RACE DAY MILES 10-14
And now…. We enter the 5th circle of hell.
“Based on the map,” Peter says, “I think this is the toughest part of the race. It just loops around for 4 miles.”
Who mapped this course? Have they ever run a marathon? Don’t they understand the psychological setbacks of running and not feeling like you’re getting anywhere?
The next four miles are a blur and blend into one another. As we approach mile eleven, there are runners heading back to mile 15. I look for Wes and Darby almost sure I won’t see them. What are the chances? Hey, there’s Darby! I cheer her on as she runs in the opposite direction.
We loop around this way and that and then around that way and over this way and loop again back the way we come out of the inferno and the 13th mile marker is within sight. Thank God. That took forever, and my knee is really becoming a problem. Still, I’ve done a half marathon and I feel pretty proud about myself, all things considered. I ring up Jules and tell her about the knee.
“Well, why don’t you switch the knee support to the other knee/”
Hey, why didn’t I think of that? Wait a minute, she’s right. Hearing her say it makes it seem more logical now. It’s like she’s telling me, “Switch it. Stop analyzing. You have 13 miles to go yet.”
She’s concerned about the weather, but I assure her it’s not so bad. I think she can hear through my bluff, but she cheers me on. I am so lucky.
And what’s that up ahead? 13.
13? Didn’t we just pass that? What the….? I thought… oh that was the last loop and, oh this is so frustrating!
Robert calls back. He’s waiting between 13 and 14.
Finally, that’s it, I have to switch the knee support. I stop cold and make the change.
“Peter, if you need to go on, I don’t want to slow you down.”
He laughs. “And have to run by myself with Robert? No thanks.”
The support is warm from my other knee and, man, it feels great on this left knee. It feels good, real good. I have a sudden burst of hope, just in time to meet Robert, wearing a garbage bag, standing at a bus stop. The three of us run together, continuing the 2/1 pace Peter and I began a hundred years ago. We get about a hundred yards into it before I have to stop and adjust my knee support.
“Go on, I’ll catch up.”
They keep going while I tighten the Velcro straps. I take a couple more steps and have to fix it again. Before I know it, Peter and Robert are a quarter mile away from me. It’s okay, though, I can catch up. I slowly start running after them. Now they’re a half-mile away. It’s now use, I won’t catch them.
A wave of sadness passes through me. I’m not going to finish the race with Peter. I’m on my own. Strangely, I suddenly feel a little relieved. Now it’s just my race. This was always about me and my struggles with cystic fibrosis and trying to find a way to contribute to the battle. My fears and anger have manifested themselves in this physical journey. After several calming deep breaths, I make a pronouncement:
I will not be beaten today. I will kick this marathon’s ass.