Anyone heading on down to Citizens Bank Park in the coming weeks to pick up their orientation sack for the annual Phillies 5k will soon hold in their quivering fists a parchment, on which is etched a journey of unknowable doom.
This year, the Phillies have been decent enough to provide a preview of what awaits those who dare sign up and pay the perfectly reasonable $50 entry fee to exercise with hundreds of strangers.
Strangers who, with a single misstep or loss of focus, may be the sharers of your tomb.
It all begins on "Phillies Avenue," a road named after the competition's cackling sponsors who watch from above, toasting to your deaths. One bit of solace you may take - these demons will inevitably turn on and destroy each other. Pay them no heed.
Turn south onto Darien Avenue - SOUTH onto Darien, GOD SAVE THOSE OF YOU WITH THE RECKLESSNESS TO RUN NORTH - and there you shall remain. It is here that some of us smile wistfully, recalling the taste of blood simmering in our guts, then rising to the back of our throats; the surging bile our sole source of heat in the jagged cold.
Then, it is west you shall go as the path turns to Pattison Avenue, past the brick walls of the stadium in which moments of the region's rich history have taken place. Surely we all remember where we were when Chase Utley looked deep into our souls and a nearby aid tweeted "Let's do this thing."
Let's do this thing. #chasechat pic.twitter.com/PK8v95jYqx— Phillies (@Phillies) May 23, 2014
And ye, were many folk seduced in the smoldering of a glance.
Continue on past the legendary McFadden's Tavern, from which the merry tones of Dave Matthews and Sublime cover bands still echo off the Bud Light-drenched pavement. Still onward you shall crawl, past Xfinity Live, home of the $20 cover and the $12 ales and the in general terrible experiences.
Survivors of this gambit shall plunge into FDR Park, Land of the Duck Eating Another Duck I Saw Once. This shall be your first marker.
The first mile behind him, a fool's confidence begins to build. The Phillies have made a water stop available on this path - water, the builder of false hopes, quenching the thirst of the weak and providing them with the belief that the journey may end in anything but madness.
Somewhere in the next stretch lies the second marker, one that is difficult to spot as vision grows dim and the darkness builds. Onlookers will gawk silently to each other, but provide audible, celebratory noises so as to curb your belief that you are dying.
Then, the lucky shall awaken, hours or weeks later from the gentle prod of a paramedic or the curious pecking of a ravenous gull. Point him toward the nearest french fry remains, smeared on the parking lot to stave off his hunger. And then take your reward.
This will be followed by the cool down lap around the warning track of the stadium, and into the stands, where you can feel free to reminisce about happier times within the confines of CBP, and - GET OFF THE GRASS, PLEASE, SIR. YOU ARE ON THE GRASS. YES, YOU. GET OFF IT. THANK YOU - and very carefully avoid stepping on the grass, a task with which any stadium employees would be happy to help.
God go with you, thrill seekers. Whichever one you hold close. And may the winds blow you home with stories of your glory, or a restless spirit, wailing of your catastrophic failures to any loved ones who choose to remember you.