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by Eric Miller

There were three things Calus Foote liked to do: chew tobacco, spit tobacco juice, and run barefoot. Very few people called him by his given name, but that didn’t bother Calus. He would answer to pretty much anything you called him, like Dip, Chawsky, Snus, Grizzly, and Pinch.

If anyone epitomized the phrase to not judge a book by its cover, it was Calus. Sure, it’s understandable that someone might miss the fact that he was an Ivy League graduate, a Rhodes Scholar, and spoke fluent Greek. But that didn’t bother Calus either. What bothered him was that he could never finish a marathon road race. He would hit that proverbial wall along the way, cramp up, and go down. So, Calus went to a sports psychologist to see if he could break through the shackles that bound him.

“Calus my friend,” his psychologist said, “imagery is the answer. You’ve got to imagine yourself as Phidippides, that Greek runner who ran all over Greece looking for help from the Spartans to do battle with the Persians on the plains of Marathon. That should be a good image for you to conjure up, inasmuch as your friends call you Dip. The image of Phidippides should enhance your visceral sensation of the dip in your mouth and give you that extra boost for which you’re looking.”

“Yo, Doc, didn’t that guy die after running 26 miles to Athens?”

“Well, yes, technically, but we’re talking imagery, Calus.”

“So imagery can trump technically?”

“Look Calus, I like to believe that imagery can trump technically, but yes, technically does have strengths which can’t be overlooked.”

“Okay, Doc, it sounds kind of loopy to me, but call me Phidippides."

On the day of the race, Calus waited at the back of the pack, 25,000 strong, for the starting gun to fire. Fifteen minutes passed before he had space to take his first step. Thirty minutes clicked off on his watch before he crossed the starting line. A wall along the way, at about twenty miles, got in his way. He didn’t crash into it; he just rolled gently to a stop, like a car running out of gas. His mind said run; his legs didn’t listen. His voice screamed move, but his feet sank deeper into the pavement. He lifted and pushed each leg, one at a time. It took him as long to go the last six miles as it did to go the first twenty. The aged, the infirm, and the physically challenged all passed Calus along the way. Darkness fell as he fell across the finish line.

As he lay on the ground with no one left at the race, he decided to stop imagining that he was Phidippides. He wanted to live to tell the world that he made it. So he got himself up and staggered slowly to the bar across the street where he imagined that the bartender who would pour his first beer was the most beautiful woman in the world.