The Black Path

April 12, 2010
My heart beat ferociously within the iron cages of my chest. My breath was quick and staggered as I stared down the empty, black path before me. I could feel every pair of eyes resting on me as I stumbled towards the white line. My legs shook beneath me; surely my knees would buckle under. I clenched my jaw shut to stop it from chattering, but this didn’t help. My mind was still racing with worries that I couldn’t seem to ignore. It took most of my strength to push the daunting thoughts out of my mind and hurry to settle my nerves. I gulped down the apprehension burning in my throat and allowed my lungs to fill with the fresh, cooling air. For a moment, I was overcome with a brief sense of serenity–but it didn’t last long.

A heavy hand rested on my shoulder. Someone mumbled a string of incoherent words, and a final ‘good luck’. Had my own thoughts not been so fixated on the endeavour I was soon to undertake, I may have caught a glimpse of their face before they disappeared into the blurred crowd. With just ten seconds left until I hurtled myself onto the black path, I struggled to focus the whole of my attention on the strange, winding lane that spread before me. From just feet away, there was a roar of laughter coming from above. It took mere seconds to realize they were all counting–counting down to what I considered a grim few minutes I’d been forced to endure.

A swish of wind caught my ear, and then, before I could brood another second, an ear-splitting sound blasted through the air, and just like that, my nerves were set ablaze. I felt my own trembling legs careen me through the air, like a bullet. I heard nothing but the deafening sound of the wind as it passed my ears, the sweet smell of victory lay just metres away, and the black path passed, smoothly and fluidly under the rough soles of my shoe. Already, less than halfway through the long, arduous task, my muscles were weakening. For a long while I allowed my legs to propel through the air, but it was no use. To my great disappointment I felt my entire being slow. My legs slowed, my heart slowed, my thoughts came to an absolute halt, and in mortification I soon realized that I could not push myself any faster along that unnerving black path.

With one last push, I heaved a sigh of utter relief as I crossed the finish line, only to be greeted by an enormous crowd of expectant eyes–but they weren’t looking at me. ‘First place!’ someone bellowed, and that was it. That was the first time it had truly dawned on me, and I thought to myself, ‘I just won the Olympics.’ Other than utter triumph and slight disbelieve, there aren’t words to describe what I felt at that moment….





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