Patrick Sullivan basked in the warmth of the afternoon sun as he prepared for his race.  He performed his typical stretches, preparing for this as if it were just another race.  However, much was at stake in the final race of Patrick’s stellar high school career.  It was true that Patrick’s trophy case was filled with mementos of his accomplishments.  It was, however, missing the crown jewel – a state championship.  Three times he had faced his bitter rival on the brightest stage, and three times Philip Webb had emerged victorious.  Over the course of their careers, Patrick had won a majority of their head-to-head meetings, and he held the state record for the mile.  Head-to-head meetings are quickly forgotten, and records are broken.  A championship is eternal.

The milers gathered near the start line in anticipation of instructions from the official.  At his word, the runners reported to their lanes and readied themselves for the start.

Patrick reacted instantaneously to the sound of the starter’s pistol.  Within 50 meters, he had already made up the stagger on one runner.  He raced around the corner of the track, emerged onto the straightaway as the leader, and was able to cut across to the inside lane easily.  He felt the presence of Webb fall in behind him, content to let Patrick set the pace.

Patrick continued to lead the race until the 400 meter mark, when a cocky young freshman bolted ahead of him and surged into the lead.  Patrick refused to take the bait, and continued his pace.  The younger running built an impressive lead by the time they finished the second lap.  Patrick knew that the kid was setting a pace that could not possibly be sustained, and the rabbit began to show signs of fading as they reached the 1000 meter mark.  By the time the bell rang to signify the final lap, Patrick, Philip, and two other runners had caught the front runner, and observers knew that the rabbit had run out of gas and would end up at the tail end of the pack.

As always, Patrick was beginning to feel a bit of fatigue as they began the last lap.  1200 meters were complete, and the runners needed to reach deep inside them to race the fastest 400 meters of their careers.  In past years, Patrick had tried to lead the entire final lap, only to be out-kicked by Webb down the stretch.  This time, he allowed Webb to pull ahead of him and settled into right behind him, allowing Patrick to take advantage of the lower wind resistance as he drafted behind Webb.

The other runners were unaware that this was a two man duel.  With 250 meters to go, Patrick was still right on Webb’s footsteps, but he felt himself boxed in by the other runners.  He had nowhere to go.  At that point, his familiarity with Webb’s style paid off.  He knew the exact moment when Webb would turn on the afterburners and begin his final kick.  Patrick planned to surge forward and then cut to the right at the precise moment that Webb would begin his kick.  If Patrick surged too early, he would run up Webb’s back and take them both out of the race.

Four years of racing against Philip Webb had trained him for this moment, and he timed it perfectly.  Webb bolted forward with Patrick on his heels, separating slightly from the other two runners.  Patrick veered sharply to the right and accelerated until he was dead even with Webb.

The two runners approached the finish line side by side, achieving maximum velocity as they strode for the tape.  The naked eye would deem it a tie, and the cameras would be hard pressed to pick the winner.  Patrick Sullivan felt the slight bit of resistance as his body broke through the tape.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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