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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Sport or Fitness (02/15/07)

TITLE: First to the Tape
By April Bailey


Gustavo steps forward, past the starting line, and shakes out his big thighs. Two young runners, newcomers, gawk in fear while the rest of us smile, unaffected by Gustavo’s psyche-out attempts. He completes a few pose-like stretches before returning to the lane on my left. Måns the Swede, another formidable opponent, flanks me on the right.

No matter. Nothing can stop me from being first to the tape. Not the accident, not my torn ACL, not the doctor’s warning. I have faith in healing beyond medicine, and fear will not challenge my destiny. God has a purpose for all things. There was a reason I borrowed Michel’s bike that day to get to practice; a reason that car turned suddenly, causing me to swerve into the cement block; and a reason my leg became trapped in the bike’s frame as I crashed.

“There’s a tear in your anterior cruciate ligament,” Dr. Weston looked more at her clipboard than her patient. “The ripped segment is flopping into your knee joint. That’s why you can’t straighten your leg.”

I didn’t need explanations. “Can you fix it?”

“Well,” she sighed, “arthroscopic surgery could have you up in weeks, but, as an athlete, you should consider ligament replacement. It would, however, sideline you for months.”

“Months?!! No way. I’ve got a race in June.”

“Oh,” she shook her head, “that’s a stretch even with the less invasive procedure.”

“Doctor, do the arthroscopic surgery,” I held her clipboard, forcing her to look me in the eye. “I’m running that race.”

“Mr. Morel," she pleaded, "please reconsider. After the surgery, what’s left of your ACL will be hanging by a thread. Jogging should be limited, strenuous running not advised. Racing will definitely be out of the question.”

An angel must have turned down the volume on the well-meaning surgeon, because I heard no more of her words after that. Her door and diplomas identified Dr. Weston as an orthopedic specialist. But what did she know of my heart? Of my dreams? Of my God?

I hear the Swede mumbling, motivating himself, but it is soon drowned out by the track, which settles on my senses like a tar-covered fog. The sight of it grips me, the ground of destiny, catapulting me to envision the race in my mind. I feel it under my feet—a rhythmic pounding, a solid foundation—as my body splits the wind. My arms pump with clenched fists, propelling an accelerating bullet. The grunts of Gustavo and Måns nip at my ears, pants that beg for an ounce more power, a modicum of additional speed. But the race belongs to me, all of it—the stability of the track, the curve of the lanes, the chant of the crowd, the tape at the end. Like a lover, it calls to me, “Maxime! Maxime!” and all doubt fades away. No pain, no hesitation, no obstacles, no limitations.

“Runners to your mark.”

I long for the feel of my chest bursting through that finish line ... to be first to the tape.

“Set …”

I am ready.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24 [NIV].

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Member Comments
Member Date
Sally Hanan02/24/07
Pretty stupid runner in the natural sense, but definitely faith-inspiring when paralleled to the race of faith.
Marilyn Schnepp 02/24/07
Nice story...but for this reader, no conclusion. Readers like endings, whether good or bad - and this one left me hanging.
Lori Othouse 02/27/07
I also would like to know what happened, but I think the ending does parallel faith in that we don't know what will happen when we step (or,in this case, run) out. Either way, I think this runner will reach the prize. Very inspiring!