This week wehave a very special guest blogger, Ezra Fox. What makes him so special? Well, in normal life nothing, but in blog world the fact that he just received his MFA in creative writing makes him a hot commodity, as he received years of training in how to write about random things like running or life insurance computer games. Not only is he a skilled writer, but also a very good reader, which is clear by his participation in the famous podcast, Read it and Weep. Please enjoy Ezra’s guest entry as he delves into yet another activity that makes him cry.
I’ve never been a good runner.
In high school I got into it because I had a friend on the track team, and then the coach was really nice and coerced me into doing cross country. But I was never good at any of it. I was okay at the 400, just because it’s a terrible race and no one wanted to do it. I got roped into doing it in my second meet as a sophomore and had no idea what I was getting into. It’s just a lap of pain.
The first time I ran the 400 there was this point going around the last turn that runners might euphemistically call “hitting a wall.” It’s clearly a euphemism because no one ever tells you that the wall is covered in spikes.
But I got through that race and another two seasons of track afterwards. Because track was just so unpopular, by the time I was a senior I was the only senior on the team, and by default became captain. Well, co-captain. There was a sophomore who was actually fast, and coupled with my seniority, we were a good team.
By which I mean, we were a terrible team. He and I worked well together, the team just sucked. But we had a plan. Fail at the things other teams don’t bother failing at. This is how we scored points at triple jump and hurdles. If hammer-throw and steeple chase had been offered at the meets we would’ve tried to suck at those too. Man, there’s just no end to the ridiculousness of track and field events, is there?
Miraculously, during the last regular-season meet of my senior year, my 4×400 team actually made it to regionals. It was in no part due to me and in large part due to the very fast runners that made up the rest of the relay. It also might’ve mattered that there was a disqualification for one of our competitors. It didn’t matter. By hook or by dropped baton, I, Captain Fox (as my personalized sweatshirt said) was at regionals.
The funny thing was, I somehow had started caring about running. I wanted to do well. By design or dumb luck, making me a captain had made me somewhat captain-ly. I had pretended so well I wasn’t even pretending anymore.
I actually wanted to do well in the race. I was running lead-off, probably in lane 9 where they stuck the scrubs, and when the starting gun went off I ran with the pack as fast as I could… which wasn’t too long. Everyone passed me by the second turn. But I kept going. Not to win, clearly, but to stay close enough so that it wasn’t embarrassing. I didn’t hit the wall. Every part of me was wobbly… I felt like a drunk puppeteer awkwardly pulling loose strings, but I made it to the finish and handed off the baton without dropping it.
I stuck around for three more minutes until the race ended and cheered on my team. I don’t think we came in last, but we might’ve. I learned my time from my coach, nodded feebly and wandered away from the stadium. 57.4 seconds. It was a personal record by over a second.
This was around the time I started crying. It was hard to tell, since my face was already red and impressively moist. No one was around anyway. Also, I want to stress that the crying was very stoic and manly and did not look anything like this:
I wasn’t crying because we lost. Winning was never really a possibility so that was fine. If I had to guess, it was because I liked who I had become over three seasons of track, and now that was over. I liked Captain Fox, the runner. I respected him. I was never going to have that again. I was never going to be him again.
That was eight years ago. I never joined another track or cross country team. But maybe two years ago I started running again. Nothing fast, nothing impressive, but it’s pretty regular, and I’m getting better.
Also, I want to stress that when I run it’s very dignified and that I don’t look at all like this: