Running hard up a steep hill, no shirt on, sweat and saliva fly off an unkempt beard, breath hard and ragged and heavy. We pass a blind man going up, his stick held in front of him as he slowly climbs. The freeway roars to our right, impermanent houses stand silent to our left. We climb past well-kept gardens and aim for a gleaming work truck with wheels cramped to the curb, a white metal cloud of guidance. It falls away off our right shoulder.
The road curves, the final stretch in sight. We press harder, driving our soles into the concrete, running out of oxygen, running up our physical debt, promising later payment if only we can please keep going, desperate to quit, unable to stop. The finish is ahead and the top flattens out inviting us to slow and rest. The ease is a trap for the weak, for the unprepared, the unwilling. We charge past. Forcing our legs to move, we ignore our acid muscles, we drive with our minds ourselves on to the end.
Panting, we finish. Hands in the air, gut muscles clenching with beginning dry heaves, lungs throbbing, throat raw, we wander in small circles at the top. The manicured grass, the clean picket fence, the cracked concrete road all pass in dizzying order. We turn and walk down. Three more attempts at greatness call us.