It may be a
mistake for a sufferer from frostbite to put his icy limbs next to a blazing
heap of logs and then go out in the cold again. The spectators urge us on to
more punishment. I am walking as fast as I can, aware at times I must look mad
Hart, with a foot
that flaps crazily out to one side, stamps along like a weary version of Ahab
on the quarterdeck. Campbell still puts on bursts. Record seems jolly and full
of fire. At some point he gets the Australian mark for a 24-hour race. Peddie
claps me on the back and calls me Matey—I quiver under such blows of
friendship. Bristol makes his turtle way, looking as though he might go mildly
on at his 2-mph speed into the next night. Jones, firmly in the lead, begins to
drift into fast walking as the hour wears on. He had a chance at the world
record for a while, but now he is on course for somewhere in the 150s.
minutes left. I feel dizzy and stumble sometimes. I put myself on the outer
edge of the lane, anxious not to block anyone's progress. It means more
distance for myself—even a handful of yards seems to weigh heavily at this
point—but I don't care.
John is waiting
for me. "Come on," he says.
I nod and say
nothing. I need air. Who ever heard of wheezing at a walk?
far less bad patch than anyone else out here," John says. "You've been
very steady. Keep going."
I might get cross
if I am pushed anymore. I snarl a little when offered drinks. Oh God, this is
so long. I never knew walking could be so tiresome. It is not pain I feel, but
sinking. My involvement with the world grows dimmer. It occurs to me it would
be nice to keel over. There is a period from 40 minutes to go to 20 minutes to
go in which it is truly a long time. Nothing is near at hand to sustain one. It
seems...not impossible, but almost impossible to bother with any more, but I
do; I do not know exactly how or why. Finally it is gone. A bad patch like that
is like a dueling scar, a private one. Never afterward in your little war story
can you be cheap about what you did or how easy it was. Because it was a hard
dimension, a stony place you traveled through. It humbles one, burns off
unnecessary fluff. Later, remembrance will fade, leaving little trace of where
you plunged underground.