In this time of introspection.
On the eve of my election,
I say to my reflection
God, please spare me more rejection.
— the prophet folds
They’re standing at the corner, the starting line of the Gumbo 5K, although I assume I’m the only person on the planet who actually knows where the Gumbo 5K course is, and I’m not telling unless I’m waterboarded, and these guys look like they probably know how to waterboard, so I stay in the car.
They’re just standing there in their fatigues. Hats, pants tucked into beige boots. Work clothes. One of them holds a clipboard. The other studies his phone. I sit.
Uncle Hal has me signed up for a tempo run today and I’m in no hurry to suffer, so I wait. And so do they.
A few minutes later, a car pulls up next to me. Two more Army peeps step out. Same uniforms, same low-key demeanor. They walk up to the other guys, and they all stand there.
And then they stand some more.
And some more.
All eyes look up the course. In the horizon I see a guy sprinting toward us. Black shirt, black shorts, screaming yellow ARMY logo on both. He streaks toward the finish. The guy with the phone moves to the corner. As the runner throws himself across the finish line with his last gasp, the phone guy says simply, “14 flat.”
The runner hunches over, that hands on knees please god don’t let me puke on the boots of my commanding officer kind of stance. He stays in that position for maybe a minute. The guy with the clipboard writes something down. And then they all walk to the car and leave. That’s it.
I google the times for the Army Basic Training test. It appears to be 16:36 or better for a 2 mile run. This guy must have crushed it. They say in the description that you need to be that fast for “combat readiness.” I’m guessing if people were shooting at me, I could go sub 8. And then I think about the ton of gear you carry, and then I think about the danger, and then I think about how far removed the Bird Park is from the battlefields of Afghanistan. I remember for the millionth time how much these guys sacrifice so that I can go out for my daily jaunt.
I mosey out of the car and start my own little time trial, which suddenly seems totally insignificant. Uncle Hal yells at me for sloppy pacing, but nobody shoots at me. Funny how time trials are relative.
I hope the soldier stays safe. I hope he goes sub-14 someday. I hope he never gets waterboarded. I hope they don’t tell anyone about the Gumbo 5K course.