I grabbed a random sandwich from the officials tent and ran out the back gate of the track, not bothering to check out the options. At this time of day, I knew the sandwich choice would be ones no one wanted.
This was the craziest day of my life. Ever. I shouldn’t have gotten out of bed this morning. Sandwich in hand I hustled out to the javelin field four blocks away. What a fucked up day.
It started off with a rain shower just after seven, two timers not showing up for the first race, and our regular announcer nursing a sore throat, his voice hoarse and raspy. What else could go wrong?
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Now I had to put out a fire over at the javelin field. I was so pissed at the Western coach. Yesterday I begrudgingly resolved the issue – a personal golf cart to take the Western high jumper back-and-forth to the remote javelin site so she could compete in the finals of the throw. I suggested that maybe she shouldn’t compete in both, but he insisted, so I pulled an official off the finish line this morning to take care of her transportation.
The Western coach didn’t care that I had to bike out to the golf course yesterday after prelims to pick up a golf cart, find a way to stow my bike on the back, and then drive it back to the track. I’d much rather be sitting on a bar stool, drinking my third beer. All this extra effort and the coach would probably still complain. I swear to God, if he said another word to me I would punch him in the face.
Making a diagonal dash across Forest Avenue I could feel my stomach grumbling, my bladder complaining just as much because it needed to be emptied. I glanced at the baloney and cheese sandwich in my hand, too winded from running to bother taking a bite. I looked down at my watch – 2:44pm. The javelin finals should be ending soon. Why wasn’t the golf cart back?
I wished I could step away from all this and find a quiet place to nap. Any place where no one would bother me. All my planning and I still had to put up with this shit. I tried to empty my mind of the Western coach, but his bitching continued in an endless loop despite the passing of twelve hours. He had avoided me all day, aware he was on my shit list.
A Bridge Too Far
The javelin field came into view as I turned on the dead end street, athletes walking towards me indicating the competition had probably just finished. Neither the Western athlete nor her coach were present, just an empty golf cart. I approached the three javelin officials standing in a circle on the grass runway near the scratch line, struggling to catch my breath as I slowed to a stop.
“Where in the hell is the Western thrower?” He shrugged his shoulders. “Did she even show up?”
“All I know is that I got a call on the walkie-talkie from a high jump official saying that she decided not to throw the javelin in the finals.” He slowly backed away from me as he watched my reaction. I snapped, letting out a primeval scream at the grey sky.
A New PR?
Without thought I turned away from the official and threw the sandwich as far as I could. I paced back down the runway and then on the right sector line, each footstep landing on the chalk as though I was balancing on a gymnastics beam. I pirouetted and returned to the scratch line, swearing to God I was going to kill the Western coach. I was going to walk right up to him and put my hands around his throat and squeeze as hard as I could, laughing as the life drained out of his face.
A wonderful sensation washed through my body at the thought. This was the last straw. The Western team had come to our meet for the last time. I walked back to the head javelin official, uncertain what to say. He looked up after he wrote something on the clipboard.
“Twenty-two feet two inches.”
“Twenty-two feet two inches.” He repeated the numbers with a blank face.
I turned and stared out in the landing area; my mind lost in the myriad of tasks I still had to face.
“Twenty-two feet two inches?” I still didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.
“Yeah, that’s how far it went. Twenty-two feet, two inches.”
I washed a hand down over my face and squared my body up to him. I couldn’t make out the significance of his declaration. I must be going crazy. He smiled. I started to say something but shook my head, the import of the number suddenly striking me.
Did he just take the time to measure how far I threw the sandwich? I didn’t know what to say. I looked down and then back up.
“Is that a record?” I could tell I caught him off guard.
“Interesting.” He cupped his chin in his hand. “That’s a good question.”
He thought a second, shrugged his shoulders, and then reached out to shake my hand.
“Congratulations, I suppose it is.”
Amidst all the craziness, all the stress, all the thankless jobs, I found a moment of sanity in a day full of stress. Something good had come out of this shitty day. I could feel the tension leave my body, a wonderful relief replacing the madness. I smiled at the official for the first time today.
“Thanks, I gave it everything I had. I knew it was a pretty good toss.”
Enjoy this story? Be sure to check out the rest of the website where you can purchase my books, "A Golden Era" and "A Long Road Ahead" which tell the stories of the high school and college running careers of a father in the 70s and his son in the 2000s.