As I was running around the park in Fort Vancouver, I gazed over the open field. It was only about an hour after the final person crossed the line. Even then, that field that hosted Nationals was empty... still... free from people. Likely how it likes to be. The course, which is a 2k loop ran four times by the guys, was non existent. The flags that lined the course were not there, cones were no longer present, and officials were not telling me which way to go. But yet, I could still follow its path, blackened with the cold, gritty mud that we all tilled with our 3/8 inch spikes. It was still there, at least for now.
It was then that I realized that it is not merely the sport that I liked. Not... the game. It was all just a game after all. In and out, out and in. People going every which way, not truly knowing which way to actually go. Everything happened so quick. It was there, but so quickly.... it was gone.
I came into my freshman year not nearly knowing what to expect. I did not expect to run the fastest time as a freshman at Shawnee State (at the time). I didn't even know what a decent 8k time was at the time. Then, later in the season, I did not expect to lose to Cedarville by one point at conference and not receive a bid to go to Nationals. After that, I did not know that it would take such a toll on me.
I did not know my sophomore year would not show any progression, but yet, somehow have a good year as a team. My junior year, I did not expect to improve so rapidly, only to finish 156th at Nationals, but 4th as a team. I did not expect to pound out 100+ mile weeks. I did not expect as a senior to.......
I stood on the line at 11:40 a.m. at Fort Vancouver. The crowd was deafening. I was ready, we were ready. But once again, I didn't know the race would be over just like that. It was only 26 minutes long to be exact. To long for my liking actually. But I wish it could go on and on. I would have liked to not lose my shoe 2k into the race. I would have liked to be an All-American at least, even top 10. I would have liked for us to win. But instead, I ran 6k of the race with one foot bare, I got 46th, and my team got fourth.
What am I feeling now? Disgust... sadness... loneliness... emptiness... freedom...
But Michael, isn't it all a game? Once the game is over, isn't it just over? Well, yes. But what is left empty will never be over. I have accepted it, but it will never be over. You see, the game we are playing goes on and on and on. The paths we leave will forever be enduring. No one can just erase them. They are memories burned in our minds.
I would like for it to be over. For me, to never have to think of what I never did, what I did to well of, or what I wish I could have done... that would not be everlasting. But now, it is everlasting.
As the course disassembled, so did my thoughts. I casually jogged through what used to be the starting field of my last meet ever as a college runner. Was I really smiling? I was putting a final footprint on the best four years of my life. How could I be happy?
I knew that I did everything possible to make me the runner that I wanted to be..... and still will be.....
Farewell for now.