Mr. Jackson is down on one knee, silver stopwatch in hand. He’s smiling and calling out times as runners cross the orange cones at the finish line. Our entire fifth-grade class is bumping up against each other as we scurry around the last curve of the mile run. Pumping arms and legs are letting fly a sea of spastic elbows and knees in the elementary school version of “Chariots of Fire” meets “Jaws.” I’m convinced that someone is going to lose an eye.
As I get closer to the end, Mr. Jackson’s bushy-brown-70’s-beard begins to look like a beehive. His green tracksuit with double-wide white piping seems blurry. It crosses my mind that I might be delirious from exhaustion. This is what champions go through I tell myself. At the finish line, I hear his voice and excitement: “This is it, Chris,” I listen to him bellow. “You’ve made it.” He sounds like Grizzly Adams. I cross the finish line knowing that I’ve won my first Presidential Physical Fitness Award. Later, at the ceremony, feeling heroic, I wonder how Jimmy Carter had time to sign all of these certificates.
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