Still anticipation. Heart thumps increase, pumping adrenalin filled blood round the ready body, revving up like F1 racing cars on the grid.
Zen focus precedes the report that reverberates round their ears.
Then, the fire. The smoke. The gun.
Like startled gazelles they leap forward, bouncing muscle off muscle, as they hustle their way from the tight pack, into the freedom of space. Some speed off with impatience; or selfishness, greedy for the prize. Their awareness is masked by tunnel vision, and the end.
There is gentle gracefulness in the art of their movements, as they battle with the elements: the sun, warm and comforting; the breeze, cool and refreshing; the earth under foot, unpredictable, from grassy, morning dew softness, to stones and splashes from puddles; and a cocktail of scents from the bakery, exhaust fumes, pet excrement and sweat.
Relaxed muscles move in piston motions, powering the machine forward with robotic precision. Air is utilised in efficient gaseous exchange; rhythmic breath, relaxed and meditative. Their mantra: Control! Control! Control!
Others gasp as if they’re sensing their last Earthy breath, and the pistons become sluggish as acid clogs up the machine, and pain seeps in like whey through a cheese cloth, slowly dripping, leaving the body curdled.
Unfortunate ones are defeated, and cast themselves aside like leaping lemmings and retch by the trees, or slump to the ground, sweating, stumbling, mouths gaping for the need of life fuel; air and water. Those that pass them send out cries of encouragement that float by unheard.
The end must come and when it does, what blessed relief. Chemicals surge through the power machine, a euphoric mix of adrenalin and endorphin, pushing them on. At the end, they all stop. The machine stops but the heart’s fuel is still racing, pumping, flowing, moving, coursing through.
Queues form as they are ushered like cattle into different pens where the record keepers await to scan their barcodes. Thirty minutes and one second; a personal best! Some have recovered quickly but most are exhausted. They’ll return though, next week, for another park run.