“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

My journey of 8.1 miles began with a competitive urge to outdistance my co-worker in running. After slathering on sunscreen and donning running clothes, shoes, and baseball cap rigged up with a bandanna to keep the sun from glaring into my eyes from the side, I set out from home.

During the three block walk to the starting line, I gave myself a pep talk about perseverance, proper pacing, and my own greatness. Then I started my chronometer and began to run – or perhaps a more accurate description would be jog. Full of fantasies about boasting of my distance the next day, I slogged forward along the path, backtracking one quarter mile at one point in order to build an extra half mile into the 7.6 mile route.

The sun was still warm, perhaps even hot, to someone running on asphalt with a hat AND bandana on her head. I tried to keep up the flow of inspiration and self-encouragement, but couldn’t help noticing how stifled my head felt. I fidgeted with my headgear while continuing my forward motion, finally pulling off the bandanna and using it as sweat towel.

Fears of dehydration or heat stroke set in sometime after mile three. At around 3.5 miles, I ran into an old friend who joined me for about a quarter mile of the route. When we parted ways I was all the more breathless for having used my lungs for speech.

At mile five my legs turned into sandbags, heavy and unwieldy. At five and quarter mile, I gave up my dreams of triumphant gloating and slowed to a walk.

I made a halfhearted attempt to start running again after a few minutes of walking, but I had lost all my steam by then. Unfortunately, I was still almost three miles from home. I spent the next forty minutes of my journey drowning in the abundant mucus that was the product of pollen-instigated histamines.

What started out as an ambitious quest for glory ended with a slow, sneeze-punctuated amble homeward.  That will teach me to compete.



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