please god, let it get hot again

it is 0730 and the vol staters have been on the road for two days now.
last night was hard.
not amazing and wonderful hard.
just hard.
and we saw some more casualties.
the worst thing for your hopes of finishing seems to be a crew.
crewed runners quit at twice the rate of those who are just. abandoned alongside the road.
the next biggest killer;
the course passing near where you live.
if you can just get in a car
or make a call and have a ride in 5 minutes
it will be awfully hard to finish this race.
because the desire to quit is not going to be a rare and fleeting thought.
and so they marched all night.
uphill and down.
on through the darkness.
small cities came and went.
parkers crossroads
sometimes it is little more than a sign and a few houses.
sometimes the city limit signs come hours before you finally reach downtown.
but beyond each one
the dark and empty road stretches on.
life is sustained by the occasional cooler beside the road.
maybe a small canopy with a few chairs underneath.
but even these luxuries provide but temporary respite.
the urgency to move on has become the theme of their life.
oprah has begun to close in.
when the sun set last night she was 7 miles behind the nearest runner.
no one could even hear her heels on the pavement.
this morning a dozen runners are in the no mans land
2-4 miles ahead of the relentless celebrity;
struggling after two days on their feet.
and now every time they stop
the faint click click click of oprah’s heels comes echoing up behind them.
for the tail end of the pack
the battle has been joined.;
a dozen runners see their existence on the road under threat.
there is no guarantee any of them make it.
but it is certain that some will fail.
so, just before checkin this morning the storm fromt we were watching on radar last night
(coming rapidly across arkansas and missouruh)
hit the field.
the path could not have been more perfectly laid out
as it struck the tail end of the file in huntingdon,
and then swept down the road all the way to hohenwald…
this one got everybody except the first 4 or 5
who probably slipped thru a gap as the front passed.
a lucky few might have been able to scurry to some sort of shelter.
maybe an awning was nearby
or some piece of heavy equipment to crouch under.
most just got hammered
and the rain became like a sentient being
seeking to penetrate your feeble defenses
and soak your pitiful pack of supplies.
flimsy plastic ponchos are not made for repeated use.
the plastic tears
snaps rip off
and the water gradually reduces your stock of dry things.
your ability to respond dwindles
and then is gone.
and eventually you must just soldier on wet.
maceration does nothing to relieve the misery of battered feet.
sun baked flesh feels like the clammy flesh of a corpse.
as the heat is drained from your body by the wet.
air conditioning becomes a cruel enemy
and wet clothing a device of torture.
but there is nothing for it
but to march on.
the endless hills stretch out ahead into infinity.
please god, let it get hot again.
up at the front,
where there is at least something to consider
besides survival
ken zemach held his lead all night.
daylight found him coming into columbia
with bob hearn a mere 4 miles back.
right now it looks like the race is between these two.
but, alone on the open road
in the crucible that is the vol state
anything can happen.
no one and no situation is free from the awareness
that an escape from all this is only a phone call away.
in that long line of vol staters
with the leaders battling for a win more than 100 miles ahead of that desperate final dozen
barely ahead of oprah
there are 100 different stories
100 different epic adventures being written
and for each of the 100
a hundred reasons to quit…
only one reason to continue.
they must reach the rock.
it will not be easy.
it is not supposed to be.

Categories: Vols2023