The Last Runner

By Sal Citarella

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there was a legion of people, both male and female, who indulged in an arcane ritual called “running.” For some, it was just play and a reason for getting outdoors; for others, relief from the stresses of the workday; and for a few it was a fundamental, almost mystical, aspect of their lives which could never be compromised. They did this regardless of the weather.  

Running could, by choice or necessity, be a solitary undertaking. But most runners agreed that group runs added to the value of the experience. Clubs were formed. The ultimate, for most, was The Race, wherein runners competed against each other to see who was fastest. “Fastest” might be defined as fastest overall, or among men or women, or within age groups.

To add to the mystique, distances were commonly measured in “Ks.” Few people ever quite understood just what a K was, but they knew that 10K was definitely more than twice 5K and instinctively slowed their pace. The ultimate goal was the fabled 42K, which tested both one’s physical and moral integrity.

And so, for many years, people met up and ran.

But then, in the year 2020, a mysterious stranger arrived.

People were encouraged not to go outside, but running inside was seldom practical. If one did go out, they were told to go alone and, apparently to hide from the stranger, to wear a mask.

The government, the scientists, and the school administrators were not quite sure what to do, so they did as authority often does, they issued conflicting orders and instructions, monopolized the news, and generally tried to interfere in runners’ lives.  

Runners lives were fundamentally changed. They couldn’t meet; they couldn’t compete. They were deprived of goals and incentives. The rare opportunity to race as the youngest in an age group was lost forever. While some continued to drink Gatorade, some, unfortunately, “drank the Kool Aid.”

Alcohol sales skyrocketed, sofa cushions were punished unmercifully, and eyes blurred in front of computer screens and TVs. In lieu of running, depression and domestic violence proliferated.

Is this the last runner?  Did conditions ever change? Did runners get to resume their former way of life? Alas, only time and Runner’s Gazette will tell.

Categories: Features

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