Seven Minute Mile

 









Seven Minute Mile

By

Jeremiah Liend



















Copyright 2024




Setting: 

The race track and playing field of an ivy league college in Spring (the last day of finals).


Characters:


Jimmy Plant - 19. A freshman college student struggling to succeed.


Robert Defazio (Coach)  - 60s. Athletics department faculty and track and field COACH. 


Setting: On a campus running track at dusk.


(Coach is intently peering at his stop watch with growing irritation. After a while Jimmy runs on stage before stopping to sweat, wheeze, pant, and collapse in terrible pain as he contends with a stitch. Coach speaks loud enough to be heard over the noise.)


 COACH. You miserable loaf. You absurd wiener. You sad sack. This is your last chance, sport. This is the midnight hour. Sunset on your last day of finals and you owe me a mile! You don’t get it done in the next half hour and it’s a big fat “F” in the grade book. Look at you. Wheezing like a broken balloon. Crippled with cramps and failure. If you were around in caveman times we never would have made it. Humanity would have been tossed down the gullet of a saber-toothed tiger because you can’t run worth a damn. How I loathe you. I pity your jiggling failure. You make me want to vomit glass. 


(Jimmy catches his breath enough to respond.)


 JIMMY. Sorry, coach. But also I don’t think you can talk to me like this? I’m pretty sure it violates the safe learning space policy. 


 COACH. Son, I'm a tenured faculty member in an ivy league athletics department. I could kill you right here and now and it wouldn’t even go on my record. You have to kill three or more students to even get flagged. Your life is as worthless as your running ability. As valuable as a fart in the wind. Your strained gasping makes me sick.


 JIMMY. I guess I don’t feel particularly motivated by your cruel judgment and hate. 


 COACH. Well, that’s how I operate and I’m not about to change it now. You don’t create an Olympic track and field competitor by holding their hands and playing nice. Training is a crucible and you are in it. The only question is, are you in it to WIN IT? NOW RUN FATTY, RUN!!!


 JIMMY. Just give me five minutes to catch my breath!


 COACH. Five minutes!? When I was in the service we were expected to run a seven minute mile! You know who can run a mile in your two remaining minutes? A cheetah on meth, that’s who. Five minutes is forever in sports. Can you imagine any competition where anyone can call a five minute time out to scratch their ass and play on their phones?!


 JIMMY. What do you think commercial breaks are for!?


 COACH. No, you don’t get to use broadcasting logic to get out of this. You wallow in the shame of sub-par health. Does it feel good to be so bad at things? Do you like to roll around down there, in wasted potential and lost opportunity? 


 JIMMY. It’s like they took your brains out and let Nike fill it back up with propaganda. You’re like a motivational poster that didn’t sell. You’re a stereotype of a caricature. I feel sad for you and your joyless existence spent fleeing your irrational fears. So what if I’m a little husky? So what if I can’t run fast or far? Who cares if I can’t do 20 pull ups? How does any of this translate to the “real world”? How does your ability to run make you any better than me? 


 COACH. Lots of ways. 


(Jimmy coughs.)


 JIMMY. Damn it, my nose is bleeding. 


 COACH. Tip your head back and put pressure on the bridge of your-


(Jimmy pinches the bridge of his nose to the degree that his next few lines are nasal and strained.)


 JIMMY. I KNOW! I’ve had nosebleeds before.


 COACH. I bet you have. 


 JIMMY. What is that supposed to mean? 


 COACH. Nosebleeds are a symptom of sloth. 


 JIMMY. Sloth?


 COACH. Sloth. 


 JIMMY. You’re a real piece of work. 

 COACH. I’ll take that as a compliment. 


 JIMMY. You shouldn’t. 


 COACH. But I will. 


(Jimmy releases his nose.)


 JIMMY. All this is going in my scathing ‘Rate My Professor’ review. 


 COACH. What the hell is your major malfunction?


 JIMMY. I have asthma. 


 COACH. So what?


 JIMMY. And allergies. 


 COACH. Great. 


 JIMMY. And scoliosis! 


 COACH. Love it. 


 JIMMY. And a cramp!!!


 COACH. Walk it off. This is where that phrase comes from. 


