At 15 minutes to
go I feel my entire body surge with excitement. I ask again for my exact
mileage. The motion is plodding and the breathing labored, but dammit, I want
every yard now. I can afford to pour out the last drops of reserve. I grab the
race program, which contains a list of the top world performances, and look to
see who is within my grasp. Morelli of Italy, 222.4 kilometers. Unsuspectingly,
he dreams on his bed of ink and paper while I plod on to seize possession of
Five minutes to
go. Now we are all whipped up. The crowd calls out—"Come on! You can do it!
Let's go! Great job!" We all respond as best we can. A mad notion of trying
to run again seizes me. Well, why not? But let's not rush such things. I keep
walking as fast as I can. Anything can be tolerated now. Although I do not
notice it, I learn later that some of those who watch are crying. And some of
the recorders who labored for so long to keep track of their flock cry as
There is something lovely happening now, the general awareness of the brevity
of all time—long or short—the funny, madcap, unbelievable adventure coming to a
close. Adam, a friend, had said the day before that he wondered about the worth
of such a venture. Later, after witnessing the will that drove the scrambling,
strung-out mob forward in the last few moments, he said that it may not have
had much meaning beyond what it was in terms of ordinary worth, but that it was
worth doing for its own sake. It was very special.
I lumber past
Jack. We give each other a quick sideways hug, and then I am off to get in a
few more meters.
Two minutes to
go. I break into an insane canter, the weakened superstructure teetering, the
cordage of tendons and muscles creaking like rigging under too-full sail, but
the bark holds, and noses forward. God, how people are yelling!
One minute to go.
I go round the curve, mad as a hatter, past the yelling faces. Someone runs
toward me with an orange traffic cone, the final marker of my voyage. A gun
fires and the cone goes down with a whump. I stop a stride or two later and
bend forward, hands on knees, chest heaving. Some strangled half-broken sobs,
and at last the long sought release comes, the tide of emotion lifts the"
forlorn boat out of the mud-banks. I paddle around in my little puddle of joy.
Isn't it nice to feel so good! Down the backs of my legs comes a strong
physical feeling of release and warmth. There are hugs, pictures, handshakes,
congratulations all around. Word comes that I have covered 138 miles, 1,228
yards for fourth place. It is not 140 miles and it is not a lot of other
things, but for what it is I am profoundly grateful. I am content at last.
clump in toward a bench. Jones, a blue-lipped winner at 153 miles, 1,143 yards,
holds the Percy Cerutty Cup aloft and drinks some ale from it. We pass it
around. Jones gives a little speech. A bank of faces close in on every side. It
is a happy feeling to be among friends.
Adam drives me
back to the hotel, and after a hot tub and some food, I am left alone to sleep.
Only, as I know from before, there will be no sleep. Toenails are torn from
their moorings, broken clumps of blisters weep between the toes and the harsh
recriminations of overtaxed feet and shins make sleepiness a torment. Ending
the race is just the beginning. The body claims its due. The cave beckons, and
I must lick my wounds after the hunt, until driven by hunger to go out again on
the long chase.
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