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Darren Burke enters his first marathon with his friend Chris. They have been training for a year.

Darren has been training harder than Chris and wants to win the marathon. He wonders if he should leave him behind in order to win.

Darren and Chris keep pace with the leaders, but Chris eventually falls behind.

Darren makes the choice to keep running, leaving Chris behind.

Darren wins the race; Chris admits that he wanted Darren to leave him behind.

    Darren Burke was in good shape for his first marathon. He had been training for nearly a year, along with his best friend, Chris. Darren had always liked running, but never considered entering a marathon until the previous year. When he brought up the idea to Chris, he was surprised to find that his friend wanted to join him. Over the next year, Darren and Chris hired a personal trainer to get them into shape for the marathon. They regularly ran between ten to fifteen miles a day, at least three days a week. The marathon was twenty-six miles through the streets of Houston. Thankfully, it was held in January, when the humidity was not a problem.

    On the day of the race, Darren was excited. The weather was forecasted to be cool and clear, and he knew he was ready to race. His mother, also excited about the race, drove Darren and Chris to the starting line at four o’clock in the morning. After they registered, they waited with the other runners, stretching and talking strategy. Though he didn’t say it aloud, Darren was concerned that Chris wouldn’t be able to keep up. While Darren faithfully worked out three to five days a week, Chris had to be badgered into working out at all. He asked himself, was it more important to win, or to run the race with his best friend?

    “Darren,” Chris said, “you know you’re a much better runner than I am.”

    “No way. You’ve worked just as hard as I have.”

    “Seriously, man. If it comes down to it, leave me behind. I think you can win this.”

    Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of a horn and the announcement that the runners needed to be at the starting line. Darren hoped that the race would not come down to his leaving Chris behind. Darren and Chris got into position and waited for the starting whistle. When it sounded, both men took off quickly. Darren remembered the advice from his trainer, to pace himself and save the sprinting for the end. “Just stay in the main pack,” he advised.

    Darren and Chris were ten miles into the race and not the least bit tired. They were in the lead, with only a few runners in front of them. Occasionally, the leaders escaped their view, and when that happened, the two of them would run faster in order to keep up. Darren was in the race to win, in spite of this being his first marathon.

    As promised, the weather was cool, without a rain cloud in sight. This was not typical in a city where it might rain for five minutes, stop for an hour, and rain again.  At the twenty-mile mark, Darren noticed that the leaders were beginning to speed up. He matched their pace and noticed that Chris was beginning to fall behind. He slowed down so that Chris could catch up.

    “Remember what I said, man.” Darren did remember, but questioned whether or not he wanted to leave his friend behind. During the race, they’d talked about everything that was on their minds, from girls to school to jobs. Other times, they’d run in a companionable silence, just enjoying the feel of the pavement beneath their feet.

    By the twenty-four mile mark, all of the runners in the lead began to sprint. Darren joined them. he soon noticed that Chris was nowhere in sight. He thought about slowing down to wait for him, but he knew that if he did that, there was no way he could possibly win. Darren sped up and did everything in his power to catch the leaders.

    It didn’t take long; soon, Darren was leading the race with two other runners, both significantly older than he. He saw the finish line in his sight and found an extra burst of energy. This burst took him over the finish line, well ahead of the two other runners. Darren was elated to have won, to feel the ribbon against his chest as he crossed the finish line. He was less certain of his choice to abandon Chris.

    One hour and several interviews later, Darren spotted Chris in the crowd. Chris walked up to him and gave him a sweat-soaked hug.

    “I walked the last five miles,” he admitted. “I thought you were never going to leave me behind. I knew you’d win!”


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