Runner - Fiction
Droplets of moisture from fall’s remaining dead leaves fell onto the runner’s lean torso as he sliced through the wooded trail. Crunching sounds emanated from the trail when his shoes kissed the crushed stone path and created a rhythm that became the metronome of his pace. Gray fog rolled through the trees and flowed over the path that snaked through the park. His breath froze in the air with each exhalation.
The winding trail blocked his view of the few runners who frequented the park. Those numbers decreased even more drastically since the weather started to turn very cold. This morning he passed only a solitary pair of runners looping slowly at the trail head. A nod as he passed them, then they vanished as he moves into the frigid mist that now surrounded him.
He ran up the shallow uphill path on the north side of the park. Near the crest, at the spot where the city view broke through the trees, he slowed momentarily and glanced at the geometric skyline. Blurred by the fog it was a mere aberration. His office and home where out there somewhere, with their distractions and problems. Sometimes he stopped to pinpoint those locations, they were his travails.
Not today. No stopping today.
He raced past the peak, without hesitation. Not today. No reality today, just the run. A slug of water and a glance at his watch were the only movements that disrupted his graceful gait. Faster he strode into the deepening fog. Sounds of the nearby parkway and of his footfalls muted by the fog that swirled around him eliminated distractions. Despite, or because of, the lessening visibility he increased his pace without fear.
Soon he would cross a wooden bridge at the five-mile mark. Deep breathes infused energy into his lungs and heart. He raced on.
A paved portion would signal the approach of the bridge. He anticipated the solid path before the spring of the bridge. Fog fully engulfed the path; the runner could only see an arm’s length ahead.
I am ready.
Above a soft glow broke through the gray. Rapidly the fog lifted and transformed the gray into blue as the winter sun began its slow rise over the horizon. Fresh frost covered the brown foliage, white as snow. Pavement made its presence felt to the runner. He ran on. One last deep breath and then a burning sensation pulsed through his body. His step faltered. Pain surged upward from his heart to his shoulder and head. He stumbled, but his feet keep moving. The bridge was close, now the concrete below felt alien. The bridge was ahead.
Got to get across.
Arms and feet danced at jarring angles. His water bottle slipped from his grasp. Forward his body wrenched and jerked, with the grace of a marionette. Forward he continued. Wooden slats rattled under his feet. Each board bounced with his footfall and then rebounded with an echo in remembrance of his impact. One, two, three strides he counted on the bridge.
How many more to go?
The runner slowed to a walk as he took his final strides on the bridge. Two more steps and he dropped to his knees and glanced at his watch.
PR. Personal record. Take me. I am done.
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