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LATE NOVEMBER

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Fiction By Woody Green

A man can feel quite old at 38 years. From the eyes of this

weary old runner the course seems much like any other. The dried

yellow grass on rolling hills filled with barren trees looks

like a thousand other courses. Fresh white paint lines and

bright orange cones on the grass contrast sharply with the

muted, drab colors of late fall. The wind penetrates the skin

with icy prongs and numbs both the nose and the spirit of the

tired runner. He flexes his legs tentatively, puts his head down

and forces a few quick steps to bring him to an easy jog. The

wind puts up a swirl of air, wrestling with the runner, twisting

around his cold torso and resisting forward movement. He

progresses relying on instinct alone. The tired legs oppose the

commands his brain is sending, but there is no stopping the

runner now. He is tired, worn, and uncertain. He is lacking

confidence on this difficult day in late November. His soul

however, is filled with running and he will race on this day.

The warm-up jog he has done so many times before is an automatic

ritual and the concept of not competing today is never even

considered. He is a runner, a cross country runner, and today he

will test himself against the best in the country.

After his warm-up and a strip down to his running shorts and

singlet, he stands at the starting line. His skin burns from the

harsh wind and he feels a few bits of icy sleet pelt his face. A

shiver tickles his spine

and he hops up and down a few times to keep himself warm. The

other runners, mostly younger, look quite anxious. Some smile

and laugh, others look as if they are ill, but all are nervous

and flighty. The runner feels the exhilaration of adrenaline,

and marvels at how he can still be so nervous after all these

years.

His legs ache and he knows the important race in still three

months away, but his heart thunders to life and his stomach

springs about his abdomen as the starter calls the runners to

the line. He wishes he could go to the bathroom one more time.

With the gun there is a sudden rush forward, almost frantic, and

elbows hit chests as everyone pushes off the starting line. The

runner can relax now, and do what he came to do. The worst part

is over, and all that remains is the race itself. He will not

win today, his legs are too worn from one hundred twenty miles a

week. He seeks to push his body only to the level it can sustain

on this day, to remind his body why all the miles are worth it,

and to satisfy his soul.