"Take your time," he said as I broke into a jog. "And have a good trip."
If I'd had any sense I would have followed his advice. Instead, psyched by the flashing lights and the sight of traffic stopped for me, I took off at a fast pace. At the midway point I realized why I'd been going so fast: I had been running downhill.
The second half, of course, was all uphill. As I started up the incline, my thighs and calves tightened. When I tried to compensate by pumping my arms, the only result was that my elbows began banging the backpack. Long before I could even see the end of the tunnel, my lungs and throat were burning from the acrid air—my mouth was like the inside of a tailpipe. If it hadn't been for all the spectators—dozens of Sunday drivers peering at me through their car windows—I'm sure I would have stopped jogging altogether. Not that it would have made much difference: The last few steps were in agonizing slow motion.
When I finally made it to the fresh air, a young guy with a microphone rushed up and started talking about a television station. I was still gasping for breath when I first caught the drift of what he was saying. "...just heard about you on the police radio and we want to tape you for the 10 o'clock news. I'm sorry we didn't have our equipment set up in time to catch you running through the tunnel. When we get the camera and lights turned on, could you do it for us again?"
I probably should have slugged the guy, but for some reason—maybe I was reminded of the policeman's first words or of my shenanigans in front of the security camera—all I did was laugh.
"Sure, I'd be glad to," I said, thinking back to the moment when the soft-spoken policeman reached for his radio. "But you'd have to get the Mobile Police Department to do it again, too. I couldn't do it without them."
Especially not without him—but I didn't do it again.