After The Thirteenth Mile
Rubber soles pounded the warm asphalt creating a steady, but rhythmic, slow-tempo drum beat. They had carried my legs with ease for nine miles on the winding streets of Eugene, Oregon before I felt the slowly creeping soreness of a run that was lasting too damn long spread through my overworked leg muscles. I did my best to breathe in the cool and refreshing air that had been warmed a little more by the bright sun since the start of the race over an hour before. I had enjoyed the run, glancing over at the tall green trees that proudly stood as they decorated the Northwestern track town, for two more miles before thoughts of confusion snuck into my mind.
Why the heck did we pay to do this to ourselves? I thought as I continued to place one increasingly heavy foot in front of the other. Everyone here is absolutely nuts.
I had looked over at my race partner who had gotten his phone out to snap a few photos of the beautiful scenery we were approaching. Fresh moving water sparkled from the sun that was nestled against clear blue skies and flowed under a gorgeous wooden bridge visible from the gaps between the luscious green Ponderosa Pine.
“Hey, let’s get a quick pic by this sign,” he asked, half gasping for breath, but with a smile. He pointed to the sign that split the full marathon runners from the half marathon runners around the eleventh or twelfth mile.
I grimaced. “I look like I just swam through a dumpster. I don’t really want pictures of me looking crazy right now.”
He kept his phone out to snap photos of the landscape, and as we were passing over the bridge and closer to the sign, I realized the significance of the marker point.
Holy shit. We’re about to finish a half marathon. I had thought to myself.
I turned to my always extremely positive running partner and stopped in front of the sign. “Okay, we can take a quick picture, but let’s keep it moving. We’re almost done.”
We had trained for months together, suffered from some common race-related injuries, pushed through mornings when no one really wanted to do a long run, and got up at the crack of dawn in the freezing cold to safety pin a number on our race clothes and run. We ran the last couple of miles of our half marathon that day focused on finishing—together.
The last point one mile of the half marathon was spent moving past crowds of cheering people and onto Hayward Field where the finish was located. My race partner and I continued jogging with tired smiles on our faces. We reached over for each other’s hand just as we crossed the finish line, just happy that neither of us needed to be taken away on a stretcher before having decorative finisher medals draped around our necks by race day volunteers. We looked over at each other before our desperate search for water and Gatorade with thoughts wildly swimming through our heads.
We had finished a half marathon and we were kind of glad that we did it.