Dear John

Dear John,

You don’t remember me, but I’m the runner you bear-hugged in the finisher’s shute of my last marathon.

finisher's shute

I saw you before the race when we herded into the starting corrals, and I blew past you at mile one.

Passing John

I held onto 3rd place overall until mile 16. You were not in my thoughts.

Flashdance RunnerI was still miles ahead of you when the hills started earlier than I expected.

I started to slow down, and dropped to 4th place.

Stupid Ponytail

I didn’t know it, but by mile 18, you were closing in on me.

Lobby McLobside

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.

Can't Stop

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.

I wasn’t.


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.

The Promise

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.

home stretch

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!”


Dear John,

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.


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