On Tuesday nights, the track is for fast people.
I don’t know where all the fast people come from. There are at least two big groups, one all women, one a mix. The groups have coaches, and the coaches yell out times, and the times are inconceivable to me.
The fast people hover in bunches along each set of bleachers. They spread out across the lanes like neon-compression-clad soldiers. By the time I get to where they are, they’re off like a rocket, condensing down to lane one before I can feel smug that I at least have better track etiquette than the fast people.
I don’t ever feel at home on the track. I feel inelegant, ungainly, elephant-like. But it’s especially true on Tuesdays, when the fast people are swarming. I feel like I’m taking up space I haven’t earned.
No matter how hard I’m running my repeats, the fast people pass me like I’m standing still. When they pass me, they’re usually talking about races.
The fast people are people who win races.
One of the fast people looks like Ryan Hall. After the first time I saw him, I needed a solid half-hour of googling to convince myself it wasn’t Ryan Hall. Granted, I’ve never seen Ryan Hall run in person, but the fast people are fast enough that I could believe one of them was Ryan Hall.
Every so often I amuse myself by trying to hold onto their pack for a few seconds. Sometimes I even do — when they’re running their cool-down.
The fast people yell “good job!” and “keep pushing!” at each other when they’re done with their own laps. Sometimes I pretend they’re yelling it at me, and I run a little harder.
I wonder sometimes what the fast people must think of me, the bumbling slow girl with the boobs and the butt and the jerky dumb stride. Usually I conclude that they don’t think of me at all.
I don’t much like running with the fast people. I should find it inspiring, but I don’t. Inspiring, for me, would be running with people a few seconds faster. The fast people are multiple minutes faster. I’m never going to catch up to the fast people.
I still go to the track on Tuesday nights, though, sometimes, when I oversleep in the mornings or when I want to run a harder workout after a long day. I like the track lights and the cool evening air. The city is beautiful at night, and I like watching the moon rise as I’m rounding the near-side corner.
And I like listening to the fast people, the churn of their feet and their breath cutting through the wind like pulsing, steady beats. We’re all doing the same thing, I guess, running toward our potential, running alone together, sweating and striding and wondering what it takes to be one of the fast people.