Final Chapter ~ A Wild Marathon Finish

Chapter 22 ~ A Wild Marathon Finish

Lisa was experiencing a huge inner conflict. One half of her was pleading to keep up with the Stinson runner, the other half was adamantly telling her Nicole was right. They planned this run all semester. She raced ahead without looking back, then suddenly slowed down and turned toward Nicole.

When Nicole caught up to her, Lisa said, “Let’s go the First Aid station. You’re right. I lost it. We’ll cut back a bit. Okay?”

Nicole smiled at Lisa for the first time during the marathon, “Good for you Lisa. I know how you feel. I was that way when I was your age. You remember Jill Swoop?”

Lisa said, “She was three years ahead of you, right?”

Nicole said, “That’s right. We ran a 10K after the cross country season for fun. At the time, I was the number one runner on the team and Jill was number two. Any time we competed it was friendly. The 10K wasn’t supposed to be a race, only a workout and fun. I turned it into a race. I was going to show Jill I was still number one, and besides, I wanted to win the trophy that went to the best time in our age group. It turned out that even though I won, I lost.”

“Where’s the trophy? I know all of your trophies,” said Lisa.

“I threw it away before I got home. It meant nothing,” said Nicole

“That’s crazy. I’d never throw away a trophy. You won fair,” said Lisa.

“That’s just it, I won the 10K in the high school age group. Jill came in second. But I lost a friend. I could see how hurt she was when we finished. She never said a word to me after the race and she didn’t have anything to do me after that. It took a long time for me to realize what I did was wrong, I went back on my promise to my best friend. A few weeks ago I saw Jill at a race during the season. She would have been running with her team but she injured an ankle. I went up and apologized for what happened.”

“Even though it was five years ago, Nicole?”

“That’s what I thought at first. Jill hugged me and said thanks. Then she apologized for not being big enough to let it go. We’re friends again.”

At mile marker 18 Lisa and Nicole ran through a First Aid station. This time they took Gatorade and skipped the gel. They planned on one more First Aid station at the twenty-two mile marker.

They reached Valley View when Nicole looked at her Garmin. “Yikes Lisa. We’re on pace to break two fifty. We only have five miles to go. Keep it steady. We might win the sisters’ trophy.”

Lisa gave Nicole a quick smile. She smiled a bit broader as they took a turn down Shaw Street when she spotted the Stinson runner she’d been chasing slowing almost to a walk. A minute later Lisa and Nicole easily passed the Stinson runner. Lisa gave her a quick glance. “What’s wrong with her Nicole?”

Nicole said, “She’s bonking. She’s hitting the wall. My guess she was too intent in beating you and didn’t stop to hydrate or take gel. You know anyone like that?”

Lisa, “Yah. Don’t tell mom or dad.”

“Don’t worry. It’s not long now, we’re three miles from the finish.”

Lisa said, “Let’s pick it up, it’s only three miles.”

“You feel okay. You look a little clammy.”

“I feel fine, Nicole. My legs feel heavy, but that’s only a head thing. I’ll think them light.

The only hard part left is Mason’s Hill. We own it. Then down to the finish line.”

“We really need to slow down. You’re making me worry,” said Nicole, her voice filled with concern.

Lisa forced herself to pick up the pace. Nicole knew she couldn’t argue with her, she stayed beside her. It was useless to argue with Lisa being so close to the finish. Nicole was sure Lisa was paler now than she was two miles back. She saw red blotches growing on Lisa’s neck and face. “You okay Lisa? Let’s slow down. Please. You don’t look good.”

Lisa said, “There’s Mason’s Hill, we’re only three-quarters of a mile from the finish. We might win the sister’s trophy. I can make it. I can make. Talk me through it Nicole. My legs feel so heavy. Please talk me through it.”

Nicole, against her better judgment, said, “Let’s count strides. We’ll count them out loud up to twenty and start over again.” Nicole felt their pace slow considerably, yet, she dared not mention it to Lisa. “Let’s start counting together, “One, two, three, four, . . . five . . .” They reached twenty, seven times when Nicole lost count of how many times they reached twenty. She knew they made it to the top of Mason’s Hill. Three hundred yards away was the finish line in Nickerson Park. They started down the park side of the Mason Hill slope when Lisa stumbled and fell. She landed first on her right knee, her outstretched arms preventing her from hitting her face on the ground. Nicole ran to help her up. Lisa waved her off. She was determined to make it on her own. She rose and started running again. This time Lisa was limping, favoring her right knee, and weaving.
With a hundred yards to go, Lisa was drifting to her left then to her right. She was zigzagging more than running in a straight line. Lisa wanted to run faster. She wanted to run straight for the finish. Her legs refused to obey her mind. She stumbled, nearly falling, but held her balance. At fifty yards to go, she fell again, this time landing on both knees and hands. She rose to her knees and looked up at Nicole. Tears ran down Lisa’s face. Nicole bent over and helped her to an upright position.

She whispered to Lisa, “Like we promised mom, let’s finish together. Put your arm around my shoulder. That’s it.”

Lisa and Nicole jogged, more like a walk, slowly toward the finish line. The spectators at the finish line were cheering Lisa and Nicole as they crossed the finish line. The EMTs grabbed hold of Lisa as soon as she crossed the finish line and brought her to the first aid tent.

Later that day, Lisa and Nicole, sat with their mom and dad, at the dinner table. Their mom said, “You gave us a big scare, Lisa. Promise you won’t ever do that again.”
Lisa said, “We promised to finish as a team. Nicole made that happen. I learned some hard lessons that will stay with me. I didn’t like zoning out and coming so close to the edge. It was scary. What was our time?”

“We did pretty well, we finished in three hours and twenty-five seconds,” said Nicole.

Lisa’s dad rose from the table, “Excuse me a moment. By the way, your finish went viral on YouTube. I saw it this morning. You girls are celebrities.”

Lisa and Nicole grabbed hold of their iPhones, tapped the YouTube app, checked trending and saw a ninety second video someone posted of Lisa and Nicole, arm in arm coming across the finish line. It already had over fifty thousand hits.

A moment later, their dad walked into the dining room, “One of the race organizers ask me to hand this to you.” It was the Sisters’ trophy for the Thanksgiving marathon.

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