Running is no Way of Life (Writing Exercise #1)

Write a 600-word first-person story in which you use the first person pronoun (“I” or “me” or “my”) only two times—but keep the “I” somehow important to the narrative you’re constructing. It is very important in this exercise to make sure your reader is not surprised, forty or fifty words into the piece, to realize that this is a first person narration. Show us quickly who is observing the scene.

Running is no way of life. That’s a lesson you learn incredibly quickly. The coach yells, “RUN!” Step. Step. Step. Step. Exhaustion. It’s the same every time.

I thought there would be a difference if instead of one race, there was a bunch of training and several races over the course of a summer. “The Great Endurance Challenge,” they called it. Would you like to stop being a flabby loser and start being an amazing, fit, champ for life? Take the Great Endurance Challenge and accept a fun-filled future! Self-deprecation aside, it sure sounded motivating. Why not sign up?

Because running sucks. That’s why.

The thought of quitting popped up on day one. Everyone else had the same thought. We kept repeating “This is the worst” with our eyes as we passed each other on the track. But there was always a competitive spirit driving us, so nobody quit (Well, except for that one guy who pushed it too far. Broke his leg. It was incredibly gruesome. Note to self: Quitting is sometimes okay.) Looking in the mirror was an endeavor nobody wanted to go through. So… We endured.

The day of the final race was one of palpable tension. Nobody thought their training was sufficient for the length of the run: five miles. Families sat in the audience, doting over their former flabby losers, unaware of the insurmountable heap of effort necessary to get through this tortuous competition.

Oh yeah. The prize? $100. That’s it. That’s what we were doing this for. “The real prize is to look in the mirror and not be depressed!” our coach would say. No. There are plenty of exercise programs that do not include long-distance running as a training device; programs some would call fun. The Great Endurance Challenge was not fun.

Running is no way of life.

BANG. The gun went off and we all went charging forward. The crowd erupted into cheers with pennants waving and air horns sounding. Their presence seemed to distract from the goal, but then again, what did it matter? I did not want to win. Couldn’t care less about winning. Finishing sometime in the same calendar year would suffice.

Step. Step. Step. Step. Exhaustion.

The cheers from the families and friends grew more and more dim as we all kept going forward. We jogged through town (they had blocked off entire streets of town for this!), passing shops that beckoned us to come inside. Cousin Flo’s Frozen Custard. Mamma Mia’s Pizza Pies. Mulberry Bush Breakfast. All the foods a guy could want were here in town… Teasing… Tempting… Taunting…

Running is no way of life.

There on the side of the road, a low white sign stood. It was supposed to be of encouragement to the runners, surely, but all it succeeded in bringing forth was disappointment. The Great Endurance Challenge: 0.5 miles. There was another four and a half miles of this hell to go?

Running is no way of life.

Why do people do it? It makes no sense. Step. Step. Step. Step. Destination? NOWHERE. It sure is great not being able to breathe. Don’t forget to stretch, or you’ll also get shin splints! Stretched already? Have some shin splints anyway! Why not do it all outside during the summer? People like sweat, right?

Running is no way of life.

Around the two mile mark, the first of us collapsed. Then immediately the second. As if anticipating us stopping, they both yelled, “Keep going!”

Then the third collapsed.

By mile three and a half, we had all fallen on the ground.

Running is no way of life.

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