A tall, familiar
figure smiles at me and hurries alongside as I creak past. It is close to 11
a.m., and Statistician Andy Milroy, fresh from pencil and paper and a
stimulating night helping count laps, has news for me.
"In a little
while you're going to get the American 200-kilometer record," he says. I
didn't even know there was such a thing.
sure?" I ask. "What about Park Barner—he's run further than where I'll
get today, so he must have gone through faster."
Milroy shakes his
"No one took
down his 200-K time, so you're it. You'll break Ted Corbitt's mark of 20:59:41.
Even if you walk you'll get it."
I ponder that for
an instant. It seems odd to walk one's way to an American record, not quite
what I had imagined in my fantasies, but I won't be choosy. I will walk to it
if I have to. Luckily I'm still going, although, as I heard later, what passed
for a grin was actually a grimace. Sometimes I remember to unhook my face and
bring my flapping arms down. And the feet are still moving. I get very happy
about a record, though there are funny aspects to this record business you
don't learn beforehand. To stand where no man has stood before...well, I'd
found Coke signs in the Amazon jungle and ghostly footprints on the 200-K
record, but I wasn't returning any gifts today.
At 20:14:04 I go
through the record for 200 kilometers, which is 124.2 miles. I was never sure
exactly which footsteps did it, and the scoreboard took a while to get it up
there. The next goal becomes 130 miles. A note in the program says only 24
athletes have run more than 120 miles in 24 hours, and I know now that each
mile will begin to place me higher in the world rankings maintained by the
English Road Runners Club. All the same, without really noticing, I start to
walk longish stretches. I am getting very-tired of pushing. The steel bands my
thighs are encased in have pinched my flesh so long that I am just plain weary
of being weary. All the same I try little surges, but I find I am breathing
heavily just maintaining my pace. My hair, which I had vowed not to cut until
the race was over, is very long and curly. Although most of it is packed out of
sight beneath a wool ski cap, long strands limp with sweat and moisture from
the nighttime fog dangle in a Rastafarian manner on all sides.
again. I brace myself for bad news.
doing badly," he says. "You can get to 140 miles or more if you just
remember what I'm telling you about keeping some kind of speed up. You're
really doing very well."
O.K., O.K., I
breathe to myself. One, two, three, four. Push, carry, stumble on.