SI Vault
Kenny Moore
December 27, 1982
When the author began the second Great Hawaiian Footrace, he couldn't know just how far he would go to avoid defeat
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December 27, 1982

To The Limit And Beyond

When the author began the second Great Hawaiian Footrace, he couldn't know just how far he would go to avoid defeat

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Then I realized the idea of self-consciousness is simply another aspect of the thought/action dichotomy. Reflection on oneself, if it is constant second-guessing, can be paralyzing. Thought has to make way for action. Even to reach out to a friend requires the stilling of the whirring computer. Just do it.

I knew then that it will be difficult to leave the really hard running. Unlike writing, that most self-conscious of arts, it is the only thing I do with abandon.

After two recovery days in Honolulu, and a look at the spectacular northwest coast of Maui from our plane, we resumed. Physically, I was nowhere near rested. At most, I was in remission. The first day's run of 15½ miles on Maui began with each of my legs seeming to weigh 100 pounds. The first half was uphill. I led McCormack, whose strength was more and more in the downhill. Across the southwest flank of 10,000-foot Mt. Haleakala I broke away through hillside pastures and huge stands of eucalyptus. The last miles were undulating. My sore right quadriceps worsened dramatically. I favored it, pushing only on the rises, and was lucky to win by a minute.

"The days are running out," McCormack said. Our bodies were white with the salt we had soaked up in our rest. "Margarita salt," he said. We camped on the cushiony ground of the Tedeschi Vineyards, where they make a fragrant, airy pineapple wine. They brought out ice wrapped in philodendron leaves for our legs.

McCormack had to try to take back a chunk of my 11½ minutes. "Tomorrow," said Scaff, gazing at the offshore island of Kahoolawe 3,000 feet below, "is almost all downhill, and the wind will be behind. Probably hot, too. It's desert until Kaupo. We go to the church there, 19½ miles."

The only thing he got right was the distance. The morning was wet and the wind blasted us right in the face. McCormack began almost desperately, shooting away on the early downhills. My leg was no better. I let him go, mentally sacrificing five minutes, hoping that I could hold him in sight when we hit sea level. But the wind and some unexpected uphills, and some hard work, let me catch him. All sense of keeping contact or of taking shelter from the wind was gone now. I would pass on a climb. On the downgrade, he'd overtake me and pull a discouraging distance ahead. But on the next ascent he would weaken, that strength of leg which once drove him through the wind draining away, and I would labor up and by. After 10 miles I crested a hill with a 100-yard lead of my own. McCormack would say later that I looked so strong he was on the point of coasting. But while he watched, I received an arrow between the shoulder blades.

To assist my arrhythmic descents I'd been swinging my arms and shoulders too wildly. In return I'd gotten a spasm in the center of my back. I cried out and stopped, let it ease a little, and continued picking my way down.

McCormack caught up at once. "What happened?" he asked, astonished, genuinely concerned. I told him. When he passed, it was not exactly guiltily, but he looked away.

With six to go he had a quarter mile. The terrain saved me. My back held together on the uphills, which I could run correctly, and I was very careful on the downhills. We had to curl around a foaming bay, the road turning to rock and dirt and rising, always rising. I got him with three to go; he cracked, and I won by five minutes.

"It's all over," he said when he came in. "From now on I just figure to run under control, to be able to go home in one piece."

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