A Race We Cannot Lose

Everyone has learned at least one lifelong lesson the hard way. This is mine.

Like millions, I was once a fairly serious runner. The spark was lit one lazy summer Saturday afternoon over a quarter century ago as I watched a marathon on TV. I still remember thinking, “I look like those guys. I wonder if I could run like that.” Of course, I quickly confirmed that I could not run like those guys – not even close – but I still trained hard and ran my share of 5ks and 10ks. Never a marathon or even a half-marathon though.

When you run longer distances, your body forgets how to run fast. Because of this, once a week on a Friday or Saturday evening I would go to a local track set around a practice football field at a nearby high school. The hard dirt track was set off from a dimly lit parking lot by a large grass field with no lighting. The neighborhood was not in the safest area, but – like many in their 20s – I viewed myself as bullet proof and used the nerve-driven adrenaline rush to push myself harder.

On this track I would run a fast quarter mile. Then, without stopping, I would slowly jog a quarter. After the slow jog, I would immediately kick into another fast quarter. I would repeat these intervals until I was ready to call it an evening.

Now that so much time has passed, I cannot remember many of these interval evenings. But one does clearly stand out. It was a dark night. So dark that I could not see to the other side of the track. No lights. No moon. Clouds obscuring the stars. No one else on the track and no one that I could see anywhere. As far as I was aware, I was alone.