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"You've Just Set a New Personal Best"
I pass the basketball court and glance briefly over to see if anyone's shooting hoops, but they aren't. I'm the only one dumb enough to be out in this weather. My legs have stopped hurting, but now I'm no longer sure if that's a good thing. Breathing makes my chest feel two sizes smaller, and I'm starting to see spots. But I'm a mile from home, two-thirds of the way done, two miles in, and I know I've leveled. According to my Nike+ profile, I'd logged just over 98 miles before I set out tonight. The two miles I've just ground under my feet have pushed me into the 100 mile club. I'm at Level 2.
The level cap in the Nike+ MMOG is, counting the starting position, 8. To get to level 8, I need to run 4,900 more miles. There are currently 13 Nike+ members at level 8, and about 160,000 at my current level, level 2. There are about 200,000 people using the system in total. At the 500 mile mark (level 3), the crowd thins by almost 150,000. Needless to say, most people don't make it that far, and I may not either, but four months ago I was still in the 0 club. I didn't think I would get this far, but I did. And all I had to do was run. Grind. It seems so simple looking back, but then, it always does.
Now I'm headed back up the half-mile hill, a half-mile from my house, the finish line. The half-mile-hill is actually two hills, with the finish line at the top of the second. So the last quarter mile of my run is an uphill slog at the end of a three mile run. Sometimes I sprint this portion. Just because I can. Just because it makes my numbers look good on the website.
I imagine I'm running a race, catching up to the leader then blowing him away when he's got nothing left in his tank. I'm beating my knees into dust, punishing my body and painfully shedding pounds earned through years of Dorito abuse, and what motivates me is the voice of a man I want to kill and the thought that people are looking at what I've done and experiencing envy. How is this not like playing a game?
I kick to the top of the hill, push with everything I have left, almost to the point where I'm blacking out, feeling nauseous and ready to die. I make the top of the hill and I have nothing more to give. But I finished. Three more miles logged, 399 to go before I level up again.
"Congratulations," Lance Armstrong says. "You've just recorded a new personal best for the mile." Thanks, Lance. I'm glad you've got my back. You may be a testicle short, but you're still a mensch in my book.
Russ Pitts is most likely running from his own past. His blog can be found at www.falsegravity.com.