This morning in Spin class, we cycled merrily down imaginary roads with Bruce Springsteen singing "Glory Days." Even though the song lyrics are kind of sad, that song brings a smile to my face. It reminds me of Fall 1984, when Springsteen's Born in the USA was the back drop to everything I did. I arrived at college for my Sophomore year, I went to Wal-Mart, and I bought a fan (unairconditioned dorms--who would tolerate such a thing now?) and Born in the USA.
My friend Russell decided we should run the Carolina Marathon in February, and so we started training. All went well, very well, for the first month or so, while we still had plenty of daylight. And then?
Well, I wrote a poem about it, and I titled it after that Springsteen song. I love the last stanza, which I think captures the sadness, which may just really be a bit of wistful nostalgia, of the Springsteen song. I'm pasting it below for your reading enjoyment. It was published last year in Sport Literate.
Russell lays down the challenge, and I take it.
A marathon? Sure, how hard can it be?
We have a six month schedule and long lit
days early in that fall semester.
When we aren’t out there logging miles,
we’re in the car, scouting new routes.
We challenge each other. I force him to face
the splendor of early morning; he runs beside
me far beyond my capacity. We run
holes in our shoes, the campus odd couple.
But summer can’t last forever. Autumn drops
a blanket in the distance. Never enough daylight.
Russell breaks a bone, I contract bronchitis,
and our glory days end. He limps; I hack.
He looks like a shell-shocked soldier,
and I sound like a TB victim.
Sometimes, late at night, when I can’t sleep,
I drift back to that little college town
where I last felt invincible.
I let the early autumn sun shine
on me, and I trace that route, even the hills,
which memory, time, and distance never flatten.
I run in that pre-dawn bliss,
blessedly ignorant of my mortal frailties,
and all the pitfalls ahead in the gathering gloom.
Just for a moment, I slip back in time,
hours until my first class, with nothing better
to do than run mile after mile, bathed
in sweat and oxygen drenched conversation.
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