Word Count 441
By Sharon Collins
Grant ran marathons. His religion was Training and he worshipped daily, a mad monk at the Altar of Mileage. Leigh knew that when she started dating him. The Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner was Grant’s favorite book. Leigh wished she had read it before she said, “I do.” She learned too late that his worship was solitary. His vigils in search of the elusive Runner’s High, all-encompassing. Her lack of appreciation was apostate, he finally confessed, her lack of understanding, anathema. “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” she thought. So she converted, and was confirmed, donned the Gortex embraced the all-consuming commandment: Thou shalt not skip a day. Life became a never-ending Lent, no joy, no fun, no fellowship, just the daily pounding out of prayer. In preparation for the high holy day of every new race, she did not fast, she carbo-stocked on pasta. She ate, chewed, and inwardly digested the gospels according to Bill Rodgers and Grete Waitz. She lit candles to the saints of Nike, Adidas, New Balance, and Saucony. In every respect, she was faithful. She paid her tithes and collected her race tee-shirts.
But Leigh was not a good runner, and Grant was a great one. The distance between them lengthened. She knew she could never catch up. Three years later, she didn’t really want to anymore, anyway. She wanted to walk and talk, maybe even laugh a little, drink some wine, perhaps dance. She wanted company on the trail, so she suggested a child, maybe two. Grant thought none. Leigh compromised. Grant agreed. There would be one. Conceived on the eve of a famous marathon, born the night before a nationally-ranked 15 K, their child’s arrival stalled, dragging on late into the night., Through the long hours, as Leigh labored on her own Heartbreak Hill, and broke through The Wall, Grant was there patting her hand, chanting “Breathe” and counting. Between visions of wishing him dead and wanting her mother, Leigh had lucid moments. Watching him watch the clock, she had an epiphany. He was about to miss his first day of training in three years. His vow would be broken and it was breaking him.
Leigh couldn’t do it, she couldn’t be the cause of his fall from grace. She told him go, although she hoped he wouldn’t. There were fifteen minutes left before midnight, she pointed out. He could run around the parking lot of the hospital. It would count; his running-streak could stand. He didn’t argue; she knew he wouldn’t. He gratefully acquiesced and hurried out, leaving her alone to take communion with their son.