THE LONGEST TEN MINUTES OF LIFE
"On your marks, ..... get set, ..... " Crack! And a large band of muscle-bound, feather-brained athletes set off to see 1760 yards of cinder-track speed beneath their feet. Imagine the scene. It is Sports Day, and parents and friends of boys have turned up to see a number of brawny lads test their endurance. And there are you, in the middle of this charge. Now you have never run a mile before, and you wonder how you will get on.
It takes you about ten seconds to settle down. You had hoped to hold the leaders for about one lap. But after these ten seconds the pace seems very slow, and there you are at the front. You can hardly believe it. Perhaps, even without any training, you can beat the lot. Perhaps you are an undiscovered world-beater. At the first bend you are in the lead. Spurred on by this, you increase the pace until you are yards in front of even the best in the School, with the gap steadily increasing. On and on you go, leaving the rest farther and farther behind. Your step is springy; your head is high; your hopes, as you tear along, are higher.
It is about the end of the second lap that you gradually notice a kind of nagging feeling. But you ignore it. It persists. It gets a little more obvious. "Could it be that... ? - No, surely not - But then, perhaps, if..." Again you refuse to think of the possibility. Then, all of a sudden, you are faced with the stark truth. You have shot your bolt. "Can you hold the lead you have got? " is now your thought. To give yourself confidence, you casually glance behind to see how far you are ahead. Aaaaah .... ! You find yourself looking straight in the face of the leader of the rest of the field. And behind him is the rest of the field. For another half-lap nothing happens, and you begin to think they may not be capable of passing you. You feel a little better. But then it happens. The leader is level, and now past. So are the second, and the third; and one by one the rest follow. As the last man comes level, you put out your hand to beg him not to leave you. He mistakes your intentions, and gives you a painful rap on the fleshy part of the arm with his knuckles. Then he is past and away. Trying to forget your agony, you think of the food awaiting you. This makes it worse. You try to hum a tune in your mind. But you can think of nothing but "Run, rabbit, run," and that annoys you. You just have to keep going. You yearn for your Fairy Housemaster to pick you up in his limousine for the last lap. The thought seems to give the car, even, a gloss. But you know you are alone as you hear the cheers for the winner taunting you. On and on you go, with now no coherent thoughts. At last the final bend, a last straight. Here, you hear someone say, "Well, he's got guts, anyway." You feel you have left them somewhere. Gradually the distance to the post dwindles. You catch sight of the winner with his superior smirk; and he is nearly changed. The Crowning Insult. With what little is left of your pride, you stagger over the line, and the ground comes up and delivers a cruel blow to your nose. You can just mutter, "Never, never again."
One year later: it is Sports Day. It is the start of the mile race. "On your marks, ..... get set, ....." Crack! And there you are in the middle of---[ad inf·]. By G Mead (OL 1947 - 1954)
(Graham Mead died in Sept 2019, click here for In Memoriam.