The Sting of Reality


Val Track
The glory days.

Recently I’d grown bored with my usual running routine and started looking for a new challenge. I thought about signing up for another marathon, but then I remembered how awful marathons are and therefore decided against it.

Then it came to me: I’ll start training and try to break my old high school time for the 400m!

Yep. I actually said that. Me. A 41-year-old, getting-more-gray-everyday writer, who’s 30 lbs. heavier than he was back when he ran track at 18. Come to think of it, I may have had a couple beers when I came up with this idea.

Actually the idea came to me back in the spring when I was watching my niece run the 400 with her junior-high track team. Seeing her fly around the oval really got my competitive juices flowing and made me wonder how I would fare against her. That’s right, I was seriously thinking about challenging my niece to a race. My 13-year-old niece. Fortunately I came to my senses. But I still wondered how close I could get to my old time of 52 seconds.

So the other day I jogged to the high school track, did a slow warm-up lap, and then ran a full-out 400m in order to get a baseline time. Honestly, I felt great as I completed the first turn and sprinted down the back stretch. Man, I thought, I’m really cookin’! Turning through the final corner, I finished strong down the last 100m and crossed the finished line, fully expecting to see a decent time on my Ironman watch.

That’s when reality hit me, right smack in the face: 1 minute, 14 seconds.

If you’re doing the math, that’s a full 22 seconds slower than my best time in high school. Oh, the delusions of the middle-aged man.

Undaunted, I continued my training as planned, doing sprints with brief rests in between. Next I decided to try a 200m, which back in 1993 I ran in 22.4 seconds. In 2016, however, it took me a good 31 seconds. Strike two.

Next up, the 100m dash. Let me preface this by saying that the 100 was never my event. I preferred the longer sprints that relied more on endurance than all-out speed. That said, I thought I’d give it a go. The result: 15 excruciatingly long seconds.

Usain Bolt, I am not.

Despite my disappointment, it was still a great workout and I left the track feeling confident that I’d improve with time. How could I not?

As I jogged home, I felt a sense of satisfaction. I had set a goal and taken the first steps toward reaching it. At the very least I realized that maybe I needed to make my goals a little more realistic. Then, as I ran down the sidewalk beneath a tree limb, I heard what I thought was either a squirrel or a bird moving in the leaves above me. Then I heard a buzzing sound followed immediately by a searing pain in my skull and on my back.


As they swarmed around my head I took off across the road, screaming, not looking to see if any cars were coming (luckily none were), all the while swatting the angry bees from my head and back. It was by far my fastest sprint of the morning. At one point I actually considered scaling the fence of the Beaver Pool and diving in. But luckily the bees had gotten their fill and decided to head back to the hive.

And so I continued home, my head and back throbbing, my ego brought crashing back down to earth.

Man, that stings.~


Copyright © 2016 Valentine J. Brkich

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