Escaping the Daily Grind
by Neal S. Jameson
Sometimes I find it so hard to get motivated - so hard to get out the door. Weather, work and other daily stresses combine forces with my own weakness to try to keep me inside. But today is a great day for a run.
Today I race Brian, and the stakes are high. Brian is my oldest rival. We've split victories ever since we first met on "The Hill" several years back. I think he beat me that time. Today we race for the championship, and they're calling us to the line.
Nervously, I look Brian over. He's as fit as ever. Man, he looks fast. He's looking at me, too, probably noticing my weight. I've got at least 10 pounds on him. I've got my work cut out...
"Runners, take your marks.
We're off. Brian and I are quickly out front, leaving the roaring crowd behind. I know this course all too well. It's an out-and-back with the first mile downhill. It makes for a fast start, but I need to save something for the end - "The Hill."
Brian pulls ahead on the downhill. He's good there. My feet are pounding, trying to keep up. The shock is vibrating up my legs. My knees feel as if they are going to crush from the weight. Slow down, that hurts!
Brian is about 50 yards ahead as the hill levels out. With about a quarter-mile to the turnaround, I pick up the pace, relieved that the downhill portion is over.
He hits the turnaround first, but I'm only a few feet behind. He's a little slow regaining speed after making the tight turn. That's where I catch him. We run dead even for a few minutes. Neither of us speaks. One mile to go.
Finally, we approach the water station. I slow to grab a cup of water, trying to get some of it into my mouth to quench my thirst. The few drops that enter my mouth taste like warm, stale plastic. I'm breathing so hard I almost choke. I throw the remainder over my head and press on. Brian, who never takes as much water as I do, has pulled slightly ahead.
The Hill! I feel as if my heart will explode as I apply the effort needed to catch up with Brian. My legs are gorged with poison, getting noticeably weaker with every stride. I must endure. I can taste victory. He is so close.
I hear the roar of the crowd as we close within a quarter-mile of the finish line. My chest is tight, my face hot. Sweat stings my eyes, making it hard to see the road in front of me.
I know The Hill levels out slightly about 100 yards from the finish line. This is where I'll catch him. My heart is pounding relentlessly. With every beat, I feel a rush of fire in my face, my head. My legs stop aching - now they are numb. The roar of the crowd raises my spirits a bit as I dig deep for that last bit of effort. He is only steps ahead. My mouth is so dry. Must...dig...deeper.
I'm breathing so loudly - wheezing - that he can hear me. He turns to see how close I am, a look of surprise on his face as I pull ahead. A sharp right turn to the finish line. I've got him!
The crowd gathered by the line is cheering, "Go, Neal! Go, Neal!"
A lump forms in my throat as I allow myself to hear their voices. I realize they are cheering for me. I realize I've won.
The crowd noise is suddenly gone. I stop, double over from a familiar pain that feels so good, then remember that I should walk. What a race!
I walk toward Brian to congratulate him on a fine effort. Still catching my breath, I extend my hand...but he's gone. Everyone is gone. I look around to find myself alone in the street, standing in the rain in front of my house.
I click my stopwatch as I walk up the driveway. Twenty-eight minutes for almost three miles. Not bad...not bad at all.
As I enter the bathroom and take off my rain-soaked running clothes, I glance at my 20-pound overweight body in the mirror. "Great run," I say to myself reassuringly.
Smiling, I fill a cup with water. Tomorrow, I think I'll run in the Olympic Trials and, with that fierce competition, I can't afford to be dehydrated.