I start warming up, stretch out a bit. Filling my lungs with the icy morning air, I set up my blocks. They are new and clean. The two metal bars glide across each other and lock tightly into place. I take a few practice starts, my heart moving even faster than my feet. I see friends and teammates talking on the sides. I don't look over. I don't want them to psych me out. Instead I take a look ahead, 100 meters. There an orange ribbon waits for me. I can almost feel it brushing my fingers, caressing my waist. A man yells "Runners take your marks." My heart racing, I shed my green sweats. I jump and pull my chest a few times. My feet routinely slide into the metal starting blocks. Routine, that's what it's all about. Once you are in your routine, you don't even have to think about warming up, or the blocks, or your hands placing themselves directly below the white line painted on the track, or the gun, or the finish ribbon, you just do it. It's an instinct. Like a hibernating bear, or a hunting cougar. I take one more look at my destination and inhale, now staring at the place where my feet should take their first step. Another yell from the same man, "set!" I shift my weight to my hands, all is silent, and for an instant, time is paused, but then, one thought races through my mind as a loud crack rings through the air: It's game time.
January 3, 2008