The Odd Story of My First 26.2 Mile Run
Sometimes I confuse willingness for preparation.
Though the sky declared dusk and calendar claimed December, it felt warm enough for a naked picnic. I returned home from another 11 hour day at the feed store after a skimpy night’s rest wearing jeans and the red polo shirt adorning my job’s logo. I plopped on the carpet and liberated my hair from its folded pony tail. I propped my feet on the broken futon I called “bed” and fell immediately into a shallow slumber.
As I napped, I ignored the fact that I had committed myself to running my first marathon the following morning in College Station, TX. I ignored that my legs were still sore from some ill-timed squats a couple days prior, and that I hadn’t run in a couple weeks, and that I didn’t even have a ride to College Station, a hundred miles away and not on any bus route.
About two weeks earlier, I suffered some bruising and tightness in my left achilles after a little run around town. The nagging ailment caused a limp for a couple days, and due to the crucial nature of that storied tendon, I decided it was best to not run my first marathon after all. My uncle once suffered a full tear of his achilles, keeping him from walking for almost a year. “I probably won’t do it, but if it feels a lot better by then, we’ll see,” I told a friend, leaving the door open to still attend the race if I got a wild hair.
Doing the marathon would have been a great check on the small list of things that I had actually followed through with, and not doing it may support a deep fear and insecurity that I hold: I never finish anything. I could not count on fear or pride alone to make choices about a new experience that might ultimately leave me walk-less for a period of time, and worse yet, what if I didn’t get to cross the finish line because of a gruesome “pop!” in the most foundational of tendons. The “right” answer eluded me, so I asked the spirit of the universe, the cosmos, the reflection of self in the world, God, for guidance.
Over the next couple weeks, I went about my life as normal, working, writing, eating, light working out, meditation and talking to strangers. My achilles began to heal and feel normal again, though I didn’t push it with any running. I even scheduled myself to work the day of the marathon, thinking it wise, but as the day approached, I received more and more signs that pointed to “go for it.” I kept meeting people that had run marathons before. It seemed everyone was wearing a shirt from a marathon they had run. Beyond the chatter of my mind, in silent and dark moments, was a “green light.” It was revealed that not running the marathon would have been going against the grain of the flow of the universe. I got my work shift covered, and only two days prior, I decided to go.
I woke up from my nap on the floor of my apartment and found that nobody had responded to my craigslist rideshare ad I posted a couple days prior. I would have to hitch hike to College Station. I made myself some salmon, eggs, and spinach, ate some protein bars and hummus, and packed my backpack with vitamins, nuts, a 5 hour energy, my Vibram Five Finger shoes, short running shorts, and a shirt. I walked out of my apartment complex and into the city. With a whole night to work with, I thought it probable, though challenging, that I’d arrive to College Station on time; making it there with any sleep was the real stretch.
I traipsed down Westheimer Rd. in my hemp sandals, long hair down, and worn backpack looking like some California vagabond on a self-imposed minimalist adventure. My groin was still tight and I felt generally unprepared, but rationalized that the extra walking would loosen me up. Before I hit the highway to stick my thumb out, I stopped at a coffee shop for a last minute tea and to check my email one last time to see if anybody had responded to my rideshare request.
In the time between I sat down, opened my internet browser, became disappointed at the sight of no-news, and went to get my tea, I had received a new message: “Did you still need a ride?”
I exchanged hopeful messages with the faceless samaritan, discussing specifics. For the cost of gas he’d take me up to College Station that very night ensuring I’d be at the Marathon by the pistol shot at 10 a.m.
He pulled up to the coffee shop at about 11 o’clock and rolled down the passenger window of his well-kept Altima. He appeared mild mannered, short dark hair, with glasses, professional attire, and a small frame.
“Howdy, I’m Boz, what’s your name again?” I said, reaching my hand into the window.
“I’m Craig,” he left somewhat of an awkward limbo after his answer, apparently he was not one to fill conversational space without a prompt; I, however, am. “Okay, so I’ll just throw the bag in the back,”
I got in the car, and commenced.
“Thank you so much for doing this on short notice, it’s a huge help, this was kind of a last minute decision,” I said somewhat apologetically.
“It’s no problem, I’m pretty new here, and don’t really know anybody, so…” he didn’t continue the thought.
“Oh, cool, I am new here, too, about 4 months and change, how long have you been here?”
