The courage to finish

23 April 2017

With my large latte in hand I went back to Guildhall Square to cheer along with the amazing Spitfire cheer squad. Sammy Saint, AKA Matthew, was there, still in his costume dancing around as if he hadn’t just run 10k in the swealtering heat. I kept looking at his feet in their oversized boots and imagined him taking them off later and pouring out a few pints of accumulated sweat. What a legend!

A lot of the runners had finished by this time but there were still Spitfires out on the course, mostly marathoners.  Families who’d already finished their races were sitting around anxiously waiting for their loved ones to cross the line, an agony I know all too well myself from all Commando’s marathon running. The mind plays strange tricks as the minutes tick by, a million different disasters imagined. Sometimes I think it’s easier to run the race than wait for a runner.

Those who’d already finished running joined the cheer squad, tired but happy with their medals proudly around their necks. The first marathoner I saw cross the line was Frankie. Spitfire marshals ran to hug her and she was soon swamped in a crowd of yellow jackets.

Rachel was next, every step of those twenty six point two miles etched in pain on her face as she ran under the finish arch. When she saw the welcome committee though, the pain was replaced by a smile and her arms raised in victory. Close behind her was the man who runs for organ donation dressed as the joker. He’s not a Spitfire but I’ve seen him at other marathons and can’t help admiring the way his makeup stays put. I wonder where he buys it?

Gerry, who’d been looking increasingly nervous as the minutes ticked by, ran to hug his wife Teresa as she crossed her first ever marathon finish line. Commando  joined in the congratulations but it seemed as if twenty six point two miles wasn’t quite enough running for Teresa. She was soon off again, running to hug the rest of the waiting crowd.

“I loved every minute of it,” she said when I caught up with her. “I didn’t hit a wall once.”

If you want to see every emotion known to man the best place to be is on the finish line of a marathon. As the runners trickled under the arch there was pain, tears, exhaustion, relief, joy and everything in between. Every race is different and even those who have run the distance before can be surprised on the day, either by an unexpectedly great run or a bad one. Amongst all those emotional faces were Kim and Vicky, the half marathon motivators. For them it had been a long slow race but they were still smiling.

When Teresa crossed the line we’d all expected to see Tori with her. They usually run together and had trained together for this marathon. Tori has been struggling with an injury for the last few months though and had not had the best of races. Somehwere in the second lap she told Teresa to go on without her and some of the Spitfires who’d already finished had run back along the course to find her. It was a huge relief to see her come through the arch. The first person to run to her was Teresa. It looked like an emotional reunion.

Gill and Gerry joined the welcome party and, as she got closer I noticed she had a bad graze on her shoulder. Later I found out she’d taken a nasty tumble on The Common. Despite this she’d kept going and finished the race. It may have been slower than she’d planned but it was wonderful to see her still smiling.

Not far behind were Two more Spitfires. Now there was just one Spitfire left out on the course, Paul. Much as we’d have liked to stay and welcome him across the line in true Spitfire style I could see Commando was flagging. He’d been on his feet all day and was visibly limping. I was tired too. My Garmin told me I’d walked eleven and a half miles. We still had a long walk back to the car, parked near The Common, so, with regret, we left all the other Spitfires to cheer for Paul and began the long limp home. It takes courage to finish a marathon but sometimes you have to know when to quit.

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Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

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