go, went, gone

To investigate how one makes the transformation from a full, readily comprehensible existence to the life of a refugee, which is open to all directions — drafty, as it were — he has to know what was at the beginning, what was in the middle, and what is now. As the border between a person’s life and the other life lived by that same person, the transition has to be visible – a transformation that, if you look at closely enough, is nothing at all.
— Jenny Erpenbeck


I saw him again today. Not at the track, but in the New York Times.

Longtime readers will recall I recently discovered the sprinter guy who hangs out at my track was busted for using a variety of growth hormones in 2016 and is out till 2020, which I suppose ends his career. I wondered why. Today, I found out.

The Times had a story today about a guy in Queen Creek, just down the road from Scottsdale, who had through a totally random postal check in Switzerland been busted in what turned out to be one of the biggest sports doping networks in American history.

The reporter wanted to talk to someone who had bought stuff from him, and the person who met him at a coffee shop? My guy, the sprinter. He told the reporter his story. He was a D-1 sprinter who in 2015 suffered a hamstring injury. Not wanting to abandon his career, he did what he had to do. The problem being, of course, that he got caught.

I could only shake my head through the article. Why would you throw away your running career, one that wasn’t that great to begin with, by using illegal drugs? And then I thought about it.

I’m getting increasingly slower. I struggle to hit a 12-minute pace, even for short periods. In my mind, I’m still a sub-20 5K guy. In my body, I’m pushing to go sub-40. But what if? What if there were a drug that would allow me to turn back the clock? What if it were illegal?

I think I’d do it in a second. I’d fill the closet with the stuff. I’d risk prison for one more run without limits, that feeling of flying. I would. A refugee on the track no more.

When I was a kid, I heard about runners using DMSO, some sort of horse liniment you could buy at the feed store, to treat their knees. Sure, it was likely illegal and probably dangerous, but it made your knees feel better. That’s all that mattered. They said you could tell who was using it, because it made your breath smell terrible. I remember thinking it seemed like a good tradeoff.

I’m reading a book about African refugees landing in Germany and how they cope with having lost their lives. They had a life one day, and the next it was gone. I know that feeling too well.

“You can remember it,” Cassidy told himself that last day on the track, “but you cannot experience it again like this. You have to be satisfied with the shadows.”

The shadows suck. What if you could turn the lights back on? What if you had to break a few laws to do it? It’s not really cheating, it’s just surviving.

Sorry, sprinter dude. I think I get it now. It’s hard to watch a pineapple die.


About gary

no sock monkeys were harmed in the making of this blog.
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3 Responses to go, went, gone

  1. Dorothea says:

    I’m happy to see that Erpenbeck’s book is translated into English! And that you read it. Not sure if I would compare a life of getting older as a runner to the lives of the refugees, but there’s some poetry in the way that the refugee’s life is all our lives, in one way or another. And that we’re all looking to for hope in some way, though some of us risk a lot more for it than others.

    • gary says:

      i absolutely agree and in no way do i mean to belittle their horrors by comparing them to my minor crabbiness. i just tend to look at things through the prism of my own life. thanks for reminding me i’m lucky to be where i am.

      • Dorothea says:

        No worries. I know what you meant. I agree. I’m always my life and feel lucky to have the problems I have, and not other ones.

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