Ghost Runner

They say that on his twelfth birthday he saw the Olympic marathon runners on television, and his mouth and eyes went wide. “It’s just running!” he said. “I can do that.”

And he did. He ran seven miles that afternoon, and every day from then on.

Two years later he became the captain of his high school cross country team. The next summer he finished third in his first marathon. The next day he began training for the Olympics. “It’s just running,” he said. “I can do that.”

That winter, a week before the regional race, shortly after dark, he was three miles into a run, on a long, sweeping curve. A minivan hit a patch of ice. The people of his town would wail at the world, but the dream died there in the snow.

Now, they say that on cold nights you can sometimes see a runner loping down the road. His footfalls make no sound, and his sweatshirt is smeared with blood. As you pass, he may turn to look at you, his neck at an odd angle. “It’s just running,” he’ll say, his smile full of broken teeth. “I can do that.”

View this story's 3 comments.