Picking up from yesterday –
Going back to the race (away from random thoughts), I jumped back in, having gone 15.4 miles. (Can you believe I was only 15.4 miles in?) I decided to walk somewhat speedily, and not take any breaks for the next 5.5 miles.
I just wanted to get to the next aid station. Once I made it to that one, it was the last one I’d hit before the end of the race.
I passed Fred, this incredibly funny man. I was listening to him talk to other people, doing a sort of a mini-stand-up routine through the woods. I don’t remember a single thing he said, but I do remember laughing. Of course, I’m pretty sure I was delirious at that point. But I’m also pretty sure he was actually funny.
I’m somehow made it (not making completely terrible time) to the next aid station. I was so ready to just fall asleep there and start up again in the morning. But I couldn’t do that. I mean, I could technically. There was a 36-hour time limit. But a full-on nap was really gonna make it feel like it wasn’t a full marathon.
I was gearing myself up to go those final 6 miles, when I couldn’t believe my eyes. Hector, a man I met at a race in California, happened to be coming out of the woods to this aid station/rest stop place in this tiny little race in a very small town in Ohio.
What are you doing here?
He was about to do his last lap of the 50-miler, and he graciously said he wanted to walk with me for the rest of the way. And let me tell you, I was slow. Slow and cranky.
Usually, I like to crack jokes, and sing, and have so much fun during races. I was so done. I was pretty quiet for the next 4 or so miles. And so very, very slow. I wasn’t always sure how I was going to be able to put one foot in front of the other, but somehow I kept moving my feet forward.
If I was quiet for the next 4 miles, but there were 6 miles left, what was I doing for the last 2, you wonder?
Complaining. I tried not to complain that much. He had done way more miles than I had. And he was being the biggest sweetheart by sticking with me. But sometimes words just came out of mouth. Because it hurt. And by it, I mean everything. Every single thing. From my toes to my brain to every single thing on, in, or around my body.
Hector just kept saying he wouldn’t leave me, which was incredibly sweet. The sun went down as we walked, and that light from my parents (from the stranger) came in handy.
The last few miles were the hardest. I’ve hit on this point before in this series about the marathon, but it was torture because nothing was changing. It was trails followed by more trails followed by more trails. Usually in a race, you see the mile markers. You can start counting down to the end. You see crowds. You see streets. You see things that help you to know you’re moving forward. But here…
Am I moving forward? Backward? Sideways? Where am I? Am I ever going to get out of here? Nothing is changing. Nothing. Is. Changing. I’m going to die in this forest today.
Somehow – who knows how – we made it off the trail. Oh my gosh, we must be getting close now!
Well, we miss one of our arrows and end up walking through a trailer park. We don’t go too terribly far out of our way, but even a step seems far at this point. I finally understand what people are talking about in half marathons when I pass people complaining about their legs feeling numb. We get back around, find the arrow, and make our way ever closer to the finish line.
Once we finally get to the place where we can see, I start up a little jog. I want to cross it already! We’re off a trail, meaning I have the ability to run again.
Hector tells me to bring it home. And this is where I’ll finish up tomorrow.