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Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Fast, Then Still

A brief winter break run

The night air was chilled not cold, more like a drink with three respectable crackling ice cubes than the Arctic beverages more careless waiters bring filled with more ice than water. Or maybe it was cold but our bodies were so hot as we crossed back into campus under the Mathey College arch that instead of making us frigid we were further vitalized.

By this point, I had taken off my gloves and hat and wanted to remove my shirt, but as I glanced right, Doug, glowing in sweat under the half moon was speeding up. One hundred meters were left.  I straightened my head and lengthened my stride to take a slight lead, but Doug contested it immediately quickly pacing forward, and prompting me to push deeply, lift my legs faster and swing my arms harder.  

“Woooh, get it!” some voice cheered as we passed. Indeed we were try to get something. Victory? Perhaps, but more than anything we sought exhaustion, the kind that is a pleasure come by pain. You have it when your legs do not feel all that different from much dated milk, which is to say not in a liquid state but only having pretensions to being a solid.

Side-by-side we continued and just as a tied crossing became inevitable so too did unintended pain… almost. We forgot the path after our intended finish changes to steps. Just enough light was cast ahead to avoid a rapid stumble. Our feet not far from the edge we laughed and began walking taking a left into the courtyard of our dorm.

Much too hot to go inside we cooled outside, reclining on a table perhaps, as Phidippides would have done if he had run just as intently but over a shorter distance. Each heavy exhalation came out as white cloud before disappearing into the air. 

As our breathing slowed, and hearts took a more moderate beat, I realized how still were the lawn and view extending in front of us. The miles we had taken up just before were filled with passed scenes and things on campus – dark and lit rooms, the football stadium lights, that student who cheered us – and in town – oncoming cars, a beautiful friend I shouted hello to, a slight fall over raised pavement – but now there was just this one scene. Two young friends happily sweating in below freezing temperatures, looking out onto a campus quiet and still over the holidays.

More lights shone from the peculiarly white glow of the lanterns dotting the paths leading across campus than could be counted in Pyne, Henry, Little or any of the other places in view where students should reside.

The shift from speed to rest, of being aware of only one other body pacing beside my own, to the absence of many bodies one would usually expect around here was not particularly alarming, but just an observation that perhaps held a little delight as the uncanny does, and was as passing as it also is.

Rested and finally getting cold we went inside.