“Only a couple weeks, and it was pretty unexpected.” His tone was flat so I had little else to judge Craig’s past and present world other than his well kept new car, clean and pressed attire, and terse conversational style. I knew a few things from what he had mentioned in our brief text correspondence: that he had run a marathon in Canada, and in New York, and that his girlfriend worked near where he would be picking me up.
I pried further, “Where we’re you before here?”
“Toronto,” he said, failing enlighten the foreshadowing he had applied by saying his move here was unexpected.
“And what do you do here?” I relented and asked one of the questions that I reserve for situations when I do not have a more interesting and custom question for the situation.
“I am a network engineer.” I attributed his flat personality to his engineering mind. We hadn’t even gotten out of downtown Houston as I prepared myself for the persistence I’d need to milk this conversational cow. I learned later that his laconic speech was likely indicative of his Buddhist practice. He is a rare find in the western world: a white man raised by buddhist parents, and thus he does not say “I study Buddhism,” as I do, but says “I am Buddhist.” His Buddhism would be the epidermis on a surprising skeletal system of a practical mental methodology I had the pleasure of learning on that drive to College Station, TX.
For the first 40 miles we listened to British Techno Pop turned low on the stereo as we walked about his gallery of experiences. I learned of his life that:
-“It was a typical love-at-first-sight kind of deal; she’s why I’m still here. That, and the Houston job market is incredible.”
-“She’s Cambodian. Her dad is a monk.”
-“I used to be a sky-diving instructor”
-“I broke my neck, still healing.”
-“Yeah I came here from Brownsville, too.”
-“I was airlifted to Houston after riding my bike through Mexico and getting heat exhaustion, my kidneys were shutting down.”
-“I saw 23 bodies hanging from a bridge last time I was on the border.”
-“I worked in China for a while.”
-“Fascinating culture, but not as much fun, in my opinion.”
-“I wrote a book about the scientific perspective of the introverted personality.”
-“My Buddhist practice is more of a lifestyle – a code of ethics and behavior; though I will go on a retreat periodically.”
The 32 year old man’s experience was extensive. Especially after he revealed his Buddhism, I embraced the opportunity to learn as much as possible, since he had been practicing since childhood.
I inquired, “I’ve meditated before, but never that long, only 10-30 minutes, mainly just a little relaxation. What do you do when you meditate for several hours at a time? Is it Zen meditation? Transcendental?”
“I’ve done a little transcendental meditation, but that’s not my practice,” he began, “and Zen meditation is more about finding a joy in a very simple, repetitive task.” He paused to think a moment. “Once I am in my head as an observer I can see and manipulate my thoughts, rather than be manipulated by them. I’ll start organizing and categorizing.”
“I’ve never heard of that. Can you describe the process?”
“Well, you know how your thoughts are supposed to be viewed as a river, flowing by? I try to find the smoothest flow, the current with least resistance. I organize my thoughts so as to best keep that river flowing smooth and broad. I will see my thoughts as clouds, or sets of clouds in front of me. Each cloud representing a type of thought, and then I will move certain new and discursive thoughts to a cloud where they will be less in the way.”
I was fascinated at this use of meditation. I had never considered such conscious reorganization of thoughts before, but I still didn’t fully understand. He gave an example:
“So, let’s say you have a thought that has been occupying your mind, or restricting a smooth flow, such as: ‘Should I move in with my girlfriend?’ or ‘How can I expand my business?’ or ‘My butt hurts from sitting so long,’ any thought that bobs around and continues to resurface in meditation and thought.”
He looked upon the windshield as if moving items in front of his face and continued, “If it is acceptance of a particular matter that you seek, or if you want to put something into a place where it does not resurface like a new exciting thought should, than you put it with an old thought that does not occupy your mind.” He used his free hand to move a thought from a cloud on the right, to a cloud on the left. “You take the thought, such as ‘my mother-in-law does not accept me’ and you put it with a category of thoughts that you are more comfortable with, such as, ‘January is after December’ because that thought does not require any mental energy to hold in your head. I frequently use ‘the grass is green, and the sky is blue,’ these are thoughts that you have accepted for a long time, and thus they do not distract you. So you take ‘my butt hurts from sitting so long,’ and you put it with ‘the grass is green,’ to help yourself to not be distracted by that thought any longer and help a smooth flow occur in your mind.”
