The Staredown

Chapter 31, Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang


Track is a funny sport. There’s no ball or bat or soccer goal. Just you, the track and a bunch of cats running around in their boxer briefs. Yes, I just figured that out. Pathetic, no? Can you tell I had way too much time to think?

Saturday dragged on. Would I get to compete? Or would I sit and watch my dream run by? The first heat for the men’s 800 had a 2 p.m. start, so I got to the track by 11:30 a.m. While I sat and pondered, I saw my 49 years whiz by in my mind’s eye. After I edited out the bad stuff, the story lasted about 3 minutes. I waited and stretched and waited and worried and waited and …

Got the call at 1:45. Some California dude thought 67 degrees was too cold to run in.

“Hey, Princess,” cooed Harry. “Get ready. The show is on.”

There was no drama, no fuss, as if he were telling me the lunchtime special. Over his career, I bet Harry said “Get ready” a thousand times. I was just 1,001. As I rotated my lower back in the suddenly glorious, Iowa sunshine, his words echoed through my head.

… get ready … get ready … get ready…

Like a bad pop song, there was no stopping it. When I rolled my pre-race visualization tape, it was the soundtrack.

… get ready … get ready … get …

Enough already! Strolling the front stretch, I tried to distract myself by peering into the stands. Never had I run before so many. I felt honored – and scared – at the same time. My nerves tingled. I was sure I was blinking on and off like a loose bulb in a ceiling fan. Then, it occurred to me the fans had no clue whom I was. Or cared.

… they’ll know when it’s over …

A positive thought? Are you kidding? I hadn’t had one since 1979. Maybe all of that training and paining had been worth it. I searched the stands for Melinda and the girls. My wife had never seen me run. My daughters had never seen me run. I wondered if they were nervous. Knowing Melinda, she was bored.

“Last call for the first heat of the men’s 800 meters.”


I jogged back toward the starting line. Next time by, I’ll be doing more than 200 miles an hour. With my fear-induced adrenaline gushing, I felt I could. At the line, the other runners were ballerinas, prancing up and down, spandexed in mild-altering colors, their one-piece, skin-tight tracksuits sported miniature billboards full of corporate sponsors. Inspecting a chartreuse tracksuit to my left, I thought I detected a makeup stain.

… these guys – they’re just children …

The runner on my right stared hard at me.

… he thinks you’re someone’s lost grandpa …


… did you say what I thought you said …

As if he didn’t hear me, Mr. Stare bent over and touched his palms on the track for a last-minute stretch. But when he straightened, he stared again. The silliest little grin played on his lips.

… yup, he heard you …

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

4 thoughts on “The Staredown

  1. So; what happened…?
    Did the sunshine help?
    Did Melinda cry with pride?
    Did your girls shrink with embarrassment?
    Did Mr. Stare smile at the end of the race?
    You have left this ‘way open’…. I need some answers… 😉

    • Thank you for the questions. Without giving too much away, I can tell you that Melinda and the girls are naturally proud of Chuck’s achievement. And in the last 10 or 12 chapters upcoming, each will play a most critical role.

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