He won fair and square. “I forgot my parachute,” said ac as he pulled up to me somewhere between miles seven and eight, when I was still adequately managing the struggle. I had led from the start, but he was never more than maybe twenty seconds behind me. We ran together for a bit in silence, plummeting down a descent. We were on pace for a 1:20.
The first two miles were harder than expected. I was considerably slower than my planned pace. The air was thick, making me feel like I was breathing through a straw. I was ahead of ac, in around thirteenth place.
Then The Scream! really started, and all of us ambitious ones started tumbling down the mountain at a not-entirely-metaphorical breakneck speed. Ahead of me were small clusters of two to three runners. I reeled them in, passing my way to sixthish place by the fifth mile. That’s where I stayed until ac caught me.
I chased ac through miles eight, nine, ten, and eleven, but he was too fast. I didn’t feel disheartened, though. Nor any other defeated emotion. Instead, I felt proud of him. Proud because he was running faster than he ever had before, and rivalry sometimes takes a back seat to seeing a friend be excellent. I was proud of myself because I was only a little bit slower than him.
Still, I knew I had a chance to catch him. The bottoming out of the hill is a major physical and psychological strain. I had dealt with it before in the Ridge to Bridge marathon and persevered. This was new territory for ac. However, the dirt road was like quicksand from a week of rain. I was breathing very hard. So hard that my diaphragm cramped. The whole thing. My lungs were stuck on empty. I slowed down, which made my calves start to suggest that they too would like to join the cramp party. For the first time in a half marathon ever, I had to walk.
Rounding the last corner, I could breath again but had nothing for a last-minute sprint. There was a guy right behind me, though, so I decided to try to keep him there. Ahead was ac, cheering me on. “Is your calfankilles ok?” he asked. “Yeah, everything’s ok,” I grunted as he trotted next to me. “Good! Then here, take my stinking, sweaty hat!” he said with glee, throwing his stinking sweaty hat at me.
You know what? Forget all that nice stuff I wrote before. I want a rematch! This isn’t over, Mr. Moonboots.