When will be the last time? At some point in a runner’s life they wonder if this will be the last time tired feet cross the line and a trail-weary body folds, hands on knees, waiting for the weight of the finisher’s ribbon on a salty neck. The medal is a welcomed weight of accomplishment, born from a need to know how deeply strength inside the soul descends. From the winner to the last hobbler a story lies hidden in each medal.
I gave everything. My heart, my soul, my breath, sweat, blood
and tears. Now all that’s left are invisible scars and finisher’s medals.
When will be the last time you salute the welcome face of the volunteer that greets you home like a veteran of some distant battle? And make no mistake; the trail is a battlefront and every race a battle. Out there on that beaten path, many soldiers fight to find their way home. Who are these souls, these brothers, these foes?
I saw him before and left him for dead on Hope Pass.
Why is he back? Is he getting stronger or am I getting weaker?
Trampling feet pound the ground like war drums signaling the pack has been let loose on the tundra. The herd bolts forth and systematically falls into order by the cruel scale of training and ability.
The moments when you question yourself are the worst. As soon as you ask “why?” you will for sure never know. “Why” is the question asked by those who hold down couches and glow in front of the television. “Why” is the question asked by those that won’t take the chance and extend a foot from the void of the comfortable into the depths of the unknown.
Into the dark place I go, knowing that discomfort will blanket
me with a cold wave of pain and inevitable delusion.
Soon a haggard tent appears in the distance like a mirage in the forest.
Paper cups explode on impact. Rations forced into the human machine – vital fuel to continue this attack on the finish line. That line mocks your shadow. Even as the sun goes down and your shadow grows longer the line still seems so far away. Soon night will fall and you will have to feel your way to that line…the signal that this hell is over.
And there it is! The line! Mitten-covered hands “pop-pop” and a few whistles announce that the journey is over. There is no crowd here and why should there be? This was never for them…this was a selfish adventure for yourself. A hug and a kiss and you begin the transformation back to who you were yesterday.
Behind the wheel you head home to the place that has furniture, photos, clothing and its own number. Home is where life occurs at a slower pace with a quieter clock.
The transformation begins with the cloud of a Monday looming. Before surrendering your legs to the prison under a desk a few hours of pardon remain. You take a moment at the hamper and take the pins from your number. This day of racing has come to an end.
Come morning the rats will be the ones racing. The allure of running is muted but the spirit to run will soon rise again. There are more miles out there to be conquered. A number and four pins await you.
Today wasn’t the end. The battle fatigue of the trail will dissipate and I will recover to run
another day. There are more miles to be covered and more sunrises to witness.
Just believe and keep believing. Never say no to running. Make life say no to you.
A collaborative post between @smzrunner and @missingnail