Every so often, a run levels you. It mocks you and brings you to your knees. You beg for mercy and it laughs in your face.
You're left scarred, wondering if you're as strong as you think you are. It's a brutal slap in the face that let's you know you're flawed, fragile, and all too human.
The aftermath is not always pretty. You try to forgive yourself for not making it happen the way you usually do. You cut yourself some slack. You remind yourself that everyone has rough days.
This works for the most part. It's the fair thing to do. It's the reasonable thing to do. It's the rational thing to do. But, questions persist, nevertheless. Do I really have it? Was that an aberration?
The palate needs to be cleansed. The demons need to be exorcised. A comeback is required.
I had been punched in the mouth, staggered, and rendered barely coherent during my first encounter. I had been dominated. My nemesis smiled broadly at my suffering when it was over.
But, running is a long game. One round rarely decides things. I knew I had at least a few more rounds in me. I needed to know that I couldn't be felled that easily.
Rocked from the get go last time, I was aching to throw some haymakers of my own the second time around. Suffering was ahead of me, but I had a feeling I would draw some blood and send a message.
This was about pride. Win or lose, I was going to put up a hell of a fight every step of the way. I hoped to win, but I could live with losing provided I put it all out there.
The butterflies dispersed within a few strides. The familiar initial flurry of offense from my opponent was non-trivial, but my defense held. Round one was a draw.
Round two began and it was a slugfest. Neither one of us gave an inch. I ducked, bobbed, and weaved. I threw a few punches that stunned, but didn't stagger. Yet another draw for this round.
The final round approached and it was in this round that I had succumbed last time. A sneer washed across my opponent's face as we both stood up. He was aching for me to fold again.
The sneer quickly faded as he realized I was not the person he dealt with last time. Nothing he threw at me caused any real damage and I just kept coming.
This persistence paid as his defense started to wilt. Redemption was nearly mine. One final hill to climb and this fight would end in the victory that had eluded me previously.
Sweating, gasping, and heaving the round finally ended. I was lightheaded. I was dizzy. I was seeing stars. But, I was standing at the end. I run because everyone loves a comeback....