Spike me

“When the heart makes contact
I’m there to see it through.”

When I was in 8th grade I ran track. Well, I ran track other years, but 8th grade was an especially good year in my personal running history. When my body still felt small and lithe. After 8th grade, my bones filled out and the running was less than. I couldn’t seem to find it anymore.

When I was in 8th grade I ran track. We had an important meet, pretty important, in the spectrum of meets. I forget where. I ran a relay with 3 other girls in my class. They seemed prettier, more popular, more comfortable with boys, but when we ran it all felt the same. In our relay I was 2nd leg. I remember waiting for her, the blonde. She ran so hard and kicked her legs so far that her shins would disappear from view. Like she was running with quads and knees only, although I know that’s not possible. I waited for her, waiting for my turn to skip across the track. Waiting in my lane. Red dust on my spikes. It was damp. Puddles lined the track on the outside.

I saw her coming. She mouthed the go. I started the shuffle. Forward, forward. She was red, out of breath. The sprinter, meant to give us a good lead. We were in second. The first girl swished past me, her partner lunging forward with the baton. I waited. Then it was in my hand and I felt so responsible. I sped. I am not the sprinter; I am the distance. I remember coming up on the girl with short hair. She seems far ahead of me. She seems a little too fast. I think, you know, I’m cool with second. This is good. This is fine. But in that moment I catch my stride, and I feel it as my legs pump. I’m faster than she is. And with that I watch her out of my periphery as I pass her by. As my legs easily out pace hers. As I slide around that corner and I see my coach and I see my hand-off, beckoning for me, faster, faster. I lose the lead a bit as I hand off, clumsily. It doesn’t matter. I had done enough. The next leg, she was the fastest of us anyway, put there strategically to maintain any lead we earned. We win. And I slide off the track with my relay-mates, reaching briefly for my tear-away sweats, splashing mud on whatever opponents were still hanging out, waiting for their classmates to finish.

It was brief, but that moment of settling and then passing her, I can still see it so vividly. Like it just happened to me. Like it’s still happening.

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