 JIMMY. My joints are popping like burning dry wood. 


 COACH. I’m not a doctor, Jimmy. I’m just here to break you. 


 JIMMY. But why!? What’s the point of this!?


 COACH. The point is you’re fat and lazy and if you don’t change your perspective, your habits, and your attitude, you’re going to remain weak, pathetic, and ugly until you die in your mid-40s the part owner of a failing Arby’s franchise. 


 JIMMY. That’s so specific!?


(The Coach’s phone rings.)


 COACH. Ah damn it. Can’t believe I’m missing dinner for this bullshit. Keep your pie slot closed, I’ve got to take this. 


(Coach answers.)


 COACH. Hello dear, I’m sorry it’s gotten so late… You know your pot roast is my favorite. No… No… No. I’m administering a final athletics exam. No… No… I don’t know. I hope soon. No, I didn’t get a chance before class this morning, I’ll stop on the way home if I can. If anything is still open. I don’t care, I hate that damn cat anyhow, he can poop on his poop and like it. OK… OK… yes. I will. No. No, please don’t put the cat on the phone. I don’t really have time to… 


(Coach looks embarrassed)


 COACH. Hello my little man. Daddy thinks you’re a precious angel. 


(Coach makes air kisses in cat pleasing noises and hums a gentle song.)


 COACH. Hello? Yes. OK. I’ll text when I’m leaving. (quietly) I love you too. 


(Coach ends the call.)


 COACH. You can open your pie slot again. 


 JIMMY. You have a cat? 


 COACH. So what?


 JIMMY. What’s their name? 

 COACH. Hey, how about I get out my curlers and nail stuff and we can do mani-pedis and talk about cats? 


 JIMMY. That sounds nice. 


(Coach looks at his stopwatch before shaking it at Jimmy.)


 COACH. I was kidding, Jimmy. Being sarcastic. Get your ass back on that track, your five minutes ended two minutes ago. 


 JIMMY. I’m going to drop this stupid class. 


 COACH. Just going to quit?


 JIMMY. Yes. I don’t feel like having a heart attack tonight. 


 COACH. Do you quit everything that’s difficult? 


 JIMMY. Do you care?


 COACH. I care about all of my student athletes, even the lazy quitters. 


 JIMMY. I seriously doubt that. 


 COACH. Aren’t you on an academic scholarship?


 JIMMY. Yes, I am, and failing this course is going to screw it up. But I’d rather deal with that problem than continue to be humiliated and demeaned like this. 


 COACH. Figures. 


 JIMMY. I just need this one credit fitness class to fill the “healthy living” requirement for graduation, I’m not interested in the Olympics. 


 COACH. Clearly. Of course you aren’t. You’re mediocrities’ fat poster child. You make Louis Anderson look like Jesse Owens.

 JIMMY. I don’t know who those people are!?Your old-person references are meaningless to me!?


 COACH. Do you know how far you’ve run? 


 JIMMY. A long way. 


 COACH. Hardly. You are only a quarter of the way done. At your age and ability you SHOULD be able to run a seven minute mile. I was your age when I enlisted and we all had to run at that pace. But at this pace you’re running a seven HOUR mile. Hell, it could be a seven DAY mile. We might be here all week, letting my pot roast rot. Because you’re slow, lazy, ignorant, and obese. 


 JIMMY. I’m not obese. 


 COACH. Tell that to your BMI. Oh, you’re obese alright. Headed towards morbidity. Morbid obesity is a hard thing to shake off, you know?


 JIMMY. I don’t think BMI is the only thing to consider. 


 COACH. Oh, what else should we factor in? How well your mommy wipes your tushy? How many pop-tarts you can hork down in a sitting? How big your Minecraft server is? 


 JIMMY. I’m saying Body Mass Index isn’t the only health metric. 


 COACH. There’s cholesterol! I bet you’ve got so much cholesterol lurching through your veins you could grease pans with it. Enough of your back talk! Drop and give me 20 before I walk away from this embarrassing display! 


(Jimmy reluctantly gets in position to struggle through some push ups.)


 JIMMY. Coach…


 COACH. Or what about blood sugar!? We’re in a diabetes epidemic, and I bet if you let that bloody nose flow the humming birds would be here in minutes to lap it up.


