30 Sep 2015 Shinetsu finish
How does one describe the look on someone’s face when they cross a finish line?
Better yet, how does one describe how someone feels when they do it?!
When I photographed the Start gate the day before, I didn’t even see the words “Start” on it- all I saw was myself and the finish. Then I put it out of my mind completely so that I would be running the race for the race itself, not for the finish line. I wanted to be able to see, feel, experience every step *not* in relation to how far or close to the finish line it would be, but to be lost in that instant, in the present, as if nothing else mattered.
I think it worked for the most part, but it’s hard to tell. Memories fade, then they are coloured by emotions, stories that you share with others and the stories you repeat to yourself. The more time goes by, the less you remember the pain, the more you remember the joy.
Yet I do remember how the last 40kms I really had to dig deep. This is the furthest I have ever run, scrambled, slipped, walked and writhed on the ground in sheer agony as the steely fingers of a race masseur were trying to restore some sort of movement in my calf and quadriceps that were refusing to co-operate. I counted steps, I sang old Russian songs from my childhood, I alternated between looking only where my next few steps were going to be and trying to look outside- to remember the beauty, to pat someone encouragingly on the shoulder when the language barrier couldn’t convey what I felt to not give up, to keep going.
And the last 8km stretch was the hardest. For some reason, not wearing a GPS watch, I looked for the 5, 3 and 1km markers. Which were never there in the first place. After an eternity of waiting for the 100km mark to materialise, I estimated, re-estimated and then re-estimated again how far and how slow I must be going to still not have seen the 5km marker. And I battled my demons each step at a time.
And then, out of darkness both in spirit and literally, a pair of volunteers on the side of the road sensed my struggle and in broken English cheered that I only had 1.8kms left….
I can not fully describe that process in my mind- where a dogged mantra of left foot-right foot- left foot etc turned into a sudden bloom of light- that light at the end of the tunnel, where pain stops, hopes revive and a sudden reserve of energy realises that it is no longer necessary to hide.
I saw that finish line so vividly in my mind and all of a sudden my vision went blurry- from the tears that started welling up, from the emotion that suddenly started bubbling to the surface. And I did what I now know to do best in a place like that- I looked up, breathed out and started singing out loud. An old, forgotten russian mountaineering song about things coming to an end. And as my pace picked up, the kilometres evaporated, time lost meaning once again, my pain disappeared and my hobble became a shuffle and the shuffle became a full blown run, where legs stretch out, lungs labour for breath and with the final 100m last bump prior to the bright lights of the finishing line i tripped, rolled, shook off the mud and sprinted to the ribbon blocking off that last few meters of the finishing shute from the cheer, smiles, tears and bear hugs of my beautiful team mates Donna and Caroline, their parents and our talented film crew Cassie and Simon.
And just like that, I had remembered what I pictured 24hrs before that, but now in colour, full blown, mind blowing detail. And I sobbed my eyes out, not caring about anything else in the world, savouring that beautiful well of a journey shared with the incredible women of The Trail Beyond and every single person that has ever dreamed a silly dream and then transformed it into reality.