The good news is that we finished theon a high that I can’t begin to explain.
It was hot, hilly and downright painful, but as we crossed the, the rewards were immeasurable.
The low was as low as it gets. A 25-year old runner died only moments after he finished the race – just in front of us. It cast a shadow on the whole experience and left us confused and confounded.
Here’s what happened. Marie, Jill, Judy and I lined up with 32,000 other runners assigned to various “corrals” based on our speed. Naturally, we were near the end of the pack that extended for miles along Nashville city streets. Finally, our group moved up to the starting line and prepared to launch.
The crowd went crazy, cheering us on as if we were Tiger Woods or something. The bullhorn released us to the open road, and we darted forward with determination.
We were pumped as we charged past a sea of spectators holding signs reminding us “You can do it. You’re lookin’ good! You go girls.”
At each corner, live bands were playing, and people were giving us flavored waters, homemade muffins and spraying us with misty water as we dashed by. One man even invited us into his yard for a garden party complete with champagne. We lost at least six minutes there.
We were heroes in some dance that we didn’t understand or deserve.
Jill and I bought new “barbie glasses” for good luck.
Judy charged ahead because she’s a seasoned racer and wanted to improve her time. Marie and Jill hung back with me because they were afraid I would collapse and no one would find me.
By mile marker ten, I felt like a woman on the brink of a near death experience. Huff, puff. I wasn’t looking much like an athlete at this point. The heat and festering blisters tempted us to end the misery, give up and join the party on the sidelines.
No trip to Nashville would be complete without a visit to the Ryman – home to the Grand Ole Opry.
But we’d come too far to turn back. Somehow we slogged on to the final mile.
We joined arms and dashed across the finish line at the same time. Apparently Marie shoved me across first because my time was recorded one second less than hers. She will never forgive me for that. Our final time was three hours, 38 minutes, and 16 seconds. (That’s not particularly good, but hey, we finished the course.)
We made a B-line for the medical tent to get some fresh band-aids and some Advil. Our euphoria ended immediately when we realized one of our fellow runners was in trouble. He had collapsed just after crossing the finish line and the medics were working on him furiously.
We didn’t know until the next day that he died. The news cast a pallor over the event that will be hard to overcome. The next morning we went to a beautiful mass in the oldest Catholic Church in Nashville (circa 1844) and offered prayers for the young runner and his family.
The ride home was somber. Would we do it again? Oh yeah, we’re already making plans for next year, when we will take it more seriously and train a little harder. First, I have to get a foot transplant.