I have long since
abandoned the idea of stopping for stretches and I contemplate the ironic fact
that it is far more comfortable to run for 24 hours than to try to ease through
it. As long as I keep moving I will avoid freezing up, but my progress slows
between 4 and 5 in the morning, when I cover only six miles. I think of a few
running friends in New York. It is midnight there, and they have probably
thought once or twice, well, Jim's well into it now. I get a small smile out of
At 5 a.m. I have
done 90� miles and I tell Joe that I can smell 100 miles coming up. It is only
a temporary goal. Too many 24-hour men strain to reach that and then crack,
slumping from 8-minute to 11-minute miles. So I allow my enthusiasm a short
leash. Someone tells me my pace will bring me to 156 miles at the finish.
I am slipping.
There is no point in discussing the slowly rising waters. Like hemlock
drinkers, I can feel the numbness coming up, the slowly piercing message of
deep fatigue, that the muscles and tendons and bones are voiding even
extraordinary stores. I get it most clearly in my feet, some sort of rare
feeling as if they are long strips of flapping flesh. I had made a pretense of
saying that I would stop short of really damaging myself, but that isn't true,
and just before dawn I nod at the realization. "How are you doing?"
Melanie asks. "Very comfortable," I say. "Well, not too
At 6 a.m. I
complete 95� miles. About an hour and a quarter earlier, Bristol, still the
leader, went past the 100-mile mark in 13:46:12. He is perhaps nine miles ahead
of me. With nine hours to go I must make up at least 4 laps every hour. It
doesn't look likely. At 15:45 I get my own 100-mile split. I have improved my
best time for 100 miles by about 35 minutes. I say in a burst of enthusiasm to
no one in particular, "Well, at least I've done a decent workout so
far." There is laughter from some listeners, although I hadn't meant to be
in the morning brings me to 110 miles and third place. Jones is closing on
Bristol, who's just 20 minutes ahead of him. I am now in new territory. Every
step makes it the longest run of my life. Most of my companions look the worse
for wear. Hart is limping along, cheerfully giving me a verbal boost every time
I go by. But he is walking, no chance of his running again. Englishman Malcolm
Campbell, who was finally persuaded at some ungodly hour to put on warmer
clothes, has at long last faded back to walking and slow running. When I lap
him I ask how he's doing. "I'm running on memory," he says. Twenty
minutes later he puts on a burst of speed and is going faster than anyone else
on the track. And so he goes, alternating between a crawl and a mean run.
Knippenberg had retired during the dark hours. Some of the others walk; hardly
anyone runs very fast anymore. One man sits down on a chair and takes a few
drags on a cigarette while his taut-looking legs get a massage from several
pairs of hands. There are 13 survivors.
I have no
appetite. I never really did, after all. Cups of hot chicken noodle soup are
nice. Cups of tea with milk and sugar and a handful of grapes give a bit of a
lift. Melanie asks about the meal of mashed potatoes and peas I had once
carefully plotted in; I shake my head. I am getting a little cranky sometimes
now about being asked if I want this or that. I miss my sister. I want her to
get back before I crack and start to walk. About a quarter to 11 Harriet shows
up and tells me how wonderful I look. That cheers me up. Only a couple of days
later do I learn how well she lied. "You were holding yourself in check but
by morning you were just crawling around out there with your arms pulled high
and jutting out to the sides like little chicken wings," she said. I had no
idea. True, at one point I had gone into the dressing room and debated whether
to take a look at my face in the mirror—simply objective curiosity, just as a
medical student might study a burn victim. I looked, and I had to laugh I
looked so bad—chalk white, new lines in the face, the quick aging you get when
G-forces squash you out of shape.
Sunday morning in
London, even at Crystal Palace, does involve a few things other than a 24-hour
run into eternity. Through a fence beyond the scoreboard appear some young lads
practicing field hockey. Like a child with its face to the bus window, I stare
with simpleminded wonder at the sight of new faces and sights. When their
practice is over they come and stare at us.
The fog has
relented and the sun has come out. Clouds have blown away. The sun, bright and
white, pours down, although the air is still chilly. There are four hours to go
now, and I am second. My recorder, John Legge, who had introduced himself
before the race, comes down from the stands with a little piece of paper in one
hand and waits at a quiet corner of the track. He has run one of these monsters
himself. He does not appear capable of such madness; with his bulky white
sweater, casual slacks and glasses below the tumbled brown hair, he looks like
a professor of economics on a Sunday afternoon in the park. His manner is quiet
but his words are firm.
simply urinating too much," he says. "You lose a minute every time you
stop. You're in second place and Gordon Peddie is third, about 11 laps in back
of you. All you have to do is keep running steadily, not faster, just steadily,
and you have no idea how hard it is for someone to make up time on you. Just
think about that."
It warms me to
have an ally. Someone wants me to be second. It is like a strong voice coming
from across the room that no one else can hear. He has been through it; he
knows. He has watched me all night; he radiates conviction as well as warning.
I apply myself to my work, continue to bear down. Brusquely I refuse drinks,
like a reformed alcoholic.