400m Dash

400m Dash

 

The gunpowder wet-rain smell,

overcast skies emptying, saturating the

slippery oval rubber and

clingy polysynthetic clothes

with cold, stinging moisture.

 

Jittery heart pounding nerves

bounce legs up and down on bleachers;

hands shake from adrenaline or cold–

one can never tell–as heavy clothes

slowly strip away revealing

too short short–shorts

and neon shoes.

“More white thigh than a bucket of KFC,”

as the saying goes.

 

Scores of us jog and skip and stretch up

and down the astroturf infield trying

to shake the wet and the cold and the stiffness

out of our legs, performing what looks to be a comical battle dance of flailing legs and arms, almost ritualized, listening for the crackle of the still-awful quality of the loudspeaker:

 

Final Call 400 meter dash

 

Then, to the line, on the cold heavy rubber,

motleys of blue, green, gold, yellow, and orange crouch, one in each lane, to start. spikes dig in to the track and muscles tense with anticipation.

“Mark”

stills the jitters

“Set”

stills the mind, and for one eternal moment, time stands still, counting the spaces between heartbeats.

 

Bang

The unmistakable cap-gun sounds,

launches us forward into the fray.

 

Snick, Snick, Snick

go metal spikes on saturated rubber,

lungs strain and gasp and cry, feeling

gut-clenching and butt-locking burning

as sprinters sprint and runners run

around in the cold and the wet and the

wind: for of course there is always wind

 

chapping faces, bending backs, hunching shoulders, fighting against our own nature

as we round the last bend

sweat, rain, and sometimes tears

mix with wind as we strain for the finish,

stumble across the line and vomit,

always, there’s

Vomit

 

 

–Jacob Baugher

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