I did it! Today I reached two finish lines, one literal and one figurative, but both requiring a lot of effort on my part. The first I crossed this morning, just before midday. It was the literal finish line of the two, lying at the end of a 10k course. It was bitterly cold, and unfortunately, due to late arrivals, the race was delayed by fifteen minutes, which we - my father, Spud and I - spent hopping about from foot to foot. Spud was lucky. He was a spectator rather than a runner, and so he hadn't discarded his big, warm trench coat. My father and I, however, were in light running gear, appropriately because we knew that once the race was under way we would warm up. A big coat would be a hindrance - it would get in the way, and cause us to overheat, even on a day like today!
Finally, when we thought our toes might just fall off with frostbite, and our limbs seize up with the cold, the first runners began to move. We were towards the back of the crowd, but we could see the instant effect, as row by disorganised row, the runners took off, until we too were jogging slowly, our pace increasing as everyone dispersed along the course. My father surged ahead with the others, out of sight in no time at all. I remained near the back, but was never in last place. Surrounded by other competitors, my pace was thrown off-course slightly, and each time I overtook a fellow runner, my enthusiasm and ambition increased.
I looked out across the canal. Two days ago my father and I ran part of the same course, and we observed sheets of ice in the water, but today the body of water was completely iced over. I wouldn't trust myself to stand upon the surface, but I noticed that hefty rocks had been thrown, and had failed to break the ice. Having never seen such a large body of water completely frozen before, I was impressed.
Running at a pace I was unaccustomed to running meant that I tired quicker than I would've done, and by the end of my first lap I was beginning to lag. I persevered, adopting a more comfortable pace, but I noticed that some of the people I had passed previously were catching up. I was not disheartened when they overtook me. As long as I ran all the way, then I would be satisfied with my performance.
I received a cup of water during the penultimate kilometre, for which I was grateful for. I clung to the cup as though it would give me the strength that I required, sipping and savouring it until the very end. My legs ached so much, and as I passed a sign indicating that I was into the final kilometre, I felt sure that I couldn't go much further. I emptied my mind, pouring all feelings of pain and fatigue from my mind, and concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. I knew I was close, and nothing could make me give in now.
Suddenly, I was 50 metres from the end, and the finish line was in sight. It was funny, the surge of adrenaline that kicked in as I registered how close I was. It seemed to heal me temporarily, and with renewed determination I broke into a sprint. I passed my father, who was waiting for me to one side, just ahead of the finish line, and cheering me on. Spud stood at the end of the course, my camera raised in his hands. I didn't stop until I crossed mat and heard my timing chip beep.
At that precise moment the exhaustion kicked in, and I staggered in bewilderment away from the mat, looking around me for my two companions. A woman asked if she could trouble me for my timing chip, and I bent down to unfasten it from my ankle. I straightened up to see my father striding towards me, closely followed by Spud who showed me the photographs he took of my triumphant finish. Poor Spud, he was so cold from all the waiting around, despite his coat. I wasn't cold at all. In fact, I only began to feel the cold shortly after arriving home. I was steered towards a table bearing cups of iced water, and then, slightly more refreshed, towards a couple from whom I received a glossy looking notebook. It was a running logbook and my memento from the race.
I crossed the other finish line this afternoon, although this time following a 650 word course called a dissertation draft. I am not sure which of the two was more of a challenge, but I was very glad to complete both.
Tomorrow I have a lecture, my last of the semester, and then three weeks off for the exam period. But as I have no exams for this semester's modules, I perceive the time as a little holiday. Of course, I will use it wisely, and intend to work hard on my dissertation while I have no other assignments hanging over me, but I also hope that I will be able to work on it at a more leisurely pace. Hopefully, I will also have more time to read for pleasure, and to blog more frequently too!