The Race

Eli Wetter

A date circled in red ink on a calendar

A goal is set, a dream actualized in my mind

The Chariots of Fire score and the slow motion fall of the finishing line banner on my chest

Delusion or reality?


Delusion constitutes a forest of trees continuously stocking the fire of runners hopes

It vicariously circles the red ink

That nine months from now I’ll gaze upon and

Reach down to scoop up my jaw


January first arrives stubborn

Iced over by a december Zamboni

Enter the newborn runner 

Equipped with legs fit for days on the couch binging “Christmas Vacation” and “Die Hard”

Chowing on pastries and pies

Slipping and sliding on black ice

Tip-toeing over the pavement with strides so light you could walk on water


Sweating icicles, foot deep puddles

Tsunamis of runoff cascading down like Niagara falls

As snickering, runner-hating, “this is my road and nobody else’s”

Neighbors screech past

Flowers reaching up, high fiving the sun’s rays

Birds returning from a long migration

Springtime for a runner


Ninety degrees and a summer breeze

Carry me across twelve excruciating miles

Thoughts of a dip in the lagoon jostle through my mind

Six thirty is the new six forty

Each step an amalgamation of countless hours

Of a crazy man on an endless road

In strafed Nikes

At a crossroads of delusion and reality


Red-tipped ears, white-tipped fingers

One last jaunt before the ultimate test

Assessed with times not letters

The line between success and failure as thin as a hair follicle

As sharp as a knife


Light stretching, tunnels of high fives

Jovial waves and superstitious shoelace tying

The calm before the storm



Bang! A herd of malnourished wildebeests explode

Grappling for perfect position in a sea of pale legs and pokey elbows


Suddenly swimming in the abyss of an upside down V

One right hook and an outstretched knee

And I connect back to the SPASH train

Chugging along, biding time

Until I attack!


Short, staccato breaths cresting hills

Deep, long heaves down steep declines

Small victories gained with each fading jersey

Riding a wave of adrenaline


Until it comes crashing down

Shallow gasps one hundred meters out

Lactic acid spilling over the brim

A teapot whistling with roiling bubbles


A sharp jab of a leg digging up freshly mowed green

knees buckling and hands flailing

Like I’m hailing a cab from the golf course

As my feet scratch the white paint of the finish line


One second too late

One turn rounded too gradually

One lapse in concentration on the second mile straight away

And the goal sinks to the ocean floor

Tied down with a heavy stone never to see the sunlight again

Gazing up at the timeboard, I feel like Eric Liddell on West Sands Beach


A perfect race