And if it’s just a game
then I’ll break down just in case
Hurry up (hurry up)
we’re running in our last race
— the prophet westerberg
I’m singing in the rain, just a good citizen running the SCC loop while listening to the Replacements.
Lane 9 wants to know what the problem is.
I’m running on what I now embrace as Lane 10, the little sidewalk that goes along the outside of the track. My beloved Lane 9 and I are separated only by an electrified fence with razor wire along the top, attack dogs in artichoke costumes inside the perimeter, and a security guard constantly prowling in his little golf cart, if a cart can be called a golf cart when not used for golf. Although he putters around a lot.
I try to explain to Lane 9 that the track is permanently closed. Something about liability or gnomes or a transgender backlash in track and field.
Lane 9 says I must be a sissy. Jump the fence, he says. Gwen did it. They didn’t arrest her; she was just deported back to New Jersey.
I point out that the sign clearly says “Violators are subject to prosecution under ARS 13-1502.” I googled it a while ago; that’s “Criminal Trespass in the Third Degree.” I don’t look good in stripes. But Lane 9 can’t see the sign; it’s posted on the outside of the fence. Lane 9 is lonely.
A rainy day has created a water hazard next to the steeplechase water hazard. I loved those puddle- jumping days. I loved those Lane 9 days. We were friends.
We can be friends again, he says. Easy. It’s getting dark. The guard quits at 5:00. We have the joint to ourselves. Hop the fence, dammit, JUMP OVER THE DAMN FENCE!!!
My mind drifts back to the million miles we ran together. Those orange Asics racers. The blindfold miles. Rudolph. Squirrel. The gazelles. I love that track. I NEED that track.
And just like that, I think screw it. You only live once. I’ll run one mile on it for the old days.
What’s the worst that could happen? They have to call Mo in the gym to bail me out, she won’t pick up the phone because she’s listening to screechy female folk singers, and I’ll go to prison. How bad could it be? They don’t make you edit in prison. The yin/yang of life.
Or maybe I can use the Joe Oakes Guide to Dealing With Security Cops: “Officer: He does not speak English and is not familiar with our ways.”
So that’s it. After all this time, I’M GOING TO JUMP THE FENCE for a brief return to glory on the track.
I’ve never been more excited, at least until season 3 of “Ted Lasso” finally arrives.
The fence is higher than it looks. I’m very old. Everything is wet because it’s been raining.
I make a half-hearted effort to hoist myself. I try a couple more times before coming to the grim realization that hoisting is best left to the young.
I trudge back to the car. Mo sees a rainbow. I hit the stop button on the Garmin.
We’re running in our last race, Paul and Me.
It’ll just have to be in Lane 10.
Sorry, old friend …
* And I’ll be you