were energy bars and snack bars labeled as low-carb, high-carb, or carb-balanced, protein powders, sports drinks, and a colorful assortment of other foods Dot was hesitant to classify, such as Ooze, an apparently gel-like substance brimming with sugar, vitamins, and caffeine, and candy-like objects such as Speedy Beans, which were a way to take in even larger doses of caffeine without the inconvenience of having to slow down and sip a cup of coffee or tea.

Do we need these? Dot asked.

We should probably get a few to try, Zoyla replied. Its possible well feel exhausted and sore some of the time, and these will help convince our brains were actually fresh and full of energy.

Oh, okay, Dot said. They got a few flavors of each.  Running is more complicated than I realized, Dot said as they kept shopping.

I know, right? said Zoyla. It wasnt that long ago that I didnt know about any of this. When I felt like running, I just went outside and ran. I feel like such an idiot.

Dot nodded but was silent. They moved on.

Soon they reached the section devoted to injury care and pain relief. Dot began to feel a bit nervous.

Do people really hurt themselves this much running?

Oh, yes, Zoyla said. You have to be careful. Aside from sore muscles and cramps, you can get shin splints, bone spurs, Achilles tendonitis—“

Ok, Dot said. Thats enough of that. Im getting nervous.

Dont worry, Zoyla said. You just need to learn good form. Thats part of what our group is for.


For now, Ill just get some replacement first aid supplies. I have some in my bag somewhere, but I got hurt the last time I went in there looking for them.

Zoyla grabbed the supplies, and they headed toward the checkout counter with their finds.

Hey, Little Dot said, stopping. Didnt you want to get some shoes?

Oh, right! Zoyla replied, and she raced over to the shoe section. After a bit of a search, during which she became frustrated and began yelling at the shoes, she finally found the right ones. They matched Dots in design and color. Her face brightened.

Well be running twins, she said. Ok, lets go.

They bought their things and headed out. Dot looked around. It was late in the afternoon.

Id better go home, she said. Dinner might be ready soon.

Ill fly you.

Zoyla loaded their stuff onto a baggage compartment in the belly of her jet, and then they climbed in and took off. Dot looked around.

I know where we are. I didnt realize this is where you live.

Zoyla glanced about them. Oh, yeah, huh. Thats cool.

They zipped away, and a few seconds later, they touched down at Dots.

So, about our running group. It meets once a week starting tomorrow. Be ready at six AM.

Ok, Dot said with some reservation. Where? Will you pick me up?

Its outside, Zoyla replied.

I thought so, but where?

Zoyla looked confused. Outside, she answered with impatience.


Just be outside at six, Zoyla said. And bring a water bottle. And your shoes. Dont eat much beforehand.

Ok, Dot said. Anything else?

Dont forget your things when you go in.

Right, Dot said, and she hopped out. The hatch on bottom opened, and she got her things before heading in the house.

Dot was hungry that night and ate well. She found she was excited about running the next day, and not long after dinner, she got ready for bed. She set her new shoes under the bed and washed her hands before turning off the lights and crawling into bed. Half a minute later, she heard a voice from under the bed. Uh, hey.

Yeah, Boogeyman? she replied.

Could you put these somewhere else? Theyre a little bright for me.

Oh. Sorry. Ill put them in the closet.

She turned on the light, got the shoes, and set them in the closet next to a big bunch of shirts she hadnt realized were in there. Then she washed her hands again, turned off the light, and crawled into bed. She lay there for a bit. She realized she should set an alarm clock and set her clock for five.

Guys? she said, and she waited.

Yes? said Frog immediately.

Huh? said Funny Bunny.

There was a little pause followed by the soft sound of Funny Bunnys plastic arm tip tapping Toonas fur.

Huh? What? Whats going on? Toona said sleepily.

I need to get up at five, Dot said. I set my clock, but just in case, please make sure I get up.

Okay, said Frog.

No problem, said Funny Bunny.

There was a pause, and then Toona said, What? Sorrymissed some of that.

Get her up at five! Funny Bunny shouted.

Oh. Okay, Toona said, and he drifted off again.

Dot tried to sleep. After a while, she began to drift off. In her dreams, the shoes called to her. She put them on, and suddenly the world streamed past her in a kaleidoscope of color. It was exhilarating.

They alarm went off. She struggled for a minute to move her muscles and then for another minute to find the off button. The horrid noise shut off.

Mmmmmmh, she said, and she lay there. Her muscles didnt want to move.

Her friends waited thirty seconds. Umm, her frog began, should we help her?

I guess so, said Funny Bunny.

Frog hopped close to Dot. Hey, Dot! Wake up!

