Monday, April 4, 2011

on 26 days and 26 miles

Have you ever seen the end of a marathon? I don't mean when the first person crosses the finish line - I mean, have you ever seen when the very last person in the marathon completes the race? It is a sight to behold but I doubt you'll ever see it. In fact, very few people in the world ever do.
That's because, at the end of a marathon, most of the race workers and volunteers have already left. The road that was once neatly marked and blocked off has since given way to a pressing and impatient treaty of vehicles. The spectators have long since retreated to view a sooner spectacle. And the rest of the participants in the race, the only people left to walk alongside the last person, have long since pressed past the victor's mark on the road.
So the last person, as it were, they are usually entirely alone.
And it's ironic.
We celebrate the first to finish. We give them a medal and cash and a prized place in the day's newspaper publication. We congratulate them on all the hard work that enabled them to jaunt across the finish line and complete a marathon in about 2 or 3 hours.
But the last person? They've held in the race for about 12 hours. They walked the entire thing and watched every.single.person. pass them by. They watched as water stations and food stations and bathroom opportunities vanished alongside their road. They watched as confused faces leered from car windows, wondering how anyone could still be running the race. They've watched their feet, bloody and swollen, shake from the weight of a body that won't stop. Their slave-master mind won't let them relent to the embarrassment of last place, or the pain of a broken body.
I've seen the last person in a marathon. They were crying and yelling and literally crawling across the finish line. And I wanted to help them up and give them a big hug and tell them how amazing they were. But somehow I knew,
There was nothing that I could say or do that could ever compare to what they had done for themselves. All on their own.

1 comment:

Heidi said...

I used to announce every finisher of the Portland Marathon as they came over the line and we always stayed until the very last walker is a spectacular moment and a charitably run marathon because there were always so many volunteers who stayed to scream shout and clap for the last finisher...a touching moment indeed! Too bad more races couldn't be run that way...