One final night on a lumpy desert floor, despite the sleeping mat. One final night and morning of wearing the same clothes for over a week. One final visit to the camp toilets, one final dried meal, one final painful, squeezing tired and now slightly swollen feet into trainers.
My tent mate Leah and I were slightly delirious this morning – laughing with the anticipation of this beautiful, crazy, extraordinary tough week being over… At 9 am, we all launched ourselves one last time over the start line to head the final 8 km into the centre of San Pedro.
8 km doesn’t sound like much. But after 242 km over salt flats, rocks across freezing rivers, hot sand dunes, Mars like terrain… it seemed like a marathon lay before us. And so we counted down and set off with whoops and whistles – this filthy looking bunch of runners (a dubious description at this point) headed along the dusty, bumpy, uneven roads!
As it was the last stage, everyone was going for it… sort of. You have to laugh at the sight of people who can normally run/stride fast and strong, reduced to a sort of hobbling jog as each pain pushes pressure on those blisters, sore ankles from strained tendons and torn ligaments.
Me… right, this was it… 8 km. I wanted it done and dusted and apart from two short walks of about 100 metres, I ran/shuffled all the way. I tagged onto the end of four Chinese runners who had a good plan of teamwork and were sticking at a steady pace in single file. For about 2 km, I sat in their slipstream. But, as we entered the dusty outskirts of the town, my adrenaline began to increase and I could smell the finish line.
The road was one I had run on a week ago. Its familiarity helped me as I came to the crossroads over the Main Street, high-fiving one of the volunteers stationed there making sure we were going the right way. The odd thing was the occasional tourists taking pictures of us!
I turned right into the street that led up to the town square. I could see the chip timer 200m ahead of me… and from somewhere my legs found their sprint. I ran into them as they logged my time and said all I had to do was cross the finish line 100m further on, no need to run. But in my book, you run over those finish lines! I ran up the hill to the sea of blue (all the course volunteers/medics/race director) and other already finished runners and crossed under the finish line banner. With my arms aloft, hopefully smiling, I jumped high in the air as the medal was hung over my neck by Mary, the course director and I embraced her.
It was done… emotion takes over amid all the cheering. With my sunglasses still on, eyes filling with tears I looked up to the sky and whispered to Dad. “Thank you, for being with me every step of the way… This was for you.”
And now the party starts…