I looked at Craig and smiled, something had occurred to me. “You’re a network engineer, and you do the same thing with your thoughts as you do with information architecture for a new client.” Craig chuckled proudly, a rare expression for the mild mannered programmer of computers and mental processes. “Yeah, I do kind of have to get in ‘the zone’ to do the work I do.”
We arrived in College Station, and I chose not to inform Craig that I wasn’t sure where I was staying that night nor did I even know where the starting line would be, not wanting to give him a new thought cloud to categorize. We got gas, and I requested he drop me off at Denny’s.
Rarely would I have been able to enjoy a platter so artificial, starchy, sugary, and dispassionate as the items on the Denny’s menu; but being in a college town, having a homeless night, and preparing for a marathon, allowed me a great gratitude for having enough money and opportunity to enjoy a rich and savory feast from one of America’s popular restaurant chains. Plus, I had to use their wifi to figure out where to go.
I ate every last morsel of my pancakes, sausage, eggs, double serving of hashbrowns, and frosted poppy seed cake. That final item, the poppy seed cake, was what turned a normal “Grand Slam Breakfast” into a “Hobbit Grand Slam Breakfast” in celebration of the new Lord of the Rings movie that was soon to hit theaters. Ah, America.
Having filled my belly sufficiently with 7 or 8 hours until the marathon, all there was to do was rest and digest. I hit the streets of College Station in search of a place to sleep. I walked by a couple hotels thinking I may be able to nap on a lobby couch, but never actually got the gumption to make such an attempt. I found a Hilton Hotel, where earlier that day was the pre-race pasta dinner and tabling event that I obviously missed. I only saw a few signs and swag items laying about as evidence that this ever occurred, for it was now 2 am and I was likely the only of thousands of marathoners still awake. The lobby was huge and had many corridors, and I thought that this where the race might actually begin, though not entirely sure because I couldn’t find the race map in my email history nor on their website. If the race was, in fact, to begin at the hotel, it would be reasonable for me to sleep on a puffy chair or couch, as it would seem I had just shown up very early for the race, rather than just being a non-customer without a room.
An attractive young lady came to the counter after I rang the bell, her demeanor was sweet and slightly awkward with all of the mannerisms and speech appropriate for quality customer service, though probably not the type for independent decisions such as “Oh honey, just go rest in the Pelican Hall, nobody will bother you,” as an older counterpart may have offered.
“Oh, I don’t even know where the race begins, let me go get the map.” She said.
When she returned with the map she informed me that the race was to begin at Wolf Pen Park next to Post Oak Mall.
“This is such a small town, everywhere is so close, it’s not more than 10 minutes away.”
Though I thought it was obvious that I was walking, I don’t think it occurred to her that it wasn’t ten minutes away by foot.
“Thank you ma’am, stay safe.”
“Have a good race!” she smiled and returned to her chambers.
I made it to Wolf Pen Park a little after 3 o’clock and saw the dormant festival frame of the 2nd annual BCS Marathon under the orange glow of suburban nights. The hosting park was a relatively new and well-landscaped area of College Station adjacent to a lake. Across the lake, I could hear college kids partying, probably celebrating College Station’s own, Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M’s quarterback, and his reception of the Heisman trophy. The town had a little extra electricity because of this bit of news, which had came out just that. A football field’s worth of parade barricades led to a large metal structure framing the start and finish line. There was a stage for the host and the all the other hype, all adorned with banners from local sports stores, running teams, radio stations and school clubs. A medical tent was set up, enclosed, next to an old, sprawling, hospitable oak tree. The medical tent provided a blockade from the wind, which was all I needed to sleep; for the evening was mild, probably about 60 degrees.
Strewn about were dozens of stretched nylon cots already set up for passed out and pained runners. This was a fortuitous discovery for me. I was getting just plain exhausted in addition the obvious need for pre-marathon sleep. I pulled a cot to the edge of the medical tent, under the oak tree, pulled out my favorite shawl from my backpack, kicked off my sandals, and before I laid to rest, I heard footsteps approach.
A young man, with dread locks and piercings walked up. He held a flashlight, which was kindly turned off.
“Hey what’s up man?” I began.
He appeared to be tired himself, he replied “Hey, we’re you uh,” he was a little out of his element as a security guard.
“Going to sleep here? Yes, I’m signed up for the run tomorrow,” I said. He nodded his head, slightly comforted as light was shed on the strange visitor of the strange hour.
