I cannot. I can. I must.

The following is part of a 20 day challenge to get into a better habit of blogging. Each day presents a new prompt. Today’s prompt was “Give and Take,” write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else. The twist today was to write it as a dialogue.



The digital sign board ahead reads “20” in giant orange numbers.

The street side crowd is growing in size.

“Go, Brian! GO!” a few chant.

My name is on my race bib.

“I don’t think I can,” is my reply.

I’ve been at this for nearly 3 hours now. Up hills and down, through flat stretches and sparse areas with no crowds to cheer me on.

“I started out too fast. I got too caught up in you,” I say to the crowd. “I want to stop and walk, at least for a minute.”

“NO,” says a voice out of nowhere. “You are just six miles out. You have 20 behind you. Come on, that’s such a short distance.”

My left leg throbs near the shin. Muscles are tight.

“You are right. You are right,” I say back, as enthusiastically as possible.

I put my sights on the next water station a quarter-mile ahead.

“Thank you,” I tell the volunteer who hands me a paper cup, half full of warm water.

I crimp one side of the cup, still running and take a sip. The liquid a flash flood across my parched tongue.

“Thank you.”

I pitch the cup to the curb and pick up my speed again.

“Looking strong! Keep it up! You got this!”

“I do. I got this, I think. No, absolutely, I do.”

Minutes pass, it feels like forever. The mile 21 sign appears.

Crowds grow bigger. There is a belly dancer cheering us on.

“You got this. It’s your birthday,” someone sing-song cheers.

“It is my birthday. I turn 35 today. What the hell am I doing?”

The leg starts throbbing, keeping beat like a metronome.

“A walk and a stretch might help.”

“Come on, you got this. Focus on your breathing.bPush the stomach out as you breathe in. Now breath out.”


“Just a little further!”

Sign 22 appears.

I turn a corner. This girl, tall and blonde, all legs comes sailing by me to my left.

“Hey, how are you doing?” she asked with ease.

“OK,” I say, sheepishly as she pulls ahead.

I passed her so effortlessly going uphill at mile 7.

I start to deflate.

“Come on. Look at that behind. She’s got a nice butt. Couldn’t you follow that all the way to the finish?”

“It is a nice butt. Maybe I can follow along for a minute, but I have to say this isn’t right.”

“You said butt twice.”


“She’s getting too far ahead. I have to stop and walk.”

“Keeping going. You’re almost there! Not that far now!”

“The motivation is all the same. I’m tired.”

“Just for a minute,” I say as my body slows to a walk. “It feels so good.”

“It feels like defeat.”

“Just until this water stop in front of us.”

“Then run?”


The pull of the crowd, the push back of tired muscles. Each slow down makes each start-up to a jog that much harder.

By mile 24, I am almost in tears.

“I’m not going to finish. I’ve trained so hard and I’m not going to finish.”

“You can make it. You are almost there.”

“No, I can’t!”

“Looking good. Go! Go! Go!”


“Ugh, really? Fuck you.”

“You mad?”

“God, what mile is this, I can’t think straight.”

Mile 25 sign ahead.

The crowd grows dense.

“Come on, keep going, you don’t want to look bad in front of all these people.”

“Shit. Just shit.”

The crowd’s cheer turns into a roar.

“My left leg really hurts. Something’s broke.”

“You can see the finish just around this corner!”

“I think something is broke!”

“You’ve gone so far. Almost there!”

“But my foot is swollen.”

“Look, look, there’s the finish.”

“Damn. I’m going to do this. I am almost there.”

“Do. Not. Cry.”

“Just a few more feet.”

“Don’t fall on your face as you cross the finish line.”


“I did it. I did it. I really ran 26.2 miles.”

The official nearby smiles at me and places the medal over my head.

“I was 11 minutes slower than my goal time.”

“We’ll do better next year,” the voices in my head say in unison as I limp toward waiting family and friends.



2 thoughts on “I cannot. I can. I must.

  1. You got this! Like the little engine that could! Great give and take. That inner dialogue is played out in so many ways throughout our lives.
    The pace of the piece and layout keeps the reader wondering and cheering you on!
    Great work!

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