Pressing my weight onto my borrowed walking poles, I slowly sank into the seat. My race is over. I even think I just said this out loud. I lift my head. I did say it out loud. A bearded face set in concern is looking at me, asking me what’s wrong. I tell him that my groin popped a couple of miles ago, and that it’s taken me 40 minutes to get down off the trail. I can hardly move up or down hill, and the flats are only marginally better. 91 miles in. My race is over.
“You have so much time.” the man says.
Even in my tired state, the tangential slash of his statement shocks my mind.
“You have so much time.” he repeats. “Take 20 minutes, have a cup of tea and something to eat, and see how you feel.”
A tea was passed over, some crisps and cake. More runners come into the village hall checkpoint, most just giving their number, grabbing a quick bite and some water, before they head on, back out of the door. They can scent the finish, only nine miles away for them now.
I sup the tea as my mind races, still reeling from the statement. Hours ago my watch had run out of battery, and I’d had no real idea of what time it was. But for the past hour or so, I thought that even if I could carry on, I’d be timed out of the race, caught by the sweeper and my first DNF tag. It turns out that it’s only 6am, and I have six hours to get to the finish. My foggy brain tried to do the maths – if it had taken me 40 minutes to do two miles, then I could finish in three hours.
Could I force my mind to push my body through the pain to finish? My mind was swimming trying to block out the cold, gristly pain in my groin, whilst hanging onto those tantalising words – you have so much time…
More runners came and went, many struggling, but all resolute, all offering me words of encouragement.
“Do you have any pain killers?” The words took me by surprise, shocked me. I said them. Before the rest of my mind and body could protest, the part that had just commanded those words took control over me. A pain killer was passed to me from somewhere, some water. I slowly stood and began to shuffle out of the door.
Click here for what happened next…