Nolan ran. The road was dark. The pavement was broken. His tank top was drenched in sweat and he was behind in his pace. HIs heart beat in his chest. The led lamp on his waist was slowly starting to dim. Nolan could barely see his feet on the pavement as he powered through his race.
The sound of crickets echoed through the night sky like a stadium cheering and jeering for their lead player. Nolan had a second to waste. He was the only human in sight. HIs breath shot out between his lips.
Pain radiated from his feet and legs and transformed and traveled to his abs and back. He winced in pain but he dared not slow down. Doing so would be catastrophic. In mid stride, he bared his teeth and howled in agonizing pain. One step after another. One step after another.
Sweat started to pour down his face and rest in the crevices where his eyes were. He lost his towel six miles back. He knew rubbing his eyes could be a disaster. One rub could blind him for the next twenty minutes. Can’t afford the inconvenience. He said a prayer and blinked, hoping his eyelashes would work they way they were designed to, prevent sweat from touching his eyes. This uncomfortable feeling eclipsed the waves of pain he felt in his torso.
He had two gulp-fulls in his small canteen. He did the math in his head. He knew he was losing sweat so he needed to replace it with water, but the sweat was unbearable. Keeping his pace he wondered what would happen if he used the water to watch his face, then he could collapse of dehydration.
The unseen road was most unsettling. This was not how he planned this. There should have been daylight, but there was an unexpected route change. Nolan was on a road that wasn’t on any map he had seen and the desert night temperatures were unforgiving.
Nolan admitted he wished someone were on the road with him, cheering him on would’ve been nice. Even a thumbs down would have been comforting to a degree. But no people in sight forced his mind to run just as fast as his pace.
Was Nolan even running the right way? With the right form?
Nolan looked up and saw the stars that littered the velvet sky above him. As he kept his pace, his mind began to take a trip through time. As he continued his run, he was transported back to a time when running like this meant he was chasing something or being chased. Nolan could relate. He was chasing the finish line. The monstrous ogre of failure was chasing him. He couldn’t stop for the monster would devour him.
The galaxy above was dizzying. Nolan focus on the dark road through hazy, sweaty eyes and veered off the dark path almost crashing along the side of the road. He buried his head and continued to run.
Nolan lost track of time and wondered what would be his demise, alone in the dark of the desert. He had no power to fend off any predators, but it was only a matter of time, before he could he the snarls of the terrifying monster of failure. He could hear the breathy snicker, trotting behind him, ready to devour Nolan.
A sharp pain shot through Nolan’s leg. It stung like an arrow had been fired from beyond the mountains. It had to be a cramp, but what if it was worse? What if it was a tear? Nolan continued running, but the pain grew worse and worse. Not a medic in sight. Not an official to be seen. He had to have been going the wrong way!
Nolan’s end would come in the middle of an unmarked desert road.
But as Nolan slowed down, willing to let his injuries win, the sky started to brighten…
Then, Nolan could see faintest light start to settle on the road in front of him. A bright LED light danced in front of him like a giant fairy.
“Keep running,” Nolan heard someone say in a slurred voice.
The sun was beginning to rise and soon, he could see tiny figures in the road in front of him. At first they were dark pillars and soon the shapes began to grow limbs in the faded sunrise.
Nolan hobbled along in step with his run across the dim lit pavement. The light around him grew in intensity.
Nolan’s heart overflowed with joy as he saw people sprinkled along the side of the road. The pain had to go! He was too close to the finish!
Nolan grabbed his thigh and commanded the pain to leave in a whisper.
“Just run,” another side liner screamed. The man pointed down the road behind Nolan. Emerging from the darkness, the competitor came through with a crazed look in his face. Nolan had seen the face of victory before. The ogre of failure shot a laugh out and plopped himself in the dirt, ready to watch the show.
Nolan twisted around, his hand wrapped firmly around his pain, and leapt into a sprint. The pain shot through Nolan’s body, it forced him into a hop. The competitor fixated on the horizon. Every hop Nolan made, the competitor made two strides.
Nolan closed his eyes again and whispered to his throbbing leg.
“Pain,” Nolan began. “You must leave. You do not serve me.”
The competitor approached with intensity that no one wanted to get in the way of.
“I command you to leave, NOW,” Nolan screamed.
And strangely, the pain twitched and vanished. Nolan’s eyes flashed wide and stood pain free. He knelt and prepped to take off sprinting and in that moment, the competitor and Nolan were nearly side by side.
Nolan powered through the last stretch. Their backs were upright and their pace intensified. The marathon was coming to an end.
Their hands fished through the air as they used them to balance their bodies in their speed. They could feel each other’s presence as they ran side by side. The competitor towered over him in height, but Nolan knew how to run fast.
The two could see the checkered line in the distance. The competitor ripped through the air like a stallion in the wild. Nolan was shorter, but he had not one excuse he could muster. That monster of failure stood at attention.
Nolan pushed harder and faster, summoning courage he that had all been spent. He had imagined this moment for nearly a decade. And as every heart beat, as every heart pounded with excitement, the crowed had witnessed a winner.
It was Nolan.
Nolan had crossed the finished line and the ground shook as the monster of failure stormed off in the beautiful hue of the summer morning had shown for all to see.