The Gambler

Last week I decided that I probably shouldn’t run the St. Louis marathon.

I was having a lot of breathing problems related to the temperature and season change, which manifested in the induced termination of several gestating long runs. The billboards lining I-70 would not have approved. But as I’ve always said — you gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to pack an inhaler, and know when to not run.

I was getting slower somehow. I felt wheezy and out of shape. Was I losing my love of running? Were the last three months of my life a complete waste of time? And why did I make a running-related abortion joke in that last paragraph? With one week left until the big race, I felt more uncertain than ever.

6 days left. The final countdown was underway! Then, I was on the soccer field when it happened. My team is the Muckrakers – maybe you’ve heard of us? We’re a ragtag team of journalism grad students slaughtered by 18 year-old intramural prodigies on a weekly basis.

In my fantasies, our team is down 0-6 when an unnamed referee (bearing a startling resemblance to Liam Neeson) roars, “RELEASE THE KRAKEN!” and I rise up out of the mist to straight wail on the enemy forces.
…In reality, I spend a lot of time ineffectually knocking over said enemy forces and apologizing profusely. Sometimes I make self-deprecating jokes so that the other team will like me. It’s clear my strengths lie less on the field and more on the sidelines, facilitating trust exercises and administering rousing speeches cribbed liberally from Braveheart.

Last week, however, I thought I’d be a hero on the field. I thought I’d use my body to block the motion of a soccer ball.

Bad idea. Something cracked inside my chest (pipe down, Liam Neeson) where the cannonball hit me, and all the air went out of my lung. I continued to wander around the field in a daze, but it felt like I had been shot in the chest. Back when I was a bike messenger, I broke a couple ribs getting hit by a car. I could tell this wasn’t in that league of pain, but it was still hard to move, breathe, or high-five. After the game, I told the Muckrakers, “THEY CAN TAKE OUR LIVES BUT THEY’LL NEVER TAKE OUR FREEDOM,” but inside I was thinking that “dying in my bed many years from now” sounded cozy.

I went home and didn’t sleep for two days. By Thursday, I had to see a doctor. He advised me not to run, and prescribed Vicodin, my ol’ messenger pal and the only controlled substance that mysteriously improves my aptitude at The Legend of Zelda. If I didn’t have so much schoolwork, I might have just taken the whole bottle and really terrorized Majora’s Mask.

I can’t overstate my general despair.

Tonight’s dose is kicking in now, so I should actually wrap this up with a cliffhanger:

DID I COMPLETELY GIVE UP ON THE MARATHON?

AND DID I BURST INTO TEARS IN THE DEAN OF GRADUATE STUDIES’ OFFICE?

…Find out in the next entry!