Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses…let us run with patience the race that is set before us. – Hebrews 12:1
Foot on the line; lean forward.
Out of the starting gate not with a blast, but with a whimper. Unusually enough, I can’t seem to get my feet under me, can’t find the rhythm. Instead of a smooth stride, I stumble and trip and almost fall at the 5/12th of a mile mark of the race. I’m losing – badly. I never expected to win, but I wanted to make a decent showing. Let everyone see that I gave my best.
But the crowd is really screaming, and they seem to be yelling at me. Yeah, if I were watching I’d be yelling at me, too. But no, they are cheering, and the worse my feet seem to tangle, the more they shout encouragement. Hey, I recognize some of these people… that’s Dr. Blalock! Vivien Thomas is next to him, shouting my praises as I struggle by.
I get my balance back – slowly – and soon I have a smooth motion going. Gotta pick it up, all I’m seeing is the backs of the other runners. Dr. Taussig waves at me as I pass.
My feet get tangled up again at mile 10 and I go down, coughing blood as I fall. Somehow I get back up – hard to do when your legs don’t want to do what you tell them. They’re working again – but still a little weak – by mile 11 and then I really start cooking. Steady and smooth, chasing the pack down. I’m not gaining that much, but at least I can still see them.
Then at mile 22 I fall flat on my face. I can’t even get up.
“Keep moving!” a little girl yells. “Never stop!”
So I’m dragging myself, pulling myself along with my hands, and this same little girl yelling at me to keep going, try harder, I can do it. She’s familiar, but I don’t…. Eileen Saxon. The first one of us.
Slowly I get to the point I can push as well as pull myself, then back to my feet and into my familiar half walk, half stumble. I get my stride back until mile 36, when I go down again. I can’t feel my right side at all.
“Come on, you aren’t going to let a stroke stop you?” another little girl asks. It’s Gracie. “Come on now, you cheered for me, I’ll cheer for you.”
But you lost, I think as I feel my energy start to drain away. I’m losing, too.
“I lost, ” Gracie says, reading my mind. “But I fought. That’s the important thing.” So once again I’m digging in, pulling along with one hand, keeping a forward motion and not much else. Slowly I get the feeling back in my right side, and then I am able to stand and shuffle, and eventually run.
I’m doing OK, had a bump and a bruise about half a mile back, but I just passed the 44th mile mark. I wonder who I will see next… and how I will react if it is one of the other runners I have met on this journey.
And I wonder how long this race is. The longer the better, and if I can help it, I’m not going to go down on the course.
I hope to cross the finish line standing.