1410 2
1410 2

By D.S. Moss

What follows is an example of the power of a good Gut Check.
Now, to begin, I am neither one for crowds or group call and response,

MC “Who’s the fastest city in the world”
MC “I can’t hear you…”
CROWD (with no more enthusiasm) “ATX”

This is not to say I don’t believe in or haven’t felt solidarity within a group, in fact, I have ample experience in the all for one cause- The USMC.  And, it was in the green machine that I last had a gut check–the physical pain vs mental control battle that is about as primal, pure, and simple as it gets.  What I speak of is visual starting and ending point that is measured purely by physical pain and your brain’s ability to take control of whatever may be causing that pain in order to see it through. What I speak of calls on the involuntary silent mantras: “Pain is just weakness leaving the body,” “Mind over matter, if I don’t mind it don’t matter.”

It has been over twelve years since I’ve ran over 4 miles. Given that fact my expectations were simple:  never walk; no matter what your feet will never stop running.

My new shoes and I (I regrettably ignored several warnings not to run in them) too our place among the 12 minute/mile group. After a burst of cheers and pomp with Lance Armstrong at the helm, the race begins.

The shoes felt good on my feet, my legs were strong, and my body light. I navigated as best I could through the bulk of people that were far too slow for my physical capability and far too irritating for my mental one. Some  had already stopped, literally, in their tracks causing grid lock and tripping crashes.  I side step fat ones and old ones and ones that are looking for other ones. I try to get a pace.  I try to get into a rhythm.

Mile 1: (and every following mile) a water station pulls the runners to both sides of the road. I take this parting of the red sea of shirts as an opportunity to run the middle unimpeded.  I still feel fast and light on the first hill and grab another opportunity to leave the slow ones and fat ones behind me.

Mile 2: Running steadily along the backside of the Capital building I again skip the water stations in favor of finding a good unimpeded pace. All seems well.

Somewhere Between Mile 2 and Mile 3: Up the second big hill heading eastbound on MLK people are dropping like flies. The site of bodies strewn about on either side ignites my own exhaustion. The heat; the stutter stepping. For the first time I feel my legs. They are heavy. “Shit,” I thought, knowing that I wasn’t even half way to the finish yet.

Mile 3: I couldn’t risk not grabbing a water and made my way to the side.  A volunteer handed me a cup and without registering until it was too late I throw lemon lime Gatorade at my mouth. It was salty and sticky and all over my face. I look back and yell something at the girl that handed me the cup.  Turning left
onto Dean Keaton I find myself mentally broken.  Angry with everything my senses could perceive: the weather, the man who invented concrete, the man who invented Gatorade, the girl who handed me the cup, the woman who just stopped right in front of me, the twelve year old girl who was running faster than me and doesn’t even look tired. I’m mentally sabotaged.

Between Mile 3 and Mile 4: Now, I had gone to the University of Texas for over two years and the building in which I spent more hours than I could possibly count is on Dean Keaton and I NEVER until this day realized that it lived on a hill-the third significant hill of the course.  I’m longer looking ahead but rather at the back of the shoes of the person in front of me.  Head down, hot and angry, I have conceded to stop and walk.

Still Between Mile 3 and Mile 4: The body fatigue is winning, my legs are slowing, inside my new shoes, my feet have been replaced with lead. On the other side of the hill, the ground flattens and I see two friends on the corner of Guadalupe and Dean Keaton. And then it begins: the slow turning of the tides, a shift in power between the physical and the mental; my brain taking control.  Having seen them before they saw me I straighten my back, pick up my knees and make a surge, half out of pride and half for show.  They cheer for me as they see me rounding the corner and I point back with a smile to say with as much conviction as humanly possible, “What fun I’m having!”

Mile 4: 2.5 miles to go and little left in the tank. Still I have picked up the pace significantly and pass people with dramatic style until I am certain my friends can no longer see me. I focus on the backs of peoples’ heads. And then, it begins again.  A head, and body, I recognized. The curly hair and broad shoulders of
Courtney, the ex-girlfriend who had called me out of the blue two days earlier to tell me she had just gotten engaged.  For the second time in the race at the brink of stopping I was given a reason to keep running- a gift of spite. Has the mind ever known a better reason to win out over the body than that of spite of an ex-girlfriend? And one that happens to be an ex-girlfriend who happens to be a world class tri-athlete? The thoughts of exhaustion are replaced with the fantasy of passing her, with a graceful run across the finish line.  Nestling behind her I begin to draft and copy her foot pattern, finally establishing a steady pace and breathing rhythm. Half a mile we went on like this, happy to be two feet behind her ready to sprint ahead without her knowing it.

Mile 5: The ex-girlfriend, betrays me by ducking into the water station. I’m left on my own again with nothing but the finish line keeping my feet moving. I make it to the end of Colorado. I turn on 2nd and make my way back to Congress – the finish line will be mine in 6 blocks.

For the Finish: I look down at my feet to make sure they were still moving. My mind has cut off complete contact with my body.  The last blocks feel like miles and I can think only, “Don’t pass out until you cross the line, don’t pass out until you cross the line.”  Without any friends left to impress or ex-girlfriends to beat, I straighten my back, pick up my knees and make a surge because there – is no other way to end a gut check.

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  1. Russ

    This is hilarious. I hope to have more rantings by DSMoss.

  2. Steve

    Bravo Moss! I look forward to more. Stay motivated!