You don’t remember me, but I’m the runner you bear-hugged in the finisher’s shute of my last marathon.
I saw you before the race when we herded into the starting corrals, and I blew past you at mile one.
I held onto 3rd place overall until mile 16. You were not in my thoughts.
I started to slow down, and dropped to 4th place.
I didn’t know it, but by mile 18, you were closing in on me.
At mile 20, I tripped on some gravel and knocked a pebble in my shoe.
I tried to stop so I could shake it out.
But my legs, unprepared for the increasing incline, told me that if I did, they wouldn’t be finishing the race.
So I lodged the pebble under my toes and I dropped to 5th.
At mile 23, you came up beside me and asked if I was okay.
You told me it was okay to walk up the rest of the hill. You told me to draft you, and slowed to a walk ahead of me so I could.
You reminded me there was free chocolate milk at the finish line.
When we got to the top of the hill, I told you to go on without me.
At mile 24, I dropped to 6th and watched you run off to finish.
I didn’t expect to see you again.
At mile 25, my foot was in shreds and I’d reached my limit. I forewent my signature sprint to the finish.
I limped along, and shed some tears as I dropped to 7th.
I don’t remember crossing the line at 26.2, and I don’t remember putting my medal around my neck.
But I remember a bear hug, accompanied by chocolate milk, and someone shouting “I knew you could do it!”
We were strangers; just names on bibs, separated by age, gender, and speed.
We were the unlikeliest of running partners.
You may have forgotten me, but each time I look at the scar from that pebble I think of you.
Thank you for slowing down.
And thank you for walking me up that hill.
But, most of all, thank you for the chocolate milk.
Psst! You can receive automatic updates whenever there’s a new post on See Fleck Run! To follow me, in the bottom right corner of my page, click Follow.