I participated in high school track one season only. Given early humiliation thanks to my ridiculous pigeon-toed gait, coupled with ankles that have resulted in ‘Hey! chicken legs!‘ cat calls, I should have known better.
I can’t recall now what led me to such a foolish decision. Surely it had to do with a pushy athletic friend. Or maybe the unrequited crush on Mr. Track… I’m not sure…
But I had started, so Finish, I should.
One rainy day, when we had to practice in the gym instead of outside, I took to running laps. Since I had been deemed ‘not worthy’ of any particular event skill, Coach was happy to leave me to my own devices.
Meaning, I spent my training time running in circles.
I don’t know why that day is as clear to me as it is. I’m sure I had spent other days running for extended periods. But for some reason, either the event of that day had never occurred before, or my brain hadn’t recognized the significance.
Running, running, running. Around and around. Sweat starts pouring and side starts protesting. Not sure I can go much longer. Perhaps I’ll push it just a bit further.
If I pass out, I can probably get out of track without accusations of being a quitter.
Sometimes, pride induces stupid actions.
Then, the golden moment.
Side no longer hurts and hardwood floor has turned to clouds. My feet dance along, gracefully and steadily. No part of body protesting. Breathing normalized.
I can run forever.
Athletes call this gift ‘second wind’.
I had found it. Or rather, it had found me.
I ran the rest of the period. Coach had been paying attention after all. I’m labeled, “long-distance runner.” I’m given position in the longest, middle portion of relay teams. No good for starter’s block or sprinting to finish line.
But I can run in circles durn near forever.
I’m now recognized as an asset.
Over the years, I’ve come to depend on ‘second wind’. I know it will find me. Especially when both mind and body are screaming, “Give up!”
I’ve decided ‘second wind’ powers must reside in the heart. When my body screams, spirit aches and brain is disillusioned, my heart just keeps chugging along, beat after beat, much like my feet did years ago.
Second, third and tenth winds over the years have sometimes led to diagnosis of ‘exhausted adrenal glands’. I just pour another cup of coffee and light a cigarette, waiting for number 11 to show up.
It’s always amazed me how the human heart keeps going even when everything around it says, “Stop!” And how sometimes, its’ very strength is not fully realized until all hell breaks loose.
Second winds are not gifted while you comfortably lie on the couch.
Rather, they slide in just when you’re thinking about dragging yourself to the sidelines, or lying down and screaming, “Medic!” from the battle field.
Out of all the gifts of the Universe, I’m most grateful for Second Wind.