At the beginning of this year, the recreation center I belong to started a challenge for members willing to take it up. Using the honor system, participants enter their aerobic mileage in a daily log located at the rec center's front desk. Based on the totals at the end of 2013, members can win prizes. This is supposed to be a challenge for each participant against himself or herself. However, things have gotten a bit personal among the participants atop the mileage leaderboard, and I felt a need to respond to one participant in particular.

Email to Mr. A: Dear Sir, I saw you had written a total of 47 miles at the end of the first week of January in the Race-for-the-T-Shirt Competition. I remind you that this log book is for rec center members trying to improve their health by encouraging them to achieve more than 500 actual aerobic miles (regular T-Shirt) or more than 1,000 actual miles (for the long-sleeve T) in 2013.

I added your daily log entries for the first week and found you had miscalculated, and added an extra 1.5 miles that you did not actually do. I remind you, the prize is only a T-shirt. Please keep it honest. Truly yours, Bruce.

Reply email: Dear Bruce, I'm shocked to have received your email. What business is it of yours to check my math? Whether it was 47 miles or 45.5 miles for the first week of January, I'm well on my way to easily besting 1,000 miles, this being March and my total already nearing 600 miles. I've noticed your total is currently listed as 27 miles less than mine. Your motivation is therefore obvious. No doubt you wish to claim the highest total by the end of the year.

All right - I'll reduce my next week's entry by 1.5 miles to make you happy. But please, stop entering your daily mileage in pencil. Use the pen the desk staff provides. Need I remind YOU, they're only T-shirts! Also yours, Mr. A.

Dear Mr. A: What business is it of yours whether I enter my daily mileage in pencil. What are you implying? Sometimes I realize I've made an error and need to correct my total. Correcting honest errors in pencil, as opposed to scribbling in ink, is easier on the rec center staffs' eyes.

By the way, the second week in February, I saw you using the indoor track, and you were cutting corners at the turns, meaning it wasn't 11.5 laps per mile, but 11.75 to 12 laps per mile. I figure that reduces your total by a half mile for each of your sessions on the indoor track. This being Easter weekend, I'm sure you'll feel that honesty compels you to reduce your overall total accordingly.

And, just so you know, I traveled an ultramarathon distance last Sunday and also three half marathon distances this past week. When these totals are included, you'll see my total mileage is well ahead of yours. My only motivation is to preserve honesty. Truly yours, Bruce.

Dear Bruce: Ultramarathon my butt. You went bike riding with your kid! How you can, in good conscience, add you mileage totals for bicycling as though that's equivalent to running, is beyond me. A cycled mile is, at best, one-fifth the equivalent of a mile run. Seeing how you're into honesty this Easter weekend, I'll convert your bicycled miles for you and adjust your total appropriately downward, leaving you with 317 miles instead of your claimed 577 (because no doubt you've counted other cycled miles as running miles). Guess it turns out it's a good thing you've entered your daily mileage in pencil. No need to thank me. Yours, Mr. A.

Dear Mr. A: I wish to point out that walking from your car to the rec center, to the locker room, to the track, does not count as mileage. The same is true for stepping in place in the rec center's showers, which I've noticed you do for an unnecessarily long time. I won't go into the tanks worth of hot water you've wasted thus far, but allow me to adjust your mileage down in kind.
Let's say two miles for today because, Lord only knows, you're also counting your walks to your kitchen pantry for Snickers bars. There. Got your mileage adjusted to the much-more-accurate total of 276 which, by the way, puts you in 77th place overall. Congratulations on that and you're welcome. Yours, Bruce.

Dear Mr. Jerk: Let's drop the pretenses. You're a jerk. Walking is aerobic and therefore walking counts. Whether they're trips to the pantry for a Snickers bar or a rice cake is none of your business. In fact, I've recalibrated all my walks and adjusted my total to the correct amount of 1,027 total miles, and that's being conservative. I'll be applying for my long-sleeve T my next trip to the rec center, as well as for my award for being the first participant over a thousand miles.
By the way, you don't get extra credit for driving a Prius, so I've adjusted your miles down a bit more. You're at 157. Still a good total,. For a jerk. Keep it up. Regards, Mr. A.

Dear Mr. A: I'm not going to stoop to name calling as you have. As far as my Prius is concerned, I'm allowed an extra half mile of credit per day for not polluting the air we breathe when we run outdoors, something a honking SUV driver like you could never understand. Given the current Carbon Exchange Rate set by the United Nations, you should lose at least five miles per drive to the Dairy Queen, a daily event for you, so I'm told.

This leaves you with a total between 45 and negative 12 miles. Rather than crossing over the 1,000-mile mark, it's as though you've been moseying backwards on a Segway with your shoulders drooped. If you've already received your long-sleeve T, please return it post-haste, or I may have no choice but to call the police to investigate this matter as a theft. Being honest, not a jerk, Bruce.

Dear JERK: It's not name calling but a descriptive fact. Thanks to all the crossouts you no doubt scribbled through my daily mileage entries, the rec center wouldn't give me my long-sleeve T; not even the short sleeve. You'll be hearing from my lawyer shortly. The man doesn't run but is strong enough to throw your Prius, with you in it, into the rec center's retention pond.

By the way, the lady at the front desk lent me a nifty pencil eraser. Good luck finding your mileage totals. Mr. A.

Dear Mr. A: O.K, O.K. Let's let bygones be bygones. No need to get lawyers involved. I didn't like the T-shirts the rec centered offered anyway. Instead, I've entered our names in a snail-mail poker competition. You should know I was dealt three aces and the fourth on my draw. Lucky, but absolutely true.

Now it's your turn. Please shuffle your deck thoroughly and do not peek at the cards. Truly yours, Bruce.

Bruce Steinberg is a father, husband, lawyer, novelist and a silent sports enthusiast in St. Charles, Illinois.