“Oh cool, I’m just, uh, security for the night. I know the guy who started all this. His name is Scott.”
“Oh neat, are you doing the run?”
“No, I just know Scott from my church group and he asked me to do security.”
“Cool, well I need to get some rest, and I arrived here so late, so will this spot be okay?”
“Yeah I guess so, there’s not really anywhere else.”
“Thanks man, I’m Boz, just tell them in the morning that I’m here so they don’t startle when they’re setting everything up.”
“Cool cool, I will. I’m Dell.”
“Nice to meet you.”
Dell walked back to his car as I laid down, using my backpack as pillow and the shawl as my sleeping bag. Right before I passed into the subconscious realm, Dell walked up once again, holding a large bed sheet.
“Hey dude, I found this in my car, it’s not much, but…”
“Oh that’s great man, thanks,” I interjected.
Dell laid the sheet upon me in an effort to help with my rest. The warmth of his gesture, and of the old sheet, helped my find a deep solace atop the cot under the tree.
After one or two tosses and turns and an undisturbing dream, I awoke to a gentle poke on my shoulder. It was still dark outside, although the sky had gained a deep glowing opal, indicating the imminent sunrise. A thin man with a shaved head and polo shirt with the marathon’s logo leaned over me, lowly saying, “Hey.”
“G’morning,” I forced a wakened awareness upon myself.
“Hey, it’s about 6:15. I just wanted to let you know so you didn’t sleep in past the race.”
“Are you Scott?” I inquired.
“Oh thanks for having this, it looks nice, what time is the race?” I asked, confused why he would wake me over 3 hours early, unless I was unwelcome to sleep in that spot.
“At seven. Gotta be at the starting line in about 20 minutes, people are already getting ready.”
I lifted my head further to see that the parking lot was abound with hundreds of springy silhouettes of runner bodies all making there way to the marathon festivities.
“Oh, thanks man,” I said, shocked that the marathon actually started at 7. “Good thing I slept on site,” I said to myself.
I sprang to my feet, grabbed by backpack and ate a couple Brazil nuts and the first of two carbohydrate gels a distance athlete from my apartment complex gave me. As I walked around, slowly waking up, lean and exuberant and women of all ages poured into the street where the race was to begin. Everybody looked so well slept; but I quickly dropped the judgment of others, and thus the judgment of myself, and changed into my running shorts and 5 finger shoes. The sun continued to rise and I began opening myself to the eager energies of the thousand strangers surrounding me. I ate some ibuprofen and took my last sip of water, being assured that water was only 1.5 miles down into the race where I could hydrate further. I think they don’t have water at the starting line to reduce the odds of early race vomiting. I did a little warm up jog and some yoga stretches, nothing too intense, just comfortable and open.
I began to feel the camaraderie of strangers though I hadn’t the energy to talk to any of them. I began to feel a part of a herd of humans. And I began to feel the most unexpected feeling; despite my soreness, my tight achilles, my two hours of sleep, and the last minute unkempt fog, I felt “ready.”
The stretching, hydrating, and carb-loading individuals coalesced into a dense, city-street-wide and football-field-long mass alongside the row of barricades and port-o-potties. The anxious deluge of happy humans pressed toward the start-line like a loaded spring. I felt like a confused child among a sea of big kids, but once the crowd got moving, I was sure I’d figure it out. The gun went off, and that’s exactly what happened. All I had to do was run.
My awareness hosted a jubilee of new sensations. There were so many smiling faces, chattering mouths, different strides and different shoes and various methods and signs and noises all around me that I knew not what to focus on. Who should I be following? Whose pace may be most similar to mine? Is it beneficial to stare at the back end of one the many great posteriors? This was my first race of any kind, really, I hadn’t ran in a group since football practice back in high school, and never was the group hundreds large, as this one was. My muscles warmed and my thoughts calmed. I settled into my body, stopped judging my surroundings, and allowed myself to be a part of the herd.
The initial excitement carried me the first 1.5 miles where I was rewarded with water and gatorade; and then a few more miles where we received more hydration and celebration. Early risers throughout the town were outside to cheer us on; and the marathon volunteers seemed to be excited to see each and every one of us. Two ladies dressed in robes and hair curlers bounced in jest in their front yard. A long goateed fellow with tattoos and spiked leather cuffs blared metal from his truck as he pumped his fist in support. A child jammed for the passing runners on his new drum set in his driveway. All of these celebrations and distractions were welcome, and as long as the smile was on my face, the miles passed by without much friction.