Funny Bunny got a little closer. Get up!

Mmmmh, Dot replied.

Frog and Funny Bunny tried to wake her this way for a couple minutes, and Toona joined in when he woke up enough to realize what was happening. Dot did not move.

This is no good, Funny Bunny said. Oh! She has a water glass. Maybe some water will wake her up. Toona, help me up to the rim of the glass. Ill try flicking a bit on her.

Toona helped Funny Bunny up. Funny Bunny reached down toward the water and fell in. Toona got on the other side of the glass to push it toward Dot but knocked it over where it stood. Water and Funny Bunny flowed out. Frog jumped onto the wet table and tried to splash some of the spreading water onto Dot before it ran onto the floor. Suddenly the alarm went off again. Dot had only found the snooze button.

Mmmh! Dot said, and she struggled awake again. Mm!

She felt around on the clock, pressing buttons, until she found one that made the noise turn off.

Okay, she croaked. Im awake now.

She slowly got the rest of the way up. Just in case, she unplugged the clock. Slowly, she got ready. She ate one of the energy bars she had bought. It wasnt too bad. A little bad, but not too bad.

When she was ready, she glanced at the clock. A minute after six. She hoped Zoyla wasnt already waiting. She hurried to the door and went outside.

Zoyla greeted her. You made it!

Dot looked around. There were a lot of people there, but she wasnt in front of her moms house anymore.

Where are we?

Zoyla looked around, confused again. Outside, she said.


Come on! Theyre starting the lesson of the day.

She whisked Dot over to a big group listening to someone talking about how to avoid injuries. Dot decided she was interested in this topic and listened. Afterward, they all did a quick warm-up and stretch in place, got the info on the routes for the day, and were off.

Dot and Zoyla ran together. They slowed down before most of the rest of the group, who jogged the whole distance, but the people who passed them going back again gave them encouragement. When the two friends reached the start again, they were told they had done well that day.

I feel tired and sore but very affirmed, Zoyla said. Loving the positivity. How are you doing?

Pretty good, Dot said. Tired. In a good way, though. Everyone is extremely nice. And it looks like bright colors are in with this group. I think I like this.

Excellent! Zoyla said. Well do this again in a week, then. The run will be a bit longer. Get in some more practice if you can.

Okay, but how do I get home?

Go back inside, Zoyla said.

Dot looked around and saw her front door nearby. The house didnt appear to be with it, but she gave it a try and found herself in her house again. She went back to her room to clean up before breakfast.

At breakfast, Dot found she had a hearty appetite. Her mother and brother were surprised but said nothing. Dot hurried to her room right after to consolidate what she had learned. Her friends looked on with curiosity.

Whats that? asked Funny Bunny.

Research, Dot replied. Im trying to look up why its bad to stretch cold muscles. Whats a cold muscle, anyway?

Tona spoke up. I believe I may be of assistance in this matter. Light exercises, or warming up, provide two benefits: increased blood flow to the exercised muscles, which improves mobility, and literal heat, which makes muscles more flexible. Muscles that have not been recently exercised are said to be cold and are more easily injured by stretching as they are not as flexible while cold.

The others stared at Toona. After several seconds, he went on.

Ive been taking kinesiology courses online through D&Z University. Theyre fun. Im an educated bear.

The others kept staring for a bit. Dot turned back to her computer.

Well, she said, that answers that question. Im sure Ill have more next week. Everyone there seems to know a lot about running. Lots to learn. Its more complicated than I thought.

Do the shoes still want to run? Funny Bunny asked.

Maybe tomorrow. Right now I think they want a nap.

Dot researched running for a while and then rested. The next day, she went for a short run around the block, and she did the same each day until the next meeting of the group. This went on week after week. As the day of the 5K neared, the runs got longer. Dot still couldn't quite keep up with the more experienced running enthusiasts, but she and Zoyla went at their own pace and encouraged each other. They got stronger as they went.

Along the way, they made more trips to the sporting goods store and bought some running clothes. They made sure to buy bright, glaring colors. Zoyla had to special-order shirts and jackets that would accommodate her wings.

On the morning of the run, Dots frog sang to wake Dot up at the agreed-upon time. Dot turned and put her pillow over her head. She was tired. Just a few more minutes, she told herself. Her frog kept singing.

Snooze, she said. Her frog stopped. Five minutes later, he started again. She groaned. Might as well get up.

Slowly she rose and got ready. She wasnt quite hungry yet but made herself eat an energy bar. A short while later, outfitted in her bright clothing and shoes, she stepped outside and found herself in a large crowd. She looked around for Zoyla.

