Every runner has a single race that defines him. On a warm October day I was about to experience mine. The stage was set, running against the top teams in our section at our annual State Qualifier Meet. This posed a big challenge for us because we had not run against top level competition all year. But, once I got to the line and the gun went off, there was only one thing I had to do.
Chase the clock.
I could feel the chewed up grass beneath my feet as if it had been stampeded over hundreds of times before. I felt the familiarity of the dry air almost choking me with every breath, and the same six kids right beside me taking in exactly what I was feeling. This situation was definitely on a larger scale, but in so many other ways, it felt like just another run.
Hitting the first mile stride-for-stride with my whole team had me thinking, I’m not going to be able to keep this pace, I’m going to die out. Second-by-second, I began to fall behind with one of my teammates, until I saw my coach out of the corner of my eye. He looked ecstatic but also worried at the same time, his team was doing great but one runner is falling behind. I was that runner. While I pass him I hear him say, “Positive thoughts, Lenahan, you can do this.”
Those seven words stuck with me as I approached the most dreaded part of the course. El Diablo, a giant hill that I had not once conquered successfully, swallows up runners one-by-one, crushing their dreams of ever running a personal record. But, “you can do this” urged me on to power through to the top. And, there I am coming down the hill wondering of how I got here and what do I do now…
I see green jerseys in front of me, I’m finally within striking distance of my team, so I go for it. I pass one, then another, then another until I come side-by-side with the best runner on our team. He isn’t shocked that I’m up there with him, all he says is, “You have nobody else to chase. Go chase that clock.”
All of the adrenaline that was pumping through me is slowing down and I can feel my legs starting to grow more fatigued as the race enters its last 1,000 meters. I can see the finish line in my sights now. My mind is pushing away any doubts that I had at the beginning of the race and I am only focusing on crossing that line.
Suddenly, I land on the heel of my foot, instead of on my toes and a sharp pain shoots through my foot. During the final straightaway of the race, I had stepped on a rock. I see the masses of people crowding the finish line, awaiting the conclusion of this thrilling race. I went back to my teammates words. “Chase the clock.”
I store all my pain in a place that I didn’t even know existed and gather all of my strength to complete this last 100 meters. I just keep pushing and pushing until I can finally see the clock right in front of the finish line. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I cross the finish line in excruciating pain and just try to form some thoughts about what just happened. I lie down on my back smiling about the time I just ran. My teammates were the first to come over and greet me on the floor. One of them said, “How’d you do it?” I glanced at my other teammate, grinned, then looked back and said:
“I chased the clock.”