Holy Innocents Hall of Famer, O'Neal Wanliss (2010-2011 Georgia Gatorade Track and Field 'Athlete of the Year' #2 Georgia HS Boys All Time 800m runners at 1:49.61
Still…eight lanes. No kids. No one stretching, putting their spikes on. No runners dodging the discus as it flies uncomfortably close. No chatting in stretch line. Nobody dodging the nearby flying soccer balls as they cross into track territory. No one jumping in sand, passing batons, flying through the air over on the pole vault pit.
No, it's not the loud noises that hurts the ears, it's the silence -- the deafening, horrible sound of nothing at all..
The beauty is it takes more than padlocks and security and viruses to stop the runner. Whether different courses, weather conditions, moods, and the like, the runner adapts. Roads, trails, paths await -- they're out there. Restrictions and laws and shut-ins only make the runner more determined, more creative in charting out today's new path.
Yes, these eight lanes are empty. Jesus may have wept, but when the moon is tilted right, you can hear the athletes and coaches flat out bawling. Painfully so. While teachers prepare for their next classes on Zoom, coaches dream of passing out bib numbers, delegating who carries the coolers, reminding kids for the seventh time when the bus will leave on Saturday morning.
As for now, though, another Saturday has come and gone. Out our windows lies a track, built to endure thousands of pairs of Nikes, Adidas, Brooks, and beyond -- still untouched since practice in mid-March. A look outside brings a knot in the stomach; painful reminiscence, visions of a more normal, natural way of being.
Still, the facility has been built….and the people will come. Padlock us out now and we'll come back with a vengeance times twelve come cross country. Until that day, just close your eyes and hear all the chatter -- 750 words per minute with gusts up to 950. Smile while you remind the kids to stay out of Lane 1, don't forget to cool down. Eat right. Hydrate. Sleep.
Yes, there is hope because we endure. Runners endure. And as the runner's feet pass yet another mile marker on a course he recently created, there is always a moving finish line in his soul, always more goals to be completed in less time.
And with each mile the runner knows -- always knows -- that one day soon, padlocks will be unlatched, gates will be opened, and he will take his proper place in one of those eight lanes…