There was no sunlight, but I saw the suggestion of it in the thinning clouds looming above. I saw the possibility of it.
Maybe this was a portent of things to come. Maybe, this too shall pass. Maybe, the storms would subside.
Everyone loves a comeback. I could comeback. I could be the lion in winter.
It had been awhile since I'd roared, but I thought the roar might still be there. My claws weren't as keen, but I could sharpen them. I was bruised, but not broken.
The words from an ex from the distant past reminded me of something I had forgotten, 'You are a fighter.' I wasn't done fighting yet. I could get back up.
I was still standing. I could still walk. I could even run.
The lion started to growl. It was restless. It was anxious to hunt again.
But, a successful hunt always requires the right strategy. The timing of each strike is critical. Mistime any of them and your prey goes free.
But, the road is no ordinary prey. The road is very much a predator itself. I knew I could never really beat the road. But, I wouldn't let it beat me today.
It would never forget me. It would feel my wrath. It would bleed. It would remember me.
I wasn’t capable of a personal best today. But, I could still do something I had never done before. I could attack the last 10K.
I would bare my fangs. I would roar. I would unleash the beast. As it so happened, this was the word emblazoned on my shirt that day. I was a beast.
The beast had been chained and caged up deep inside for far too long. He was a potent mix of self-loathing, sadness, disappointment, and rage. He was eager for a kill.
The beast needed to be kept on a short leash. He could kick ass or just as easily get your ass kicked. I knew I could get the former if I played my cards right.
I had a sense of how hard and how fast I could go. It was about 20 miles. Then, I would need some help for the rest.
The rest would take me about 30 minutes, maybe less if I was lucky. The 'beast' could handle 30 minutes. This could get me to the finish line.
Mile 20 arrived. I had subsumed the darkness for 20 miles. I had bottled it up for much longer. It was time for release.
I didn't unleash the beast yet. But, I loosened the leash. The beast growled, snarled, and snapped hungrily. I smiled darkly.
All in due time. You will hunt soon. You will get your kill.
I dug into the well. I didn't have to dig deep. It all came spilling out.
The disappointment came. The sadness washed over. The rage raged.
It was a volatile and dangerous cocktail. I growled audibly. I got a few uncomfortable looks from those running next to me. I smiled back.
They had nothing to fear, unless they crossed me. None of them looked like they would. I am sure I looked crazy.
There was little doubt I was uncorking it. Every once in a while you have to say, 'What the fuck? Make your move.'
I was making my move. Win or lose, fast or slow, I wanted to do something true to me. Nothing could stop me, but me. This last 10K was all about me.
Most of my days and miles were dedicated to others. Such is the plight of a running coach. The running you do is often not for you. It’s in support of others.
I’d chosen this path thinking it was a perfect storm of sorts. I’d help others and I’d help myself. But, it didn’t necessarily work that way.
Few runs were truly my own anymore. But, this one was. These last 6.2 miles were all mine. I wouldn’t be sharing them with anyone.
Mile 20 rolled by quickly as the beast began to take hold. I was feeling it. But, I was also feeling something else. It was a tightness.
My hamstring was complaining. I had tempted fate by doing this marathon. My grossly abbreviated training cycle had spanned all of six weeks, if that.
I was asking a lot of my body. It was a bad habit of mine. My ‘torpedoes be damned’ approach to training paid dividends, but it also burned me not infrequently.
I grappled with what the next move should be. I just needed a few more miles. I dialed into the tightness.
I shortened my stride. I lengthened my stride. I ran a self-diagnostic to come up with some kind of prognosis.
It seemed to be holding. The tightness didn't seem to worsen when I adjusted my stride. But, how much more could it take?
I had no idea. It could lock up entirely in a minute. It might hold for another mile.
I hemmed and hawed. I vacillated. I finally got clarity.
I would talk to my hamstring. I would acknowledge its complaints. I would empathize.
Then, I would ask it very nicely to just hold on for another 30 minutes. I promised to take care of it once we reached the finish line. I begged it to just give me a little bit more.
The hamstring frowned. It gave me an angry glare. Grudgingly, it agreed to try. It was all I could ask.
With the hamstring seemingly placated, it was time to move on. It was time to exorcise the demons. It was time to finish.