I quit at mile 16.
So, I call my wife.
“Hey, how’s it going! Did you already make it to the halfway point?”
“Uhh—I’m…“ I choke back tears while speaking through hyperventilation, “I’m not going to make the cut-off time. There’s no cell service at the aid station, I need y’all to come get me.”
My confession brings an onslaught of you-can-do-it’s from my wife and children.
I lower my voice so the returning runners can’t hear me, “Guys, I can’t make it. I’ve got too far to go and not enough time; and I’m pissing blood; and I’m really dizzy.”
My wife asks for directions to the aid station.
When I hang up the phone, a calm rushes over me. The anxiety of finishing fades. A year’s worth of worry rolls off my back and tumbles down the hill behind me. I slow my pace and hike the last miles toward the parking lot, where my stupid, ridiculous dream can be taken off life-support.
I practice the speech I’m going to tell my family and the guys at work.
Runners keep coming from their own stop at the midway point and meet me on my way to defeat. I wish them luck; they tell me I’m doing a good job, but I know that they know I’ve missed my cut-off time. Coming down the mountain, one mile from my end, I cheer myself up with excuses of why it wasn’t my year:
– I was injured three weeks ago.
– The course change made the race twice as hard as what I trained for (3400ft vs 6100ft of climbing)
-I had only trained nine months for something most wait at least five years to attempt
The excuses coat me with contentment. I turn the last bend and see my wife’s minivan through the trees.
“This is it. Stay strong. You tried.” I whisper to myself.
I emerge from the woods, and behind the ropes of the aid station chute are my four boys and my wife holding our nine-month-old daughter, they’re all smiling.
“Let me get this race-bib off and I’ll see you guys in the car.” I choke back tears.
They smile back.
They knew something I didn’t.
I quit at mile 16.