By now you already know that I finished. So let’s cut to me, folded in half, leaning on a railing inside a Wendy’s in Alexander City, Alabama.
I have been awake since 4:37 A.M. yesterday when a crack of thunder preempted my alarm. I looked out the hotel window and cursed the falling sky. The rain came down so hard and so fast, I half expected Ke$ha to yell timber.
That was a full 32 hours ago. If my sleepless hours punched a timecard in a Henry Ford workweek, it’s quitting time on Thursday.
“I’m not doing so well,” I say aloud, to no one.
There is a very Alabaman family in front of me, arguing over whether their ten year-old son can have a Frosty. He’s twenty pounds overweight, though not with a potbelly. Like the Frosty, he is just thick and gloppy all over.
My eyes glaze over. I’m experiencing a brownout, like when it’s too hot in the summer and your air conditioning doesn’t work. Only this is my body, and it’s more than just a minor sweaty discomfort. I shuffle forward to the counter, unsure if I’ll pass out or vomit. House money is on both.
“You doing okay honey?” asks the cashier.
I don’t even know the answer to the question. Instead, I force a smile, which I’m sure looks more like the bared teeth of a cornered animal. I order a big honking fried chicken sandwich with french fries and a large coke. I don’t even remember saying thank you.
I see her give me the once-over, either concerned for my health or assessing whether I’m hungover or stoned. As someone who’s never tried alcohol and whose drug experimentation begins and ends with ibuprofen, this is a hilarious predicament. And somehow, the answer is simultaneously neither and both.
A runner’s high lifts you into the sky, but we’re far beyond that.
We’ve shot right through the atmosphere. We’re up in space somewhere. Where it’s dark. Where there’s not enough oxygen. Where we’re not sure if we’re alone or if there’s life somewhere. Where it’s kind of scary but also kind of exciting.
Not a lot of boots have traveled this far.
Cut to me at mile 32 at the top of Heaven Hill, eating peanut butter and jelly squares and feeling just terrific. I live for this shit.
My feet are caked with mud, so I change socks. Though the trails are tougher than I expected, I’m still fresh. It’s a long race, but if I stay hydrated and keep up my nutrition, I feel confident that I will walk away holding a coveted belt buckle. A 100-mile finisher.
The smile on my face is real. I’m enjoying myself. I love the struggle.