I start at the back of the pack during warm-up.
And then comes the last lap.
Coach blows the whistle, and then I morph into a bird flying fastest. I speed up, and up some more, until I am flying down the back straightaway catching the boys. I swoop in around the curve.
I feel my legs burning up with the heat of work. More force, more distance, more work.
But I do not slow down.
More work, more focus. I speed up and catch the boys at the finish.
During drills I keep my arms placid at ninety and stay up on my toes.
I spell p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e while doing skips to the rhythm of lift-up-down-lift-up-down. lift-up-down, my legs work. lift-up-down, lift-up-down– to every drill, a different rhythm.
Then come the strides.
I leave stillness for another day and step forward fast and far, but with smoothness, each step a silent sound.
During the workout, I run within myself; I am my own timekeeper.
With each repetition, I forget more and more that there are people running next to me, and I begin counting in my head when I get tired.
With each repetition, I feel more and more tired. I sweat and I smell.
With each repetition, I push harder and harder, and I keep a steady rhythm going so I know my pace.
With each repetition, I try to focus more on my form. Arms at ninety, up on my toes, I pretend that I am a seabird- nimble, resilient. And so I imagine flying above the waves of an ocean, for miles and miles on salt, water, and air.
As I cool down, I imagine that the wind is still salty and that I am swooping down onto the shore, back to the track.
My feet hum from the tiredness of my work, and I am reminded that I am human, and that the bird is a fantastical illusion I had momentarily fled to in my concentration at a transient tempo, a time whilst running that I have never been able to define.
p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e, I whisper. I will fly again tomorrow, and then maybe, maybe, I will become the timekeeper once again.