#reverb10: Moment

Today's #reverb10 writerly prompt is: December 3 Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)

When I read this prompt, the words “alive” and “vivid” immediately conjured the word “intense” -– and all three of these percepts were elicited by my participation in a 200 mile relay earlier this year.

My experience is fully documented, but I wanted to share this excerpt, which captures what was arguably the most alive, vivid, and intense moment of my 2010. For context: I was about to embark on my second leg of the relay -– in the dead of night and on an isolated route where my team van couldn’t follow me:

It was around midnight when I started my leg alone. I held an easy pace, hoping one of the other runners I saw back at the exchange would catch up with me. Soon I was relieved to hear another runner behind me — it was a man and I joked that I was glad he was there so I could follow him and not get lost. However, he blew past me. So I picked up my pace and tried to keep up with him, desperately chasing the blink of his headlamp. This proved to be a bad move (re: burnout) but I kept pushing. As I saw the flicker of his headlamp get further and further away I felt more and more panicky. But I kept running, trying to keep up, even as my run started to go up a huge hill (so much for the leg being labeled easy). By the time I got to the top of the hill, the road split in two and my runner was gone. I felt doomed.

I decided to go to the right because I thought that was how the course map read but in another minute I heard another runner behind me shouting, telling me to go the other way (I owe that dude big, whoever he was). By this point my legs were burning and my brain was totally fried from the stress, but I tried to pick up the pace and keep up with him, once again following the blink of a headlamp. But he kept getting farther and farther away and as we entered onto the bike path I felt as if I was going to have a nervous breakdown. I was all alone and every time I saw or heard movement that wasn’t mine, I panicked. I felt a little bit like I was in that scene of Watership Down, in which the rabbits are trying to gain ground at night and are beyond twitchy about getting picked off by bigger animals.

Under different circumstances, the bike path would have been beautiful. The moon was huge and the view beautiful, but the path was isolated and pitch black (except for my headlamp). At one point I caught up to another woman runner and another one came up from behind and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief and commiserated about the fear of being attacked and also, what the hell was up with the giant dude allegedly walking his dog in the middle of the night a half mile back? We ran together for a bit and I checked in with Van 1 via walkie talkie briefly but the reception was not good (so much for that safety plan). Unfortunately, by this point my legs were toast (from trying to keep a fast pace with the other two guys) and I had to drop back and walk. I was all alone again. I kept looking over my shoulder, wondering if I could even sprint if I sensed an attack coming on.

It was basically the longest and most stressful 4.9 miles I have ever run. I wish my mindset had been better — it was a beautiful, perfect evening. But it was what it was and I just did my best to walk/run the remainder to get off that desolate path as fast as I could. I was hurting and a bit demoralized but ultimately glad to get the leg over with. If I had had any water left in my body at the end I would have cried tears of relief.

Indeed, this was one of the moments I thought about when I wrote my first #reverb10 post. My spirit was tested but I made it out the other side. And oh, did I feel gratitude.