2 missed calls. Quickly, I call back. Twice. No answer. I sigh and plug my phone into its charger.
Hours later, the name pops up on my screen. Probably wants to borrow something, maybe has a question.
“Hey! What’s up?”
“… I’m in the hospital,” I suck in a breath, “I tried to kill myself.”
I feel the ground beneath me moving. Crumbling. I was going to text last night, ask how everything was going. I didn’t. I didn’t. Why didn’t I? What if there had been a different voice on the other side of the phone with very different news?
I can’t go there.
I see the big chalk 1 on the green grass; I’ve made it to the mile mark. Someone I don’t know is yelling out splits.
“5:46, 5:47, 5:48!”
My arms are tingling. It’s a feeling that often plagues me when I can’t get enough air. Which makes plenty of sense because today we are at 7,500 feet of elevation. I can see mountains in the background reminding me that I am out of my element.
Coach Med said top 20. Just after the mile I hear him, “26, you need to move up!”
I lift my eyes to the pack of girls in front of me. That’s where I need to be. Pick it up, pick it up just a little bit.
Becca is next to me. Even through the chaos of the start, we haven’t lost each other. “We need to catch this pack,” I hear myself pant.
I feel a hand on my back, pushing me forward. “You go!”
I can feel my goal for this race swirling around the back of my brain. I have never pushed past my limits. I have never collapsed or vomited. I have never felt completely spent. I’m changing that today.
I’ve caught up to the pack, and now I’m moving my way through it. Focus on every girl ahead of you. Run her down. I’m weaving my way through the course, passing every girl I can.
Mile 2 comes as quickly as mile 1 popped up. My body is feeling the fatigue, especially my lungs. God, help me. God, I’m so tired.
Thoughts of slowing down slide into the edges of my thoughts. I see a knife opening blood from pale, soft skin. For her, Nicky. Run for her.
I keep my eyes focused on the ponytails bouncing in front of me. I pass one. I focus on another. I’ve never been so tired. Part of me wants to smile, part of me wants to cry.
There is that grove of trees and the quilt of leaves covering the ground. I’ve just hit mile 3. I have one more to go. Med’s instructions ring in my ears. Pick it up. One mile left.
My eyes are on two red uniforms just in front of me. I pass one. Then the other. For her. Run for her.
I round the corner. I can see the finish line. It’s surrounded by a crowd of people. I can hear cheering for someone behind me. You can’t let her catch you. Not now. I push my legs to go faster, my eyes never leaving the line. My feet touch the small carpet that signals the end.
I collapse into the soft grass.
I am spent.