HOTS update; the final day
this is how it always ends.
the winners went home long ago.
most of the rest are in various stages of recuperation….
a handful of runners struggle on.
this time there are 14 of them,
strung out over 34 miles of road.
everyone has passed chattanooga.
the next finisher is still hours away.
trudging painfully slowly down the side of the road.
the last person in the field is locked in mortal combat with the grim reaper.
their fate to be decided by how much courage they can summon over these final 24 hours.
this morning it was pleasantly cool
before a line of showers swept over the field.
runners caught out on the road got soaked.
it is what it has been for almost 2 weeks.
whatever happens, happens.
and it happens to them.
the rain finished,
the heat has started to build.
if it is not as hot as it has been,
the humidity is pretty much 100%.
new lines of salt are forming on already salt streaked clothing.
once more the crushing weight of the southern summer
rests squarely on their shoulders.
today they know the score,
they cannot succumb.
they cannot even waver.
they must beat the reaper to the rock
or everything they have endured has been for nothing.
everyone left in the struggle is in the same condition,
runners and race staff alike;
exhausted, sleep deprived, hanging on by a thread
running on fumes.
we all just want to survive this last day.
looking back over the past two weeks
from here at the command center
( a room at the valley inn, with little used beds)
the race is nearing a successful conclusion.
runners have found the magic that is out on the open road.
they have seen the world in a way they never did before.
they have lived the life of a stray dog.
reduced to its most basic elements.
where a drink of cold water is treasure
and a bite of food the essence of life.
where shelter from the elements is luxury.
they have experienced the kindness of strangers.
help that always seems to arrive when it is needed the most.
blessings that nourish both body and soul.
many have overcome challenges greater than they ever imagined.
i have heard it in their words
and seen it in their faces.
the people who arrived at the rock are not the same
as the ones who got on a bus 10 days ago,
to journey into the unknown.
they are something more.
they have put themselves to the test
and found themselves worthy.
14 outcomes remain undecided.
14 weary travelers march on.
the open road will show them no mercy.
and every last step must still be earned.
ahead of them lies that one last mountain to be climbed
and that one last mile to be run.
we are waiting for them at that magical place
at the end of the road
where there is nowhere left to run.
they call it the rock.
and they will never forget the day they got there,.
HOTS update; the final day