Dear Michael and Caroline,
He said no, sorry, quite decent and sympathetic about it and all, but no nonetheless.
“Please,” I said. “It’s my last chance.”
The coached looked down at the ground, as if my begging embarrassed him.
“Okay,” he said.
And now I’m in the race itself, sure enough, and falling farther behind everyone with each step. I’m losing and losing badly. I’m losing worse than anyone can lose.
Kids from the school are in the stands watching me fail miserably. I’m so far behind I’m losing sight of the runners in front of me. They’re 200 yards ahead of me, already around the curve as I approach the back stretch, then 250 yards, then 300.
We go into the last lap now. My lungs are screaming from the exertion, my breathing growing ragged, and I’m definitely losing steam. I hear footsteps behind me.
Oh, no. Can it be? Can the unthinkable happen here?
The answer, quite plainly, is yes. The runner in the lead passes me.
Lapped – that’s what I was in the only track meet the coach ever let me run in. Lapped by the winning runner. Lapped in an event that had only four laps in the first place. Lapped in public, right in front of the whole school.
Nobody is supposed to get lapped in the mile, and nobody ever does, but somehow I had proven an exception to the rule. The winner had completed four laps before I could even log three.
I forget now, all these years later, whether other runners lapped me that day, too. Maybe so, but I’ve chosen to block it from memory. Getting lapped by a single runner would be sorry enough.
Anyway, I finished the race, more than a full minute later, utterly humiliated. But at least I ran the mile in that meet, and only because I begged the coach to let me. I had wanted to see how I could do, and now I had seen it in the most unmistakably vivid terms possible.
P.S. – See part 4 tomorrow.