This story popped back into my mind the other day.  All the roles have changed in the time that has passed, but it still makes me giggle.

I used to be a much more competitive person.  I don’t know if I’ve mellowed with age or have fallen into the just don’t give a shit category, but I must say that the lack of competition has made me a much calmer person.  Like when I play volleyball, I would rather lose a good match than win in a blowout.  Or when I do a race, I am not all that concerned with my time.

Somehow, that topic of competitive time came up in conversation yesterday at the Cess Pool.  (The Cess Pool is pet name for a local watering hole where I like to enjoy conversation.)  One of the regulars was all jazzed up because he had lost some weight and, pretty much out of nowhere, bet my friend $50 that he could run a 400 in under 60 seconds.  Now, considering how often said regular steps outside to smoke a cigarette and how much vodka and bourbon said regular consumes, I couldn’t see how that was possible. But trying to be nice and not point out the vices, I asked, “How old are you?"

He responded, “49.”

A few seconds of silence ensued.

My friend’s reply, “When I was in high school, I ran the third leg of a 4x400 relay and my best times were around 55.  WHEN I WAS 18.  The best guys ran 51s.  AND THEY WERE 18."

The last sentence was not only said loudly, but very slowly.  


“I couldn’t run a sub 60 400 and I am in decent shape,” I said.

“You train for endurance,” he responded, “you don’t train for speed.”

Pardon me, I didn’t know Michael Johnson drank at the Cess Pool.

The regular insisted he could do a sub 60 400 through lots of gesturing and strange faces.  It was grandiose, grotesque,  then slightly pathetic, but overall, amusing.  He requested 90 days to train. He says training starts by running a block and then walking a block. 

"A journey of a thousand miles..."


Hands were shaken.  He requested that we record his glorious moment for posterity.  He wanted a copy of the day’s Argus Leader in the opening shot so there would be no question on the date. He called for a tape to break at the finish line.

Really, he did.

Then he went outside for a cigarette.

My friend and I Googled some 400 m record times. World class male athletes run 43+. World class females run 47+.  I texted my brother and he said his best time, when he was 18, was a 55.

So, come August 9, 2011, at 5:15 p.m., location to be determined, a 6-3, 180 pound drinker and smoker who has walked this earth for 49 years will attempt a sub 60 400.  Or maybe he will have a heart attack.  The part I don’t understand about all this is the ego.  The clear contention that this was gonna happen and it was gonna be easy.  Was it male ego or a general lack of humility?  Or had he had just enough vodka that it seemed possible?  Too bad he made the bet with a sober guy in front of a sober witness.

I think I’m gonna let it slide and not say anything about the bet for at least a month. Then one day, I’m gonna casually ask him how the training is going, probably while he’s on the way outside to have a smoke.


The race never happened.  I was ready.  Something about a hammie, relayed to me through slurred speech and whirls of cigarette smoke.