At first, I thought I had a chance.
A chance for glory. A chance to be the first runner, the first reporter to cross the finish line of the St. Peter's Fiesta 5K road race.
I peered at last year's results, saw the winning time of 15:51 and stepped out my apartment for a training run, determined to match it.
I ran flat out. My lungs screamed for me to stop but my legs sped forward. I'd been training for months, when a New Year's resolution got me running again. This 5K was going to be cake.
I snuck a peek at my watch. The analog letters read 16:12, 2.2 miles. Wait — 5 kilometers is 3.1 miles. I was a mile behind. Already, if this were the real race, I'd be toast.
A week later, when I stepped to the starting line behind hundreds of others, I felt relaxed. There was no reason to push forward; I could run comfortably.
This was my first St. Peter's Fiesta, my first summer in Gloucester and the first road race of my life. Why not enjoy it?
The horn sounded; I didn't move. I couldn't. Sweating bodies were packed like sardines into Commercial Street, slowly filtering down the road like sand crystals in a hourglass. The crawling start gave me time to scan our surroundings. Hey, it's not everyday you start a race packed at the edge of a carnival.
Finally, after several stalled seconds, my feet started moving. I saw an opening up ahead and went for it, desperate to reinflate my personal space bubble.
I squeezed between runners and cars and spectators and barely saw the upcoming stroller out of the corner of my eye. I twisted left to avoid it, but I felt my heel clip the wheel. An infant's cry rang out in the background. Bad start. I kept moving.