(this is my condensed marathon story...re-written because I cannot find the file in which the full version is saved. Sigh...)
My only goal at mile 23 was to not let the street cleaner pass me. I had heard it for a while, coming up behind me, sucking up and scouring the debris from the Chicago street. But, like most every goal I had at the start of the race, this one eluded me in a cloud of black smoke and stench.
And I started crying. Again. I had pretty much given up trying not to cry at this point. I had been crying on and off throughout the race. First, my tears were of joy and happiness and just being overwhelmed by the sheer size of the mass of humanity surrounding me. Runners, millions cheering, the theme from "Rocky" blaring...it was too much. Who doesn't get choked up when they hear "Gonna Fly Now"?
So, yeah. I was crying again. Only, these tears were of disappointment and thirst and hunger and agony. WHY?!?! Why was I doing this, again?
Something about bucket lists and wanting to rediscover my inner athlete and oh yeah, lose weight.
What an idiot.
I looked up at the street sweeper as it lumbered past and I saw the driver was gesturing to me. Sweaty, dirty and humiliated, I was in no mood to be laughed at by some guy in sanitation.
I looked again, too tired to flip the guy off, but wanting to and I saw it: Three fingers. Three miles to go. Then, a thumbs up and a smile as he rolled past.
I still get emotional thinking about that moment.
He could have laughed. He could have ignored me. Instead, he chose to cheer me on, my only fan besides poor Yuyi, who was running behind me, afraid to leave me alone.
I smiled for the first time in miles and miles. I reached down and found some previously untapped reserve of determination and picked up the pace.
I finished that race, the 2004 Chicago Marathon, in eight hours, three minutes and 51 seconds.
I was the last official finisher. Go ahead, Google it.
If you don't believe that, here's the article that some douchey writer from the Tribune wrote after he interviewed me by phone. He stole all my best lines AND called me a "terrified homemaker". Jerk.
That was not the plan. Finishing? Yes. Last? No.
It is here where I will say that something like 800 people dropped out of the race or finished after they picked up the carpet with the timer, which was, literally, the second after I crossed. The guy was actually picking it up when Yuyi and I were approaching. But, seeing us, he called us over and said "step on it!". So, we did and there you go.
But, I finished what I had started six months earlier when I first saw the flier advertising training with the AIDS Marathon team. I guess that is what matters; sticking to it. That cheesy ad "Just Do It"? Yeah. That's me. :)
I think it's time to dust off the old running shoes and set a new goal.
2014 will be the year that I reclaim my badassedness.
You can bet on that.