The North American Pronghorn Antelope has been observed to reach speeds in excess of 70 miles per hour, and to maintain speeds of more than 40 miles per hour for over 90 minutes. One can only imagine the demonic speed and ferocity of the predator that caused the Pronghorn to evolve such prodigious running abilities.
-Archibald W. Goodwin, Chief Naturalist, Chicago Field Museum, 1907
As a kid, I was a hell-raiser. I don’t know why; I just was. My folks didn’t know what to do with me. I didn’t have any friends. I flunked out of school. Girls wouldn’t come near me. The only thing I could do was run. It kept me alive and out of jail when I was living on the street. The gangs, the cops – no one could catch me.
Once when I was eighteen and needed cash, I entered a 5K for the purse. Why not? It was easy money. I beat a couple Kenyans and a preppy white kid with expensive shoes. Everyone was pissed because they had to write a check to a tattooed delinquent with a rap sheet. Made my day.
That was the start of my running career. The more I ran, the more I liked it. After a while, the money didn’t matter. I ran for the hell of it. I ran roads and trails. I ran the canal towpath, racing boats from lock to lock. I raced cars down Elmwood Avenue. I ran a hundred miles a week and still needed more.
I discovered marathons and upped my mileage. I ran across New York State in three days. I ran the Appalachian Trail in three weeks. I trained for two months on Pikes Peak and won the Boston Marathon without breaking a sweat. I ran ultras across Death Valley and over the Rocky Mountains.
My metabolism changed. I slept less, ate more, lost weight. I did Denali on a lark, in crampons and a Spandex body suite. I ran up Everest with a Sherpa on my back. My chest grew larger, my legs sinewy. My toenails fell off.
I needed space. I craved vistas. I wanted to see how far my legs could take me. I left the cities and forests and corrugated landscape of the east coast and went west. Somewhere in South Dakota, where the prairie meets the sky, I saw a cloud of dust on the horizon and ran it down. A herd of pronghorn, running like hell for god knows where, like a single creature with a thousand legs, shredding the indian grass and throwing up clods of earth in their wake. I worked my way into the pack and matched their pace, deafened by their thunder, tasting their hot misted scent. There were hundreds, thousands – more than I could count.
I’d forgotten how.
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Pronghorn was originally published in Pif Magazine.