 JIMMY. Please Coach…


 COACH. What about thyroid function? You ever get your thyroid checked? Might explain how and why you make Chris Farley look like Adrien Brody. 


 JIMMY. I don’t get that old person reference either!?!?


(Jimmy is at his physical limit and collapses before rising to his feet and looking coach in the eye.)


 JIMMY. I don’t care if you fail me, you shit tyrant! I don’t even want to go to this awful school, filled with you horrible people who think you’re so fucking important! Here’s a surprise for you, you’re not important! No one gives a shit about sports unless they have a scholarship! No one likes you, let alone respects you!? This is just a pointless torture power trip to make you feel good about being a total loser! I don’t even… I don’t… 


(Jimmy is too frustrated to continue and despite his best efforts can’t help but start to cry.)


 COACH. Ah, come on. Now, come on. Don’t cry. Ah, don’t start crying on me now. This is training, not therapy. 


 JIMMY. I don’t understand why you have to be so damned mean!? 


(Coach hesitates and then takes a photo out of his wallet before handing it to Jimmy.)


 COACH. Here. 


 JIMMY. What’s this?


(Jimmy looks at the photo, rubbing tears out of his eyes)


 JIMMY. Is this you?


 COACH. Yeah. Senior picture. Oakville High class of ‘75. 


 JIMMY. YOU were obese. 


 COACH. Morbidly. I was a “fat fat fatty fat” as the late Gene Wilder put it. Not a day went by that I didn’t get teased about it. Life is…

(Coach hesitates.)


 COACH. Life is hard when you’re fat. 


 JIMMY. I guess so. 


 COACH. Wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Look, let’s just finish this mile. 


 JIMMY. I don’t think I can. 


 COACH. You can. You might vomit. Or poop. Or poop while vomiting. But, you can do it. 


 JIMMY. You’re going to miss your dinner. 


 COACH. It’s OK. Ruth’s pot roast reheats well.


(Jimmy considers it.)


 COACH. Come on, I’ll run with you. 


 JIMMY. Really? 


(Coach stops his stopwatch and puts it away.)


 COACH. Yeah. Side by side. You set the pace. 


 JIMMY. What if I can only walk?


 COACH. Then we walk. You’ve got to walk, before you can run, they say.


(Jimmy gets back on his feet and hands Coach back his picture.)


 JIMMY. This all seems like a lot for one credit. 


 COACH. It is, Jimmy. It really is. 


(Coach does some deep lunges and stretches before they start.)


 JIMMY. Coach? 


 COACH. Yeah, Jimmy?


 JIMMY. Sorry for saying those things. I don’t really think you’re a loser. 


 COACH. Sure, Jimmy. And… I’m sorry for being rough on you. It’s how I was coached, but this isn’t boot camp. I guess it doesn’t work the same for everyone.


 JIMMY. Thanks, Coach. 


(Both stretch, preparing to run.)


 JIMMY. We better hurry, it’s getting dark. 


 COACH. But it’s not dark yet. 


 JIMMY. Bob Dylan. 


 COACH. See, there’s an old-person reference that landed! Good catch.


(Coach smiles and puts a hand on Jimmy’s shoulder.)


 COACH. You’re going to be alright, kid. Come on. Let’s do it. 


 JIMMY. OK. Here we go. 


(Both exit, running.)


Fin.


This piece was created as a product of the Workbench New Play Workshop under the guidance of Gregory Paul and Melanie Goodreaux. It was first staged June 15th 2024 with Coach performed by Aaron Kjenass and Jimmy performed by Jake Jager.


Aaron Kjenaas, playing a college athletics prof, browbeats a pudgy, academic-scholarship student played by Jake Jager in Jeremiah Liend's play "Seven Minute Mile." - Robin Fish / Enterprise

"In Jeremiah Liend’s “Seven Minute Mile,” a hard-nosed college athletics prof gives a soft, nerdy student a piece of his mind during a final exam on the running track. His litany of insults seems funny at first, but the stopwatch is running on his arrogance. Liend, the technical coordinator for performing arts at Bemidji State University, said he most enjoyed getting feedback on his work, helping him to improve it." - Robin Fish / Enterprise



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