[If you haven’t read Parts 1-4, this will make more sense if you go back and do it. Go ahead. We’ll wait.]
Three miles to go. I glided along, keeping my eyes on the distance and pace read-outs on the machine. It felt like running through a swamp, but I kept telling myself to just glide, just keep gliding. And amazingly, I was still on pace. I closed my eyes and visualized crowds of people lining the streets, chanting, waving, cheering. I opened my eyes after a bit, and saw two things that made me mentally stagger.
The first was that I’d run another mile. The second was my wife, standing there. She’d been off walking, enjoying the park that morning. She’d taken a nap in the sun, and when she woke up, she knew. She knew I was running the race I hadn’t dared to tell her about, because I’d been afraid I might fail. And she knew she had to be there at the finish line.
She dashed over to Bally and told the guys at the front desk that no, I’m not a member, but that’s my husband over there and he’s running a marathon and I need to be there when he finishes.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more welcome sight. She met my eyes when I opened them. “I’m so proud of you,” she said. She started to cry. I started to cry. Ever try to finish a marathon when you’re crying? My tears poured down my face with my sweat, which was already burning in my eyes. “And Coach is going nuts,” she added.
You gotta understand: Coach is as buttoned up as they come. He’s a Tom Landry lookalike: suit, tie, London Fog topcoat, felt fedora, the whole works. I closed my eyes, and there at the edge of the crowd was Coach, waving his sport coat over his head and whooping it up. It was too much, it made me start to cry again, so I opened my eyes.
“I’m so proud of you!” my wife said again. “You can do it!” I sent her off to get some water or paper towels or something. I didn’t really want her to leave, but I had to quit crying and focus on finishing. The last mile was my fastest of the day. I burst under the arch of balloons as the crowd roared and Janet cried and Coach whooped.
And then it was over. I dropped off the machine and stood, unable to move. My time was 2:51:57. That’s counting only the time I spent actually moving on the machine, not the time I spent trying to get feeling back in my feet and all the rest. If I’d counted all that, it probably would have added another 20-25 minutes. I decided to cut myself some slack and not count the extra.
“I just ran a marathon on the elliptical,” I told the guys at the front desk as I left. They didn’t seem all that impressed. Oh well, I didn’t do it for them.
I have two more running exploits to tell you about, and then I’ll draw some conclusions, and this series of blog posts will be over.
[To be continued]