I dress in my competition clothes. Today is the day racing begins for me. The running tights are an artful combination of red, baby blue and navy blue, the words “
The warm-up area at the main stadium is filled with athletes. The 100 meters is the glamour event of track and field and as such it draws the biggest fields of competition. I watch as the colorful assembly of men stretch and jog while checking out one another with quick glances. Many athletes from outside
My warm-up is sluggish. I feel slow and tired. Sadly it is becoming increasingly obvious to me that the toll of the previous difficult hours will extract its due, but I am failing to truly deal with the fact. At 10:05 am, the appointed time to enter the call tent, Bill and I head for the stadium. The race officials check us in one by one into the small holding area on one side of a large white tent. The tent sits just outside an entrance portal to the stadium. Later an official will lead us single file into the stadium, arranged in order according to our lane assignments. I am told I have been assigned lane3 for the quarterfinal race. There will be 2 top seeds placed in each of six heats for a total of 48 runners. Only 16 of the 48 will advance to the semi-finals race the next day. I am the top seed in the second heat of the day for my age group. I have affixed my lane assignment sticker reading “3” to my left hip. To my right, in lane 7, will be Alasdair Ross of
I am wondering if my head does explode will I be allowed to reassemble the pieces and not be disqualified. I am worried. The warm-up was telling in a negative way. My energy level is noticeably down. The fact that having had 7 hours of fitful sleep in the past 76 hours might be a problem has not been formally acknowledged by my brain, though my biology feels completely conversant with its reality. Normally I would be a little fidgety and excited sitting in the tent at this point, but I find that my mind is wandering and unfocused. The official calls us to go to the track. She commands us in Italian which only the Italian runner understands. He recognizes the fact the he is the host in our group of eight and uses hand motions to let us know it is time. The official calls out names and places us in order by lane assignment. It is a curious protocol. It seems terribly formal as if we are all in kindergarten again. Nevertheless we obey, marching single file into the stadium under a picturesque blue sky, temperatures in the high 70’s. Once in the stadium the official calls our names again to place us in our correct lanes.
We elder kindergartners have begun to ignore her because it is apparent we are far more experienced at our task than she is. We are on familiar turf in this environment. We are in our workplace and home. Aluminum starting blocks glisten under the bright sun. They are firmly anchored behind the start line of the brilliant blue surface of the track. Each athlete begins to set his blocks and do the last bit of warm up as the track announcer begins to announce athlete names and countries. I stare down to the finish camera to establish the point of the finish line in my mind. I look into the stands as the Italian announcer struggles with the Croatian’s name. I know BEG is in the stands by now. She has come with Stephanie a couple of hours behind us. I’m hoping she found a good spot because the stands are full. Unlike in the
Once the introductions are complete the starter stares across the field to determine that each athlete is ready to participate. Satisfied with his observation he will repeat the commands that are second nature to his task. He begins with “runners stand behind your blocks,” announced in English to my great surprise. I stand behind my starting blocks in lane 3 though I remain unfocused and it confuses me and bothers me. Nervous energy radiates up and down the line of competitors. The starter lifts the microphone up to his mouth to begin the race. “Runners, take your marks.” I look into the stands again. The capacity crowd is buzzing up there, the race is about to begin.
The photo was taken by BEG at the exact moment described in the text where the starter calls us to our marks. If you click on the pic and look at in a larger format you can see the starter at the far right. I am in lane 3.