Fifteen seconds to go and there was Costill just inches away. "Hang on! Hang on!" Then 10 seconds. How slowly time goes. Five seconds. How could five seconds last so long? Someone was counting: four, three, two, one. The treadmill stopped.
I took out the mouthpiece, gasping, "Oh, God! Oh, God!" The physiologists were poring over their figures. They were delighted. "He went over the hill," said one. I had peaked and gone down the other side, reached my maximum and gone past it. I had done what they wanted me to do.
The pain had receded. I sprawled out in a chair, trying to think of an equivalent maximum human performance.
"How soon," I asked, "can I see the baby?"
The distance runner is a one-man track team. The ambivalent, indecisive, forgetful, absentminded, manually inept daydreamer is not merely a runner. He is also his own coach, manager and trainer—positions which he is incapable of handling. He is never quite sure what type of practice he should do, is likely to show up at a race a day late and is always lacking some essential piece of equipment.
The runner fails as a coach, manager and trainer because he is a feeling, thinking, completely absorbed human being. The man you see running down the road is in a world of his own. He might at that very moment be taking a victory lap after winning the marathon at Moscow in 1980. With such an exciting inner world, is it any wonder the runner forgets such things as shirts and shorts and starting times and first-aid supplies?
The only remedy for his dreamlike state is the ditty bag. Into the ditty bag goes everything a runner might ever need, no matter what the emergency. Its contents should be all-weather, all-seasons. Perennial and universal are the words for the ditty bag.
All this may seem ridiculous to you. What, you may ask, could a runner need besides the minimum he wears while running through towns? Until you've been through a season of road running you could never guess how many things a runner needs and how these needs multiply.
Take shoelaces, for instance. Breaking a shoelace shortly before a race can cause a state of panic equaled only by that in a hunter lining up his first deer. Paralysis, hope, despair, a sense of time accelerating make for a moment you will never want to relive.
Tape is another necessary item, for blisters and blister-prone areas. If there is anything worse than running the last six miles of a marathon, it is running those last six miles with a blister. For this affliction, ordinary tape won't do. It is too stiff. And Band-Aids tend to slide, which is worse. So Zona tape is the tape to use.