Lane 1 was the baby of the family. Her siblings liked to remind her of this fact as often as possible, mostly because they were jealous. The story goes that when she was paved, Papa Grand Stand put a little something special into her mix. It was a golden spike that he had carried with him and saved special for his baby girl.
Whether or not this was in fact true didn’t really matter to her siblings, they didn’t like it one bit and Lane 2 especially. Of course we all love our siblings, but if love had a color for how Lane 2 felt towards Lane 1 it was puke green laced with envy-lime.
The reason for this jealousy isn’t fully unfounded, and who could blame them? Everyone loved Lane 1, everyone fought for her, elbowed, shoved, and dug in right up close to her rail. PR’s, heck even World Records, had come down to the wire as the athletes leaned for the tape across her physique. Lane 1 was holy ground.
Sure, one could argue that plenty of action occurred in Lane 2, even 3 or 4 on plenty occasions, but let’s be honest, nothing compares to Lane 1. I think the fact that Lane 2 rightly felt that they deserved just as much attention as its white line sharing sibling only made things worse, “Did you see that lean? Ya, well that just won themselves the Gold Medal, and do you know where that lean was? Ummm, hello?! It was right up on me! But does anyone care, no, it’s all about my snotty sister!”
You’d think Lanes 8 and 9 would be most bitter, but I think it was more just they had given up completely. They accepted long ago that they were forever and always the ugly stepsisters reserved for strides and even so low as to be used for additional warm-up area for runners prepping for their race to be run after the one currently in progress. Every now and again they got some attention, should a miscalculating hurdler go down and warrant some ‘oooh’s’ and ‘ahhh’s’ from the crowd, but not much else.
Lanes 4 through 7 played the typical middle children roles of the family. Lane 7 had adopted the second-mother role and made sure that all the lanes kept themselves neat and tidy and presentable come race days. This nagging usually was greeted with the typical grunts and groans, but the sibling lanes always followed orders, they too always wanted to look their best for the races. Well, except for that one time Lane 2 rebelled, refused to take care of a little wear and tear near the 200 meter mark and let it fester until it was an unsightly pothole. The subsequent repaving was her punishment and trust me she learned her lesson…no one likes a pot-holey track and if she thought she didn’t get enough love before, well, the scorn of a pothole made her furious.
Lane 6 was the comic relief of the bunch and liked to play commentator for the races, “Ouch, tough race for that guy, he shouldn’t have been wolfing down those chili cheese fries earlier. I hope he learned his lesson.” Lane 5 was sort of that ghost of the family, people sort of forgot she was even really there at times. This didn’t really bother her, this fading into the background, she was able to pick up some especially tantalizing tidbits and if Lane 5 were to talk more, would she ever have some whopping secrets to divulge. She stored these up like a squirrel collecting acorns, she documented these in a diary that one day she planned to publish, make millions, and rub in the faces of all her sister lanes.
Lane 4 was the prankster; usually, if you look real close, if a runner goes down in a big pack you can see it had something to do with Lane 4. Mamma Grand Stand tried to keep her in order, but to no avail. She’d constantly threaten to have her unruly daughter stripped off and resurfaced into the triple jump or shot-put areas, but Lane 4 knew all talk was pretty much an empty threat.
So Lane 1 shone. She glistened and shined, she glinted in the scorching heat, the beads of perspiration fell to her sacred ground from the harriers giving all they had and more. She elongated the shadows of the 10k racers dueling on as the evening sun set. She splashed in the downpours as the sprinters’ rapid fire legs raised in wild, explosive arcs across her formation.
She highlighted these runners’ accomplishments, swelled with pride as they mounted the podium on still wobbly legs. She cheered loudest of all because she truly felt each footstep, she had a kinship with each and every one of them. A part of her heart also ached for the ones that shed tears in addition to sweat.
Maybe that’s what set Lane 1 apart from all of her sisters, that she had a heart. Perhaps there really was truth behind that golden spike legend, and it granted her the ability to feel. To feel and know that to everyone that lined up on her sacred ground it was more than just a race, more than just laps around a track.