It was mile 25 and I was in pain. My legs were inflamed by all the powers of the underworld, my stomach carried a ticking “GU” bomb, and my will had all but evaporated at mile 22. My first, and assuredly last, marathon was nearing completion, but every step forward felt pointless. Even though I had a sliver of energy left, I was as good as done. Slowing to a walk for yet another brief
walk rest, I met my Samaritan.
“Hey bud,” he said as he approached, “you’ve been with us all day. Let’s finish this!” Invigorated by the sheer positivity and comradery of these words, I began running again, this time with the company of this 40ish year old man and his 40ish year old wife.
As we ran together for the next quarter-mile or so, I learned that between the two, this couple had run over 65 marathons. When they asked me how many I’d run, I simply said that this was my first and definitely last. Unfazed by my negativity, he proceeded to talk as we continued. I don’t remember everything he said, but I do recall him saying that “no matter how many marathons you run, they never get easier.” I’m still pondering that one.
Anyway, as I continued to run with this friendly, good-paced couple, I stopped thinking about the pain I was in as I got lost in conversation. Soon, at roughly a quarter-mile later, I even began to feel strong. Not only could I do this, I was doing this! Leaving my still-chatting Samaritans behind, I picked up my pace significantly.
At the top of the final hill, I could finally see the finish line. Excited and suddenly energetic, I began to sprint. All the runners that had recently passed me became targets to beat and I did. I ran so hard to the finish that I ended up running well past the finish line, but it felt great. Sure. I would soon feel terrible as the stomach bomb exploded and all the physical ailments began a meticulous full-body attack, but at that moment, it mattered not.
Instead of limping to the finish, I attacked it. If not for my Samaritan, I would have ended on a low and not the high I had so desperately craved. As I slowly made my toward the medal area, I heard a familiar voice once again. It was the Samaritan.
“Way to pick up the pace,” he said. He was happy for me. Incredible. I told him that it was thanks to him and he just smiled encouragingly. I proceeded to ask him why, if it never gets easier, he and his wife keep running, and without hesitating, he simply gestured to the crowd of marathoners and said “this is why.” I won’t ever forget this man.
Looking at the race results today, I’m fairly certain that my Samaritan couple are Virginia residents that ran in the 45-49 year-old age group. I won’t list their names, but I do hope they read this someday so they know the inspiration they were to me. And though I don’t care much for completion time, my time was 5 minutes faster than theirs. They pushed me to push myself.
Though slowly and with the help of my friends and the Samaritan, I officially conquered the Anthem Richmond Marathon, aptly dubbed “America‘s Friendliest Marathon.” It is an accomplishment I will hold dearly and, as of today, not one I’m looking to repeat, ever!
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