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On a first date, the trail to true love doesn’t run smoothly

On a first date, the trail to true love doesn’t run smoothly
Wait, what just happened? (Alison George / For The Times)

Even as I first swiped right on him on Tinder, I thought, this can’t be real…but what if? I’m talking abs you could bounce quarters off for days. (On the flip side, he said he was looking for his “swolemate” in his profile. Really?! But even still, I wasn’t looking to marry him, just have a good time.)

We did the usual back and forth Tinder chatter, then moved to texting and connecting on Instagram. I kept some distance at first. He just looked too good, and gave his profession as a sometime dancer and model. Could this be a scam? Some catfish scenario? A setup to follow me home and murder me? Maybe hold me hostage in a basement “Silence of the Lambs”-style.

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This can’t be real, right? …but what if?

We tried unsuccessfully to meet up multiple times but the timing never seemed right, even though we lived near each other in Los Angeles. A few days went by, and the texting continued. It was a Tuesday morning when our conversation moved to discussing afternoon plans and I mentioned that I was heading over to Runyon Canyon for an afternoon hike. He invited himself to join me. Then, he suggested an alternative — a visit to the gym for a workout and a tanning session. (Seriously, who wants to go to the gym and tanning for a first date?! At least a hike gives you time to talk in naturally scenic beauty.) I told him I was sticking to my hike plans. He agreed to come with.

So this was really going to happen.

When I spotted him walking toward the Fuller Avenue entrance, I was surprised. He looked exactly like his photos. Wow. Good for you, I thought.

We exchanged hugs and hellos, and started walking toward the trail. I tried my best to engage in typical first date small talk, which is so awkward in this dating world where you spend all this time texting a stranger you haven’t seen with personal information about yourself. He tells me he’s actually having a bad day because he just got fired from a job. The conversation then turns to his monologue about why he prefers one franchise gym over another, mostly because he claims that too many guys have peeked in at him in the lesser gym’s locker room. Riveting conversation.

As we approach the start of the trail he suggests that we “add in some high intensity to keep it fun.” Despite my lack of athleticism, I put on a smile and agree “to kick it up a notch.” He decides we will run for two minutes and walk for one minute, and then repeat. I am completely unready for this, but I gleefully smile and say that I will try my best to keep up.

We run for two minutes and I keep pace with him.

Maybe this won’t be so bad. Maybe I can do this.

We switch to walking and continue with the light banter.

Then it’s time to run again. This time it kicks in: I cannot do this. I’m panting heavier than a mastiff on a hot summer day. I can’t take it anymore and I stop. Hunched over, desperate for breath, I can see that he is considerably far ahead. He turns and sees that I have stopped. I try to signal somehow that I will try to catch up. I continue to move up the hill slowly, thinking that at any moment I will be able to start running again.

As I look up after him on the trail, I can see that he is still going full-steam and with each minute is getting farther and farther away — and he keeps on going.

I get to the peak and he’s not there.

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I head down the stairs of the east trail, which typically slows people down and offers benches at multiple points, but he’s not there either. I get to the bottom of the trail and the street entrance, and still no sign of him.

He was gone.

The man literally ran away from me. Yes, this really happened. He ran away during the first date without warning or excuse.

I know I should have been upset, but all I could do was laugh. There wasn’t even a text to explain what happened. He was just gone. Ran away with no explanation or regard for how I would feel. (In retrospect, I think I was not fit enough for him, and he was turned off by it. Instead of handling it maturely and saying, “I don't think we're right for each other,” or fumbling to come up with an excuse to cut the date short, he just saw an opportunity to take off, so he did.) I found this so hysterical that I wasn’t embarrassed by it. I was just in utter disbelief. Who does that?

He became known as Running Man among my friends.

Fast-forward a couple of weeks.

I was traveling down Santa Monica Boulevard; my new boyfriend was driving. As we came to a stoplight, I looked out the passenger-side window and exclaimed to my boyfriend, who had no idea what I was talking about, “That’s Running Man. Oh my God, there he is.”

And there he was, on a pop-up poster outside a store, standing about 8 feet tall.

It was an ad aimed at those suffering from low testosterone, low energy and low sex drive.

The author is a nonprofit leader focused on women’s empowerment and is on Instagram @theycallmestiles.

Straight, gay, bisexual, transgender or nonbinary? LA Affairs chronicles the search for love in and around Los Angeles — and we want to hear your story. You must allow your name to be published and the story you tell has to be true. We pay $300 for each essay we publish.Email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com

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