• Sneaker toes on the line
    Spray painted white and bright
    It shows up against the dusty earth
    You raise your eyes
    And keep your eyes on the official
    He raises his starting pistol in one hand
    Holding his arms like clock hands
    One is at twelve, the other at nine
    The two arms slowly move together…
    And the gun goes off with a bang
    It makes your heart skip a beat

    As the cloud of white smoke fades
    The people in the crowd are silent
    And you’re flying
    Your feet push off the ground again and again
    As if you have all the energy in the world
    A cloud of dust forming
    Shielding you and your fellows
    From the anxious on lookers behind
    The adrenaline of the wait is gone
    Replaced by a mix of joy and dread
    Joy at the exhilaration of the speed
    Dread at the length ahead

    Green grass stretches ahead
    Streaked with the dusty brown grass
    The kind that comes from the dry summer
    Grass becomes asphalt
    Then, the cracked black path below you
    Turns downward and takes you with it
    Faster still goes the windmill of your legs
    Carrying you down the hill
    Like the propeller on a boat

    Someone is breathing behind you
    You are going too slowly
    “Keep going, keep going,” you chant mentally
    Timing it with your footsteps
    Keep going, keep going, step, step
    And then the breathing behind you fades into the distance
    As the runner falls back
    Time speeds up as you speed up
    And then, all of a sudden, the finishing line
    Swells into view
    Blooming over the hill in the distance
    Far away, but not too far to see
    You count the runners finishing

    Leaning forward, you dig your toes in
    Dig them into the dusty gravel of the path
    And drag yourself up, up
    Up the seemingly endless hill
    Towards the crowd that yells loudly
    Their voices almost distract you
    Are they yelling for you?
    Or are they yelling for your rivals?
    The finish line lies dead ahead
    Just another painted line in the dusty grass
    That little paint line is your goal
    And you cling to it fiercely
    And then, it doesn’t matter why the crowd is yelling
    It doesn’t matter how tired and hot you are
    It doesn’t matter how the sun beats down on your neck and gives you a headache
    All that matters is the closeness of victory
    All you do is stretch out your feet
    And claim it for your own