A mile later I was dizzy, as if bees were swarming around my head. There was no question of quitting. There never would be. Suddenly I was in the embrace of white-coated attendants. It was over, they said. They walked me to their ambulance, where I was cooled with wet towels and made to drink volumes of a mild saline solution. By the time we returned to the stadium and learned that Shorter had won, I was nearly sensible, though filled with ache. "You could have died out there," said the U.S. team doctor. "You're lucky those guys knew what they were doing."
That all came back as I watched Moss fall and rise and stagger on, with no one seeming to help. And as I was told of her courage, it didn't seem like courage to me. It was the simple keeping of a promise to oneself, to finish, to try. Endurance athletes are created by that decision, to keep on. But when they are in danger in the heat, the one thing that can kill them, then the outside world must interfere or risk losing them. It must know that courage is no longer courage after the capacity for rational judgment has ceased. It's only keeping on. It's what we all would do, we who have gotten ourselves into the predicament in the first place.
Knowing this, the Honolulu Marathon, in which thousands run, has nurses and doctors every two miles trained in recognizing and treating heat stroke and dehydration. All runners are exhorted constantly to drink, to sponge. The Ironman Triathlon had similar facilities, but where was help as Moss continued to stagger and fall?
Had I been along the road in Hawaii 15 months ago, and seen Moss in her classic throes of heatstroke, I would have embraced her as I had been embraced and taken her to treatment. Her race was done. Her condition transcended winning or losing because it verged on transcending life, without which the pursuit of anything is beside the point.