The fourth day began ominously here in Tennessee.
Storms were pounding over the front half of the field.
The middle and back of the pack were in a steam bath after showers last night.
But, as the day wore on, the clouds stayed thick, blocking the sun.
The volstate let slip a merciful afternoon for the runners.
Grant Maughan charged another 35 miles and despite a few hours of struggle, is smelling the barn.
His crew mentioned sub 4 days….it appears he is flipping the switch, and will not stop before touching The Rock.
It far from a forgone conclusion that he’ll join the annals of history with a finish that starts with 3 days….but at this point it’s within his grasp.
Further back, the races within the race are still looking like they’ll be nail biters.
Abbs is holding a couple hour lead over Trinkle, and the Long/Hardy pair, among the screwed runners…
They have 80-90 miles to go, and are tough enough to do it straight thru til the witching hours Monday night / Tuesday morning.
The top three women switched order, with Rhoda Smoker notching more miles than anyone in the race during the day today (43).
Sooey struggled to gain 13 miles, while Kooiman held it together with 23. Smoker goes down to rest for much of the night, while the other two are likely to make up much, if not all, of the lost ground….who sleeps least from here to the end may have the best chance.
In the middle of the pack, the runners are really just so deep into their effort that their commitment is nearly unbreakable at this point.
Huge blisters, swollen ankles, inflamed shins….these are the cost of a finish.
They are excruciating, but they are manageable, if the desire to reach The Rock is unyielding.
They have seen their predecessors do it in the past, despite great discomfort.
And they see their fellow racers hobbling just as painfully as they are.
As we like to say, if they woke up on a normal day feeling like this, they would call for an ambulance.
Here at the volstate, it is just part of it.
The runners at the back are doing the accordion, they stretch out between check-ins, but then collapse together again at rest times.
The hotels along the course are surely appreciating the business more today than 15 years ago when we had only 3 starters!
The Meat Wagon has been quietly going about its work, we’ve lost 22 runners and the fourth day isn’t yet complete.
Most of the withdrawals have been chipper enough, despite the disappointment they are bursting with joy that the pain is over.
That is the cruel reality here, quitting or finishing are the only two outcomes.
They both end the pain, but only one is so superbly satisfying.
With the field spread out over 200 miles by morning, the stories are just beginning.
Will Grant’s finish post come before the next Check-in???