And then came the big flashing traffic sign, “HALF MARATHON LEFT,” and several volunteers waved signs indicating that this was the big split. A snarky runner stated “Yeah, like we couldn’t tell from the big flashing sign,” I watched the interaction as I ran forward towards the 26.2 miler. There was no turning back. I soon realized that the marathon group was much more sparse than the initial pack. The high of the herd left with the half marathoners, and I was left alone to look forward to the next water station.
I spoke with a group of runners in the 9th mile as my waking feeling of alienation had worn off by mile 2.
“This is your first, too?”
“Yup, I’ve done some halves before, and trained at 18 lately,” a fellow runner explained.
“Cool, I’ve only done 13 a couple times on my own,” I shared, “so all this is uncharted territory for me.”
The other runner, an older man who had ran 6 marathons already, corrected me, “Then you’ve still got about 4 more miles until you’re in uncharted territory.” His tone, though friendly, was a tad ominous.
Signs decorated by local artists continued to pass by in a gracious rhythm – mile 10, 11, and 12 passed and I had never felt so great after a dozen miles of running. We jogged through residential streets, and a little on city highways. Some people passed me, and I passed some people. I was not conscious of my stride. I was just enjoying the sites and my fellow runners.
After I passed the water station at 12, I determined I would not slow my pace until I reached the half way mark. I followed a man slightly ahead of me, until he came to a walk. I figured this was my opportunity to return the motivation that I had received from the cheerleaders along the way.
“Hey man,” I grabbed the stranger’s attention as I approached, “Whaddya say we keep it up through the half way mark.”
“I’m cramping up bad,” he replied, though he regained a jogging pace as he said it.
I figured I could distract him through the half way mark at least.
I asked if it was his first, and he told me that it was a bucket list item, like myself, and that he used to be in better shape when he was in the service; but now, he said, he could barely make it through his attempts at training for this marathon.
“We’ll just make it through this little bit, and then it’s all downhill from there.” Both he and I knew that my estimation was far from true, my tightening achilles and swelling feet knew that the real challenge had just begun. This cheerful little thought would only get us through the half way marker, no more. As we passed the mark, he immediately took to his walking again. I continued on, my own pain beginning to take a deep hold, and wished the man good luck with a strained geniality.
In the outskirts of the town sleepy country pastures and long, straight roads were the view. The winter air was cool and felt good on my perspiring skin; but I knew that without the momentum of the fellow runners in front and behind, there would be little drive in me to keep running.
I reached into my bag of thoughts to distract myself from the pain.
“My legs are tight and fatigued, my achilles is in pain, just as the grass is green,” I told myself. I looked at the softly undulating fields of grass around me and put the aches alongside the granted truth of the color of leaves, trying to create a new default state of natural being that included pain.
I would relish the mile markers, the water stations, the intersections with crossing guards, and the occasional animal at roadside – anything to distract me and gain me some feet forward.
“My legs are tired, my achilles in pain, my knee hurts, just as the grass is green.”
I would slow to a more comfortable pace closer to walking, if only for half a minute, and as soon as one neuron in my brain fired “run,” I would pick up my stride once again. There would be appreciation today, but there would be no indulgence.
My tendons were so rigid and muscles so apathetic that I imagined if a predator were to chase me, I’d no longer have “flight,” as an option; but I was never that fast anyways.
“My legs are tired, my achilles in pain, my knee hurts, I have to poop, just as the grass is green.”
I said this mantra to myself a couple times, then I would look my tattoo (a wrist watch that reads “NOW”) and let my being soak into a timeless purgatory of perpetual jogging.
Soon enough I would return to my chattering mind, and need to cycle this mantra over again.
Mantra, Mantra, Water, Mile Marker, Intersection, gotta speed up for the intersections, cars are stopped for you.
As the mile markers passed the late teens and early twenties, my body had little capability to do much more than I was already making it do. I remembered when people had said “it’s all in your mind.” I felt this was the exact occasion for such a sentiment. I rode my weary, aching, cramping vehicle of frayed muscles and creaky joints forward, step by step, never letting the invisible opponent of surrender return to his feet.
