Game time. Lower altitude, more humidity, less heat. Weary from travel. My hands are burning and two of my toenails are already threatening to walk out on their job. But we’re ready. Goal: 24K.
There are lots of tourists on a Sunday afternoon with the sun beating down. The other runners are nothing like the runners back home, who will always smile and wave, even pounding out their toughest sprint. There is no feeling of camaraderie among the stern frowns and set jaws. But I can fill my lungs deeper than I ever can running at home, and my muscles are overjoyed to move so easily.
We keep moving.
The cyclists get a bit aggressive further down the path, tired of dodging tourists. We stop very briefly in a couple of choice places to refill water bottles and snap a picture. We are drenched in the humidity and sweaty and chafing and having the most glorious time of our lives.
We hit a long stretch of cobblestone and curse with each foot strike.
We keep moving.
And suddenly it has been three hours and nineteen minutes of time that we completely lost track of. We’re on a beach, jogging awkwardly through throngs of people while a raucous game of volleyball to our right kicks sand in our path. Dodging pedestrians and trying not to lose sight of each other.
The finish line is a hastily chosen sign post. We nearly crash right into it and then keep walking. My knee gives out almost comically on time. We collapse under a tree and guzzle the rest of our water with an electrolyte tablet inside. Trail mix looks like a gourmet meal at this point. I want caffeine like air.
We can’t move for a long time. We stretch, try to figure out exactly where we are, gather our bearings, and laugh until we are in tears.
Eventually we can stand up again, with a new distance PR and a decision made on what our goal marathon will be.
And we keep moving.