There you are, Zoyla said from behind her.

Dot turned. Zoyla, too, had all of her brightly colored gear on, including wing covers. The air was brisk.

Almost time, Zoyla said. You ready?

Dot looked around. The crowd was a bit intimidating.

I guess so, she said.

Alright! Zoyla replied. Lets do it! Start lines that way.

She turned toward the start line. Dot looked with her and waited. After a little while of fidgeting, she turned toward Zoyla again.

Are we going to go to the start line?

Zoyla looked over in surprise. Oh, no, not yet. The start line itself is crowded. When the people in front of us cross the line, then well follow behind.

Oh. When does this start?

It started a few minutes ago. See? The first people are crossing the finish line.

Dot looked where Zoyla had pointed, and sure enough, a few people had finished the 5K in the few minutes since it started.

How are we supposed to beat them? Dot asked.

Dont worry, Zoyla replied. Your time depends on when you start. Yours hasnt started yet.

Yes, but I cant do this that quickly.

Well, that wasnt the point, anyway, right? Im having a blast.

You might be able to win, Dot said. You have wings.

Zoyla shook her head. I checked. This ones a run/walk, not a run/walk/fly. Im doing one of those in a couple months, though, if youre interested.

Well see, Dot said.

I can keep you company in this race.

No, said Dot, you go on ahead of me. I want to see how I do on my own.

Ok, Zoyla replied.

After a little while, they managed to make their way to the starting line. At first, the crowd was thick, and neither one could go very fast, but the crowd began to thin a little a few dozen yards in, and Zoyla made a break for it. Dot kept on.

Dot did well for the first kilometer and was starting to feel like she had found a good rhythm when a cramp seized her right leg. She almost fell in pain but managed to stay upright and hobble along. She tried to work it out. She thought it might be letting up and started to run again. A painful cramp seized her left leg, then, and in her surprise she landed badly and felt pain in her right ankle. She slowed to a careful walk.

I have to finish this, she said.

She hobbled along in the crowd for a while. After the third kilometer, she realized the crowd was getting fairly thin. By the end of the fourth kilometer, she was alone. The time allotted for the race ran out just a few minutes later, and the officials started to remove the barriers holding traffic back. Dot wasnt entirely sure anymore which way the finish line was but went in the direction she thought was right. Now that she had to watch for cars, hobbling across the streets was scarier.

Zoyla waited at the finish line nervously. She wished she could give Dot more time but hadnt brought her bag. When she saw some of the race officials begin to remove the finish line itself, she shouted at them.

One more coming! she said, and flames danced in her eyes. Thunder rumbled somewhere. The officials stopped. There! she said, pointing to the tape that had stretched across the finish line when the race started. Stretch that back across!

The officials did as she said. Zoyla waited.

The day that had started brisk was starting to feel uncomfortably warm. Dot was sure she was close, but she was in pain and just wanted to sit. Relief washed over her when she turned a corner and saw the tape stretched across the road. With great effort, she made it to the tape and pushed through it. Zoyla cheered.

Finished, Dot said.

Yep. What now?

Home, Dot said.

Ok. Well meet up later, then?


Dot turned, and her front porch was there. She went in and limped to her room.

Howd you place? Funny Bunny asked.

I broke the tape at the finish line, Dot replied.

Excellent! Thatll teach the other runners. No messing with Dot.

They werent trying to mess with me, Dot said. We were just running.

Youre a gracious winner, Funny Bunny said.

Toona joined in. So, are you going to keep running?

No, Dot answered. Im not sure I ever want to run again.


Dot was in pain all day. Over the next several days, she slowly recovered. Sitting in the house waiting to feel better was boring, but her friends kept her company.

One day she put on her shoes and realized that they had broken down quite a bit. Her mother was amazed at how much wear Dot had put on them but agreed to take her shopping for more. Dot told her where a great sporting goods store was, and her mom agreed they could at least look to see if there was a good deal.

On the way to the shoes, they passed the bikes, and Dot stopped and stared. Yes. This was what she was missing. Suddenly, riding a bike seemed like exactly the right thing.

Mom, she said, can I get a bike?

Her mother sighed. Not right now. Lets talk about it later.

Dot accepted that answer for the moment. She thought about bikes for the rest of the day. When she got home, she picked up her phone.

Zoyla? she said.

Dot? Zoyla answered.

How do you feel about bike riding?

Funny you should bring that up, Zoyla replied. I was about to call you. Ever been to France?

No, whats there?

Enormous fun, Zoyla replied. Youll see. Just let me know what color bike you want and keep your Saturdays clear.

Dot smiled.