I thought of my friends who had overcome feats in their life. I was proud of them. I imagined myself harnessing their power. I was reminded of when my friend David broke himself from his chains of depression and sloth during his dark college years with a primal exercise of carrying logs in the forest. I remembered Daniel, summiting the highest peak in Georgia, Blood Mountain, as a chubby little summer camper who never thought he could do half as much. I remembered when Colin’s tenure in the Navy kept extending by entire seasons and years as he remained on that ocean faring prison of military service. I pictured the resilient smiles of my friends past and present as I summoned strength in their love.
“David and the log,”
“D-Rob and Blood Mountain,”
“Colin in the Navy,” I’d say in rhythm.
Every man’s feat is relative, and few, if any of us will ever reach our limit as we push past all that we ever thought ourselves capable of being. We are boundless souls, strong, with hearts like roaring furnaces.
I looked to the sky, and pondered that within any limitation is infinite freedom for the sentient being, and beyond limitation, that which was limited exists no longer, it is dead and gone, no longer defined by such edges.
Fences are just fences. Cliffs are just Cliffs. Walls are just walls.
Pain is just pain.
I took a side trip to the port-o-potty late in the race and narrowly avoided a very embarrassing “shart.” I needed all my mental faculties without having to carry stinky shame in my shorts and thus diminishing any grace or pride that I had left in my arduous and slow journey. My heart goes out to anyone who does shart, or entirely shit themselves during a marathon, for I can’t imagine the mental devices needed to deal with that brown badge of dedication, much less the itch would probably occur. They should have a $500 gift certificate waiting at the finish line for the worst shitter in a marathon, just to soften the blow. I think it probably happens in every race.
After I cleared my rumbling bowels, I had the last 4 miles ahead of me. Most of the people in my pace and after me were either older, injured, or brand new to the sport. But, we were all finishing.
I hobbled along in a slow and agonizing jog as the mental devices I used previously had lost their luster. My ankle had almost no power left and was in near static atrophy. I finally wrapped the ankle with an Ace bandage I had stowed in my underwear, which I had been saving for the entire race, and thus gave myself just enough of a spring in my foot to keep up a jog.
At this point, I looked to the heavens for support.
I was in too much pain to think about 3 more miles, the distance had become so stretched out at my new pace. My only hope was to remain in the present.
I almost never use my NOW watch as a reminder to stay in the moment. It’s more of a conversation catalyst to others these days since I am so used to it. In this marathon, however, I would stare at the watch, let my weary eyes focus, and say to myself, “God lives in the NOW, I am healed in the NOW, I am safe in the NOW, everything is infinite in the NOW.” I’d stray, I’d hurt, I’d begin to give up, and then I’d return to the watch and say the mantra once again.
The mantra gave me a new insight on mantras all together. As I heard Cheerleaders and volunteers yell the same thing to everyone that passed, “You’re doing great, keep it up. You’re doing an awesome job!” I never thought, “Pfft, they said that to the front runners and now they say it to me, and then they’ll say it to people in last place.” That was not the point, a mantra is a mantra, words have power. I allowed myself to feel the praise from others when it came and I allowed myself to give it as I passed people along the end of the journey.
1 mile remained. I imagined that if I was attacked by something wild at this point, my best bet would be to bite and scratch; there would be no kicking and my punches would be have little power behind them. It was a funny thought and made me grateful for the comforts of that marathon support team. My body kept moving up the final hills, my only device left was to remain in the moment, and keep that furnace burning a little longer.
I passed the sign that read “26,” meaning that the finish line was only a quarter mile away. I ignored the pain, and the tightness, and lengthened my stride, and ran as fast as possible to the end, for it was the first time in hours that I did not feel a thing and I had a wide and sincere smile upon my face as the noise and bustle of the finish line grew in my view. The crowd was cheering and I jumped into the throws of people at the terminus. As my foot hit the ground after my final joyous leap, it felt like entire sheet of foot skin became removed from my foot, it burned, but I was too high on my completion of the epic distance, that I tended to it none, and forgot about it in seconds.
The endorphins they tell you about are real, I was on cloud 9.
I got some ice and more ace bandages from the medical tent, gathered a stack of chocolate chip cookies and egg burritos, and sat down and bandaged my foot. Fellow runners and I sat along the side of the final tract and cheered on more and more finishers that came hobbling, running, walking, and jogging to deliverance.
I remembered that I almost did not accept this challenge, I remembered the unlikely circumstances that led to my being there, and in pain, barely able to walk, I said a deep and liberating “Thank you.”