Runner Without A Race

Chapter 34, Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

Harry spent more than three hours on the phone. He got up early the next day and called some more. He did the same for a week. My coach called everyone he knew on the U.S. Olympic Committee. Then, Harry called the ones he didn’t know. He talked to everyone he could in the U.S. Track and Field kingdom. Many sympathized, but they had no power. The ones with power proved immune to Harry’s charm. He had stayed away too long and had little clout left.

All I had to show for his marathon effort was an Olympic-sized phone bill. As the days dwindled, I still trained, drifting through my Tai Chi. I stretched. I visualized. And I ran and ran. But my heart was not in it.

The visualization part was easy because I didn’t have to pretend much. All I needed to do was rerun my last race – and win it. That I did every five minutes since Iowa. It was the same every damn time. I could have won that race. I would have won that race. I should have won that race.

So why didn’t I?

Did I warm up too much? Was it a poor choice to run only a handful of races? Did that cretin who beat me use steroids? Should I use steroids? Did I need a better pre-race ritual? Maybe different shoes? Maybe a kick in the head as Harry had suggested.

…does it really matter. Just pull the plug …

“You know, I’m really tired of your attitude.”

… you want a lobotomy …

“Don’t go there.”

… in your case, it won’t make much difference …

With less than a week to go before the Trials, Harry asked Times Sports Editor Sheila Beaven, my old girlfriend at the local newspaper, to do a story on my plight in the hope several news wires would pick it up. Can you say long shot? Sheila had a better idea.

“I’ll call my old boss in L.A. and see what he can do,” she said.

A day later, a reporter called. Harry told her the whole story. I talked to her for about eight minutes and said it was nothing but age discrimination. It sounded funny when I said it out loud. But what else could it be?

A day later my story was out there. We got a handful of calls, a few more interviews, but it was a dead end. The window was closing. The Trials would start Friday night – without me.

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Alive And Bickering

Chapter 33, Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

If only fate would pace itself. Give us one bad thing at a time. Maybe a bad thing followed by a good one, then a bad one, then maybe a couple of good things.

Doesn’t work like that, does it?

Two ball-busters minutes apart pushed me to the brink. Both our Olympic dreams – poof. The only thing that kept me from jumping into Lake Michigan was the need to know about Ralphie. Dropping the Olympic Committee’s letter, I searched Melinda’s contorted face for an excuse not to run out in front of the first semi.

“Is he …”

“No,” said Melinda. “He’s still alive.”

“What the hell happened?”

“Got drunk. Hit a tree. Broke both legs. His truck’s totaled. Bottom line, he’ll live. He’s over at Porter.”

Hustling over to Porter Hospital, I found a doped-up Ralphie trapped in a fresh body cast up to his waist. He was glassy-eyed and a tiny more delirious than usual.

“Well, looky here,” snorted Ralphie. “Da great track star hisself comes to pay me a visit. Dis is truly an unexpected honor.”

“You know, Ralphie, you really don’t have to go to all this trouble just to get my attention,” I said. “One broken leg would have been sufficient.”

“Go screw yarself, ya stupid bastard.”

“Shut up and tell me what happened.”

After we got the other customary insults out of the way, I told Ralphie about the USOC letter.

“Dey are jist ass wipes,” said Ralphie. “It’s illegal as hell. Take ’em ta court.”

“No, I’m done with it,” I said. “I can’t take any more. It’s become a freaking soap opera.”

Propping his meaty elbows for support, Ralphie struggled to sit halfway up.

“Lissen ta me, dogshit brain. Ya gonna ta fight dis, and ya gonna ta win it. Don’t ya start givin’ in ta dose buttheads.”

“Are you crazy?  It’s nothing but bureaucracy. It’ll take five months before I ever get a hearing.”

Ralphie grunted, lifted himself higher on the bed and looked me in the eye.

“Plow dis through dat dogshit, numbnuts. If I can’t go, ya big, goddamned dumb ass … “

Ralphie gathered his strength.

“YOU GOTTA GO!” he thundered.

The words smacked me in the face and ricocheted around the room. I stood dumbfounded for all of 30 seconds. Regaining what little sense I had left, I grinned.

“What are you going to do? Chase me on your crutches?”

Ralphie grunted again, sank down and started to snore.

I crawled back home.

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang