I was exactly where I wanted to be. I repeat: exactly where I wanted to be. I wasn’t in front of everybody because if you’re in front, it’s easy to start looking back. When there’s nowhere to focus on in front of you, you tend to take off too fast, and use too much energy in the beginning.
Some people prefer to run in the middle of the pack, because they feel the power of the crowd carrying them on, and I suppose they feel safe in the middle, when the masses begin to stampede.
I was in the second row, listening to music. To get to the second row, I had to get there early, something I had noticed the day before when I observed the crowds. And since I had gotten there early, I now had some time to kill.
I went through my strategy in my head, and went through some mental practice runs, weighing the opposition in the first row, and next to me in the second row. I glanced at my watch, and saw that it was 9:20.
Ten minutes to go.
I tied my shoelaces for the third time in ten minutes, and I pulled on the straps on my backpack to make it sit really tight against my back. I looked behind me, and all I could see were faces, but at the same time, I didn’t see any of them.
My heart started to beat a little faster. Five minutes to go.
Somebody bumped into me from behind, and it annoyed me. There’s always one who thinks that it’s his right as a human being to stand in the first row. I didn’t move. The man pushed me again, and I lowered my stance. Apparently he had friends in the first row. I don’t care how many people there are in the first row, I have my strategy.
A minute to go. I saw the organizers work on the door, getting ready to open it. I loosened up my backpack, then pulled it tighter against my back again. I didn’t even see the first row. I had decided to go around them on their right side, where the new person was.
The doors opened, and we were off. I heard the sound of people shuffling their feet behind me, and it made my heart race. I heard the sound of the gates slamming against the wall, but all I could see was the tiny opening between the man in a red jacket and the wall.
I went for it, and I lengthened my stride. I turned a little sideways, and cut right in front of the man. The men from the left side of the first row were now ahead of me by a few strides, so I cut to the left, and began my chase.
Their backs got closer to me with every step, and suddenly, as I passed the two men, I saw nobody in front of me. I heard steps from behind me, and just as I turned to look – a big mistake – a man leapt ahead of me, running.
I missed a step or two but saw the man breathing heavily, and slowing down. He started to walk. I picked up the speed, and a few seconds later, we were walking side by side. That time, I didn’t look at him, but instead, I kept walking, focused on moving my arms, focused on keeping my rhythm. We walked side by side for a few seconds, then he let up, and I realized nobody was ahead of me anymore.
The corridor became a little narrower, so I walked in the middle of it, in case somebody would try to attempt to pass me. But nobody did. I turned left, and I saw the Silja Line ferry terminal arrivals open in front of me. People were standing there, reading papers, smiling, looking up, waiting.
I smiled back to all of them, I tipped my hat to noone in particular – and I kept on walking.