The Footrace

A certain man who enjoyed running decided to enter a race in his area to see if he could give a decent accounting of himself. He registered for the race and drove into the hills just after daybreak on the appointed day. When he arrived, he frowned and checked the location in the ad again. No one else appeared to be there. But this was the right spot supposedly.

No, there was one other person. She walked up to him.

“Here for the race?” she asked.

“Yes, can you direct me—”

“This way.” She motioned and walked away. The runner followed. In seconds they stopped at a white line across a path. The woman drew a pistol, pointed it in the air, and fired.

The runner stared at her.

“Go!” she hollered. His legs were pumping before he realized what had happened.

So he continued the run, still wondering if he had found the right location. The path bent and twisted through fields and wooded areas, over hills and across flats. At midmorning, with sweat dripping from his face and the breath rough in his throat, he crossed the finish line.

The race organizer came out of nowhere and walked up to him again. “Where have you been?” the runner asked, startled.

“Don’t worry, I was watching you the whole time.” She looked at her watch. “Not bad. I’m sure you can do better, though. Good thing you have all day to improve your time. Hop in!” She pointed at a small pickup truck parked off to one side.

She drove him back to the starting line and drew the pistol again. It went off. “Go!”

“Now hold on just a minute,” the runner said. “I left my water in my car.”

The woman looked at the sun. “Better hurry. I want you to have as many chances as you can. And if you brought any protein bars, you may want to grab those, too.”

He did, and he did.

Back at the starting line, a shot rang out again. “Go!”

The man lost track of how many times he ran the route, met up with the organizer, went back to the starting line, and ran again. Sometimes he was pretty sure he was doing better, but other times he’d stumble or trip and know he had fouled up his time. Taking a break was almost as bad, but he had to do that sometimes too.

“Blessed relief,” he breathed as the sun finally set. He pushed hard to the finish and collapsed like an inflatable lawn decoration when the fan is turned off.

The organizer’s shoes crunched on pebbles as she approached. She held a clipboard and wrote on the attached paper. “Uh huh,” she said. “Yep.” The runner peered up at her through sweat-sodden eyelashes. “Yeah. You won.”

“Of course I won,” the runner retorted with a laugh that turned into a cough. “I was the only one in the race.”

“That’s not the point,” she said. “You ran until the sun went down. Sometimes you did better, sometimes you did worse, but you ran the race as long as the race lasted. Here’s your prize.” She helped him up and handed him a brand-new satchel. The organizer drove him back to his car, said good night, and drove off.

Still breathing a bit heavily, the runner opened the satchel and found a trophy and a wad of prize money. From the looks of it, the prize was well worth the grueling workout.

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