It’s hot. I’m tired. He’s fast.
I’m back at the track as the weather starts to climb back to hell temperatures. 5 miles, 1:23.56 (16:45-127). Just toodling while keeping the heart on the top end of aerobic without going threshold. And then he shows up.
I love this track because it seems to attract crazy fast athletes. I guess there are a lot of fast guys who live in the area, and there aren’t many available tracks. This guy is the real deal.
He sets out his little cones, one at the 200 start and another at the finish. A long warmup. Stretch. Another warmup.
I say hey to him as I come around. He says hey and gives me the little wave of kindred souls on a track on a steamy day. I’m walking and trying to do a little barely trot on the straights to help the body remember what running feels like. It claims amnesia. Whatever. And then he comes by on his first repeat.
If you’ve ever shared the track with a sprinter, you know that feeling. The energy flying past in a blur. Arms pumping furiously, hands straight and perpendicular to the track, cartoon thighs and quads bulging. Controlled chaos down the straight, then a drifting stop. Hands on knees, gasping for air. A moment of rest, followed by a minute of walk, followed by a jog back to the finish line. And then the jets come on again.
It must be odd to be a sprinter. That self-imposed torture of repeats on a hot day. Nobody else to push against except the little voice telling you to quit. The only glory is a little orange cone cheering you to the finish line. The only satisfaction is the knowledge that the endless hours will cause you to be 0.2 seconds faster in a couple of years.
I guess it’s all relative. I’m an old man struggling to get back to sub-15s, out in lane 9 while he’s setting lane 1 on fire. But we’re both chasing the same thing.
“You don’t become a runner by winning a morning workout,” the prophet Parker said in Once A Runner. “The only true way is to marshal the ferocity of your ambition over the course of many day, weeks, months, and (if you could finally come to accept it) years. The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.”
Will I ever be a runner again? I don’t know. But I’m going to try. The Trial of Miles.
But maybe no 200s. Those look painful.