In a moment of weakness, I stopped.
Stopped counting the cracks in the sidewalk
and tracking the tempo of my breath.
My ankle pulled at the shin,
shoulder blades burned from what came before.
Humidity stuck in my throat.
My feet slowed to a walk on the corner
near the jagged riser where the smell of diner grease sits in the air.
Our loop’s highest point.
Tension drained from my quads.
My breath found balance.
For a moment, relief.
Then a friend came up on the right.
I readied my arms and returned to a trot.
Up the sidewalk
Past the Starbucks
Around the post office
And down the alley toward my starting point-
the orange bucket.
Round the pail and greet the next lap?
Or skirt behind and slip inside?
Just two more loops to the finish.
Not a runner. Too tired.
The music in my buds drowned the voice in my head
that would have otherwise urged me to go.
For the first time,
the workout won.
I apologized to Coach, lowered my head
and mounted a stationary bike
until time was up.
When the crew trickled in
after the clock shut off
and fist pumps exchanged
they tried to help.
“Are you okay?”
“It’s not worth it.”
“We’ve all been there.”
But I hadn’t.
Yes I was achy, but also able-bodied.
I wasn’t dialed in.
I need to be.
Every. Single. Time.
Especially at the end.
I’ve learned my body’s stronger than my mind.
Frustration festered during the accessory work.
As others emptied cubbies, I paced amid the cemented walls.
Through the doorway, baking in the sun stood the cylinder sentinel
who observes our effort and guards our egos.
I took note of her steady posture
and promised not to be beat again.
“Coach, are you locking up?” I asked.
“Not yet. Do what you have to do.”
I headed outside.
No music. No mates. Just me.
Gazed beyond my orange marker.