I was supposed to run 21 km, but I ended up doing 31 km. Half marathon and half.
It was my fault. The Asics Golden Run coincided with my last long workout – usually called ‘long’, a horrible word I refuse to use – before the Porto Alegre Marathon, which takes place two weekends away. And there’s no better way to run long distances than a real, well-organized race, where the athlete finds structure, plenty of hydration and a crowd of runners to keep them company.
There was only one problem. The maximum race distance was 21 km. If I did the traditional route, I would ‘owe’ 10 km. And root runner prefers to owe money to the loan shark than leave the training sheet incomplete.
Then came the idea of redoing part of the circuit. At 18 km, almost there, I turned around and went to the opposite side, at the 9 km mark. As the race was on Marginal Pinheiros and only a few cones separated the round trip and back, the task was easy. After the maneuver, I ran alone most of the time on my side of the track, until I started to catch up with the slower athletes.
That’s when the best part started. Those who stay to the end don’t look at the clock. In pain, they persevere. With difficulty they advance. Limitations, they overcome. And, in the last meters, they smile and congratulate each other, thank each other, almost as if they were a separate group, who don’t care about the pace, but who care about going until the end.
I saw many runners moving forward as the cones were removed by the organization. The marginal needed to be released for vehicle traffic, but that didn’t seem to intimidate those athletes.
With all of them I exchanged a few words as I ran. And after each interaction I came out stronger, with renewed breath. Tired but happy.
I came in 4233rd place, 12 places ahead of last.
“I wouldn’t have made it if it weren’t for you,” I heard a runner say to his new best friend as he crossed the finish line. I thought the same. I didn’t say it at the time, but I’m writing it now. If they hadn’t given up, neither would I.
As my friend Dani Germano says, slow or fast, a kilometer is a kilometer.
I’m always asked about the fact that everyone wins a medal at the end of a road race. For those who are not part of this world, it sounds like a consolation prize. Well, I say: those athletes deserved their medals. They were also champions.
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