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"Well done, lad."
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 and ludicrous.
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.
Forty-five 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?
"You've had 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.