The Race

Young boys love to see who can run the fastest. Respect is given to the one who can outrun the others. As boys mature and enter their High School years they find that it takes more than talent alone to win races with other gifted runners. This is a story of just what it takes to win a hundred yard dash. This is an informal and unrecorded race in front of the coaches to determine who will anchor the quarter mile relay. The race says who is the fastest in that high school.

Lets begin by saying that I was not that fast a runner by any historic standard, and certainly not a particularly fast runner by birth. In my neighborhood I could win a race around the block or to a tree, but my home was on the wrong side of the tracks. When I got to high school I was among new boys I did not know and since I had an artistic bent, I did not automatically fit in with the jock crowd. I was competitive by nature though and entered the usual sports as a freshman such as football, basketball and track and field. All were very tough on me for different reasons. I did excel to some degree in the team events, especially football. I returned punts for instance because I was fairly fast and hard to tackle, but I was tall and thin and my eyes were not any good at distance vision at the time. I did not wear glasses to play sports for fear of breaking them. The reason for that fear is another story.

After three years of after school sports I focused on Cross-country and running track. In the early 1970’s a fast time in the hundred-yard dash was 10.1 seconds. That meant you could win most races at that distance in our league. My junior class did not have a standout fastest runner. But the senior class had a couple guys who could run 10’1 seconds occasionally. One was the new boyfriend to my ex girlfriend. He was from Ghana and since we knew the same girl we took to running together at practice. He gave me some tips; such as pumping your arms up and down as fast as you can and some subtle hints on strides when at speed. With his help I could indeed run pretty fast, but being tall and thin I needed work on my start to be able to win a hundred yard dash.

When senior year came around and cross-country was history I decided to focus on my start before the track season began. On the team in which I will eventually become a captain and all around points winner, I secretly decided to not focus on the half mile race for a period in my off season training. I was a middle distance runner and I recall running in five events, the two relays, the 220 yards, 440 yards and 880 yards. I wanted to win the race that determined who anchored the quarter mile relay. I knew even then I would not be fast enough to run the hundred yard dash in a competition, as track teams will place their talent where the points can be made. We would concede the 100, but not the relay.

So on my own I ran up to Webb School’s empty football field on a hillside near my home. I wore nothing but shoes, shorts and a watch with a timer. The field had lines on it for timing my self, and privacy too. No one knew what I was doing up there or where I ran too. I tried every conceivable kind of start. I did short sprints repeatedly. My only focus was to get to top speed as quickly as I could as consistently as I could. Eventually you know where your feet will go and how fast to pop upright. I did leg weights, extensions and all sorts of exercises to add muscle to my legs and thighs. After a month of nothing but acceleration training I knew I was in possession of a fast start, and then I resumed my normal training routine for a middle distance runner.

Then I opened my mouth. I told Tim I was going to win the race. This was a couple weeks before it was to be held. Tim was a nemesis of mine and he too would run this race. We did not like each other, and we were not like each other. He spread the word of my boast to all concerned. It was noticed because I had not ever won these contests before, and no one felt the status quo was going to change now. A boy named Thomas had won this event in the past in our class and even he was taken a back by my statement. I was not a boasting type of guy. I was testing my self and all of them, to do that I was not going to surprise them. I wanted this to be “the race”. By the time it was run, all of us would be wound up and determined to see just who would win.

The day came and we lined up on a cinder track, I do not even think we used starting blocks. We did get into our crouching positions as if we had them and the coach blew his whistle. I started fast and pulled away from them all. My time was a 10.4. This measurement of time would never be taken again, as true to my prediction I never ran the race in competition.

What I did win that day was the right to go against the fastest guys on other teams. Guys that usually were ahead of me by the time I got the baton, some ahead by as much as ten yards. In a relay a start does not matter in the final leg, what matters is your heart and it’s desire to show the guy in front of you that even with a head start you are going to catch him. I did not always win these contests, as I said we were a slower than average team. But I always gained on them and scared them to death that they could blow such a lead as they had. I loved doing this more than winning any of the races I entered on my own. I loved gaining ground against guys who were supposed to be faster than me.

The Race

Mark Ramstead

Temecula, United States

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Artist's Description

This is about competition and watching the Olympics compelled me to write about my running days. I dedicate this to Suzee… : )

Artwork Comments

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