>Tuesday Aug 20,2002

It’s early morning. Dawn is slowly creeping across the National Mall. The Capitol Building stands watch behind me as a run down the path past the American History museum. The air is warm; telling me today is going to be another scorcher. Sweat rolls down my back, staining my blue shirt from the rescue squad I volunteer for. In my hip bag, I can feel my PD badge bouncing up in down in time with my steps. I have a long day ahead of me, helping keep the streets safe. It’s a challenge I look forward to most days. But I don’t want to think of that. I’d rather think about the way people who haven’t seen me in years react to me. I enjoy watching the double take as they blink twice and ask, Clara?” before speaking to me. I’d rather think how much I love being back in DC. Heat, humidity and all, there’s no place I’d rather be. As I maintain my brisk pace down the Mall I can see the morning sun slowly pouring down the Lincoln Memorial. In a moment of impulse I begin sprinting towards the sunlight. It’s a race to see which one of us will make it to my favorite step first. My arms pump, my legs push me forward. Lungs burning, heart pounding, ears ringing, I hit the first step and the pain hits. Lactic acid burns through me as I fight my way up the steps. The sun paints down the memorial, threatening to beat me. I dig deep, throw myself forward and beat the sunlight to the finish. I stand there, bent over, hands on my quivering thighs for a moment. My chest heaves with effort as I try to bring my pounding heart back down to a slower rate. I look to my right and squint into the sun, the Washington Monument partially blocking the light. I’ve finally beaten the dawn. Out of the corner of my eye I catch a flicker of movement-and Conan O’Brien is bouncing down the stairs in his desk. It’s 3:30 am and I’m back in the gym on the treadmill trying to remember what minute I’m at in my workout. It’s pitch black out; my lats are sore from my back workout yesterday. My abs hurt and I feel the beginning pull that indicates my shin splints are pondering the merits of exploding into full-blown bad pain. I want to cry. For a moment the image was so real, I was there. It hurts to snap back to reality. I’m 1500 miles from where I want to be. In more ways than one. I’m working in a job that I don’t like, in a city that was home, but isn’t anymore. I don’t want to be here. I want the dream. So I’m building it, one rep, 1 set, 1 mile at a time. Will I quit? I hope not. I’ve got a lifetime of unfulfilled dreams behind me. I tell myself that I won’t quit. But I guess that depends…on just how much I want to beat the dawn.