The runner is standing before he opens his eyes. His morning routine is unvaried: Wake up before the sun rises over the San Gabriel Mountains. Hydrate and eat. Get his temperature taken—with body fat that low, he’s susceptible to bugs. Gear up. Head to the track, weather permitting.
He’s eager to get started today, shifting his weight from shoe to shoe. During the weeks of record-breaking rain in Southern California, he’s been stuck inside, affecting an attitude somewhere between stoically antsy and openly pissy. He wants to run.
It’s chilly at 7:30, but the runner will warm as soon as he starts moving. He’s huge—a beast, a unit, an oversized anatomical model of the muscular system—though his legs are awkward and bony. It’s endearing to see so much power resting on such an ill-equipped base. A grand piano on matchsticks. But what looks like a design flaw in stillness becomes flawless in motion. Tendons, flexors, joints, bones and muscles trigger one another, parts of a divine Rube Goldberg machine.
The runner is actually the front-runner, the current favorite to win the most important race of his career. Nobody around him will say this out loud, but if he were to win that and the two races that follow, he would be known as one of the greatestever athletes in his sport.