On Running: Running Tested My Spirit
Running Tested My Spirit
It started as a challenge between friends.
Art was one of our training partners, but he was also an excellent cyclist. The rest of us were hard-core runners and we didn't give Art much respect for his cycling. In fact, we teased him constantly.
Art competed in a 105-mile bike race each year that covered the back roads between Kent Island and Ocean City, Maryland, and our challenge to him was simple. Three of us, Jim, Frank and I, would cover the same 105-mile course by running it as a relay team. Since we didn't have wheels, we would begin running at midnight, five hours before the start of the bike race. Whoever got to Ocean City first would win bragging rights. Art accepted.
When the night of the challenge finally came, I remember standing in the midnight darkness as Art kept us honest about our starting time. Frank took the first leg, and Jim and I climbed into the van that would transport the two of us who weren't running at any given time.
I ran second, and I stood on the side of the road waiting for Frank to touch my hand. Then, I was running down an old back road in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. My heart raced as I watch the van pull away, the taillights disappearing behind a far away turn, and I was alone.
I don't ever remember feeling more excitement on a run. I was moving fast, pushed forward by exhilaration. It was pitch-black, and I couldn't help wondering what was watching from the fields surrounding me.
We took turns through the night, and we had over fifty miles behind us by the time we knew Art was getting started.
The road slowly became more visible as the sun rose, but the air warmed quickly. By early morning, we were running in muggy, summer heat, and at a time when water was kept in a jug, not in little bottles, it was the beginning of the end when our water was suddenly lost. (It's a long story. Frank would be glad to give you the details.)
I can't remember exactly how far we had gone when it was my turn to run and I couldn't go. I took a stride and dehydration caused me to double over with cramps. After a short discussion, we decided we had to stop.
We waited for Art to ride by. He was struggling, but got a boost when he saw us. He earned those bragging rights, and I guess we deserved the ribbing that came with it.
We talked for a while about a rematch, but life took its turns, just like it always does, and there never was another challenge.
From time to time, I remember a day I wish I could live over again. Sometimes, it's because I'd like to bring back the pleasure of an experience. Other times, I'd just like another chance to do better. In this case, both apply.
Of course, going back in time is just wishful thinking. So, I'll have to settle for closing my eyes and remembering a long, dark, winding road where running tested my spirit, just like so many other times before and since.
Dave Griffin writes a bi-weekly running column and offers coaching to high school and adult runners of all levels. Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.