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The joy of going back to being only 6 years old - On finishing a race

I have before me as I write this an outstanding picture by Elly Foster of Stephen Hines – I shall speak of myself in the third person because I don’t quite recognize the guy in the photo as being the real me – running with a bloody face in the Wild Thang Nine-Mile Trail Run.

Steve is still running in the race because he does not realize that he looks like the Red Mask of Death out of an Edgar Allen Poe short story—if Poe had ever written about trail running.

If Steve had had a mirror with him at the time he fell at about the three-mile mark—and thank God he didn’t or he would have lacerated himself further—he would have looked at himself and immediately headed back to the start line and the ambulance waiting there.

Instead, what did he do after his fall? He got up, obviously bleeding from his face, and asked a helpful by-runner (he wouldn’t be a “bystander,” would he?), “Do I still have my teeth?” And when the answer was, “Yes,” he spit out a few twigs clinging to his tongue and ran on.

Why he ran on he cannot now say. He can’t explain it to his wife, he cannot explain it to his daughters, and he cannot explain to his Mother or his brother or his sisters or his friends. But he expects that at least some members of the running community may perhaps have an inkling of understanding.

First, Steve is competitive and enjoys competition. Why would you start a nine-mile run and not want to finish it? There were Grand Prix points at stake, after all; he might still earn one. (He did, in fact, earn exactly one.)

Second, he felt no pain--might as well finish the race at the end rather than backtrack to the beginning. The blood was only gushing from three spots: his lower lip, his upper lip, right under his nose, and from the bridge of his nose. And again he didn’t know that people were nearly passing out along the trail after glancing his way and seeing someone in what looked like a bloody Halloween costume skipping along the route, a mad look of glee in his eye.

Third, he simply didn’t know what else to do. Having never been seriously injured before in fifteen years of running, he lacked the experience to knock off with the “heroics” and walk back in to home base.

What he had done only began to sink in on him when he crossed the finish line, and his head began to clear from the shock of the fall.

The ambulance people certainly seemed to take him seriously as did people like Diane Bibeau and Nick Ged who came up to stare at a sight they obviously didn’t see everyday. Did Peter Pressman shed any blood when he broke his leg?

Steve didn’t know.

After being cleaned on for about a quarter of an hour by the ambulance people, it was time to take their advice and find a walk-in-clinic. Actually, they had specifically said “emergency room” and “there goes the rest of your day,” but Steve thought he might be able to save a few bucks.

This was not to be.

Steve is currently staring at his emergency room bill which totaled $1234.25. However, he did receive a lovely “discount” of $487.76 (a sale for lip surgery perhaps?), and “saved” 89 percent of the total cost, for a grand charge of $130.06. In spite of everything, he knows he is lucky.

It only took five stitches to do the upper lip, and apparently his nose wasn’t broken or at least was not broken enough to require cosmetic surgery. He has looked at his nose many times but doesn’t quite remember what it looked like before the accident, so he can imagine all sorts of things about it. Is it a little more crooked now? Does it lean to the left?

But then if he doesn’t know, who else is going to know? Even his wife can’t tell for sure, and she has probably seen his nose even more than he has.

Steve is forever thankful that his mustache remains intact. The scar would add nothing to his already rugged appearance, and he does not have enough hair on his head to comb it down and cover his face, so he got off fortunate indeed.

He does suffer from disappointment though. His caring sister-in-law, Louella, who was visiting at the time, made it her duty to get all of the blood out of both his hat and his T-shirt.

Except for a slightly bloody paper bib, there is no memento of his great adventure. As for the photograph of his folly, he keeps that hidden in a drawer. There is just too much explaining to do about that ghastly but smiling face.

Posted on: 11/14/2012


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