this is the backyard.

as the last whistle sounded
and 31 runners assembled in the starting corral.
i saw their heads turned,
looking back down the empty trail into the woods.

sarah had not made it in

there was a murmuring sound from them
i made out several speaking in low voices
“come on sarah, come on sarah”
trying to will her in.

those who remain have developed a bond.
they are competitors
and they are a team.
the race begins at 48 hours.
and they do not want to leave anyone behind.

everyone knew she was struggling
they had all encouraged her.
and now they felt her absence in the corral
with a sense of personal loss.

at the last they turned their heads
and went out with the bell.

they must answer the bell.
that, in the end, is the one great truth…

you must answer the bell.

the other great truth they do not think about.
this has to happen 30 more times.
one by one your friends must fail.

the very people who have fought beside you
thru the rocks and roots
over the mud and and asphalt
in bitter cold and under blazing sun…

all of them must fall
for you to win.

this is a cruel game.
but it brings out the best from the players in so many ways.
not just the search for the limits of our human endurance
but our limitless capacity to care about one another.

there will be both joy and sadness for the ultimate winner.
the joy of victory
and the sadness of leaving friends behind.

but there will always remain a bond,
between those who gave their all on big’s trail
that one week in october.