Have you ever trained for or ran a marathon? Describe it. If you haven’t, would you? Which marathon event interests you?
Before I spin a yarn, I’ll answer this legitimately. No. I’ve never run a marathon. No, I probably never will. Running is outside and outside is a hellscape of heat and dirt. Outside is a scary place where everyone else is and the air has temperatures I didn’t set and I have to wear clothes. Lastly, what marathon interests me? ‘The Long Walk’ by Stephen King/Richard Bachman – but I would never entertain doing it. I would just be interested in it.
Lee ran. He ran like he had never run before. He had been told it was about the journey and not the destination, but he thought that was horseshit. He had met tons of people that talk about the scenery of any given run and how a certain path smells. Lee couldn’t tell you about any of that. He could tell you in great detail how any race felt on his feet, about the inclines and divets in the roads, and how it felt to cross the finish line.
The obsession with Lee was the the finish line and there was nothing else. More than once a runner would come up to him and introduce themselves, commenting how they had seen him at the one event a month ago, or multiple races over the last year, and Lee would have no clue who they were. It just wasn’t the sort of thing he paid attention to. Those people aren’t his friends. They didn’t lend him money. They didn’t take care of his cat when he went on trips. They were obstacles between him and the end. If he doesn’t overcome all of them, he has lost.
Lee wasn’t the only person out there that was solely focused on their own performance and standing, but for obvious reasons he didn’t know who the other ones were.
The only ones Lee was aware of were the ones that beat Lee. Those were the ones that he learned their names and quite a bit more.
The idea came to him after one of the closest defeats Lee had ever experienced. The term ‘by a nose’ was thrown around and ‘by a stride’. As the ribbon tore against his opponent’s chest, Lee noted their number and left the area where the race bureaucracy gathered for the victory photos, interviews, and all that other useless garbage. He simply took a bottle of water, walked to his car, and drove away. He didn’t need to see the standings or receive his ribbon. Lee didn’t allow himself second place trophies. Even agreeing to accept a single one would begin his decline into complacency.
Hours later, Lee sat in front of his computer and began researching the winner of the afternoon. It wasn’t too hard. Their social media profiles were public and apparent. There were pictures of the day’s race with the winner cresting the finish line and Lee’s look of intensity as he was simply a step behind. People congratulated their friend and some even commented how amazing of a competitor Lee was, but that didn’t matter. He wasn’t doing this for their approval.
A week later, the winner of that race was found in his car, having missed a sharp turn by the slimmest of margins.
With another race on the horizon, Lee decided to do preemptive research. There were three people (and Lee, of course) that were touted as the probable victor. Two of them Lee had beaten in previous races, but the third was a gentleman that had recently had a string of victories that made him seem like he would be quite the competitor.
Two days before the race, the man slept as his house burned down. It was ruled a faulty gas line.
As Lee stood on the dais accepting his gold medal, he did the only thing he thought was right, and dedicated his victory to his fallen competition. Such a tragedy to his family and to the sport.
You would be surprised how long it takes the police to recognize that there is a pattern of popular runners dying. Races are in different towns, different counties, and different states. When, after months of gold ribbons had finally caught up to Lee, he did precisely what he knew how to do best. He ran, and this would be his longest and hardest race yet.