And so, of course, the track was open again today.
Temperatures have plunged into the mid-50s so there was ice everywhere, but the secret gate was finally open again.
With the joint in apparent lockdown unless you knew about the back entrance, I had the track to myself. Until.
A kicker shows up with a bag of footballs. He doesn’t even check the gates. He just throws the balls over the fence and then goes over in a single leap, the way athletes do before their knees get old. He strolls out to the 30 yard line, past the STAY OFF THE GRASS sign, and stretches lazily.
A guy who doesn’t seem like he’s serious arrives and runs the bleachers. He runs a set, then jumps the fence, lands on the blue table by the benches, and runs a lap. Back over the fence, back to the steps, repeat.
A sprinter wanders in. He stares at the locked gate, throws his spikes over, and hoists himself over the chainlink fence that lines the field. He is followed by another young guy who heads to lane 1. Suddenly, what had been an empty track is a party. The kicker is hitting 30-yarders. The sprinter is flying in pristine Asics spikes. Lane 1 Guy has settled in for the long run. Bleacher boy is leaning against the fence and checking his phone.
And I realize.
Fences can’t keep people out. If they’re desperate enough for what’s on the other side, they won’t be deterred. The human spirit can’t be stopped by arbitrary barriers.
The track is a melting pot of America, all colors, ages and speeds. They are drawn to its promise, its opportunities. To turn them away because of an unreasonable law won’t work. And anyhow, shouldn’t the track be better than that?
I finish up my 3 miles, smile at the anarchy unfolding around me, and head off to meet people from a fictional land. new Jersey? Connecticut? As if those are actual places.
Build a wall? Maybe build a dream instead. The track might be a good place to start.