(photo by Dan McCauley)
The beautiful, simplistic art of running: He or she who runs the fastest wins. Not much equipment needed, no nets to put up that takes up all the gym space, no one needed to pitch batting practice. No complications necessary, we simply run, pie charts and theorems be darned.
For perhaps reasons unknown, God took the blanks out of all the starting guns back in March; disarmed us all, sent us off to our socially-distant corners with heat sheets erased, finish line computers switched to perhaps Netflix. "For whatever reason, we've been left to face ourselves," one coach said. "It's a time-out we didn't call, but we've got to deal with it."
Still, the day will come and will come soon. Maybe July, could be August, maybe even Labor Day if it takes that long. On that day, tents will be re-assembled, parts taken out of the equipment shed; medical and spike kits pulled out from under the tarp and the chairs.
Alarm clocks in teenagers' houses will go off at 5:00 a.m. on Saturday. Their former selves would've perhaps cussed at this; flung the alarm in anger; maybe wonder why they didn't sign up for something with a later start.
Still, the day to come will not be a return to normal, but instead a return to a new one. No, the dimensions won't change -- the entrants must still run 3-1-miles to finish. Printers from the timers will still spit out papers while eager coaches clamor for their own copies. Runners will still flock to the water in the finish chute; volunteers will still cut out their chips. But no, things will not be the same on that day, not the same at all.
Because, you see, all will be fresh from a few months of hibernation; all will have faced internal elephants inside their quarantined rooms. Being in a "doing" society -- all will be better since to-do lists were formerly erased while runners, fans, and spectators alike had to do the hardest thing possible. Sit. Alone. With yourself.
Picture this, if you will, because the day will come. Buses will be boarded, parking lots filled, tents erected. And if you stop for a second and just listen, it'll happen - that old familiar sound of starting guns firing from as far south as St. Simons, north to Rome, and everywhere top, bottom, left, and right in between.
Off they'll go -- a hundred-plus strong all jockeying for position, some out quick, many caught in the middle, others taking the term "pacing" to new levels. Coaches hurry right and left -- checking their watches, ready to yell out the splits.
Yes, it will happen, but it will happen with adults who are better than before; kids better than before, support staffs better than before. Picture it, picture us -- all there more grateful, more free, sharper, inner nests from attics to basements all cleaned, spit, and polished.
How can you not smile when thinking… about an already pure, simplistic, but beautiful sport, now run start to finish by people who are the best they've ever been… Bring it on…