The night is dark with no moon, many stars, and clouds rolling in and out. The night is also very long. Walking makes it feel much longer. At some point, my stomach declares an all-out war with me and I'm taking frequent bathroom breaks. Steve and the others move far ahead. When I'm done, the idea of running faster to catch up worries me at first. But lengthening my usual shuffling to a decent stride is liberating and wonderful.
I count down the miles until the break mile. Rest becomes something my body tells me I need as much as water. The road crew sets up chairs and snacks as we come in. I imagine, to them, the runners look like a bunch of newly born fawns with the sorry state of our joints. After 75 miles, bending my knees or calves or any part of my legs is a great challenge. After we eat and drink and sit down for ten minutes, getting up and jogging again is like awakening from a deep sleep.
Late in the night, Steve and I get word that Barry and Sikwni have started running FAST. No one knows why or how they are doing this. They're even too fast for the road crew to catch them every mile. Steve tells me that when we get to a bridge soon, we will turn off on a long poorly-marked hiking trail that's hard to navigate in the dark. And Barry knows the trail best. Soon, the road crew is telling us that Barry is at the trailhead and wants to go on without us. I'm worried that Steve and I will waste time being lost in the woods so near to the finish. When we get to the trail, Barry's waiting for us. We all walk the trail together as the sun rises.
At the other side is a dirt road, and my family and the road crew is standing together, waiting for us. Someone mentions we're at the bottom of Abol Hill. Finally! I think. Barry and Steve have been referring to Abol Hill since the start. Something about runners and road crew members and canoeists and anyone else running up the mile-plus hill as a tradition. My cousin Christopher, egged on by his dad, steps up to the line with me. Looks like a friendly competition to me as we all line up together. I'm eager for a little excitement after a long night. Barry says it's only right that I call the start since I kept time for 26 hours already. "Go." Christopher and I get off to a great start. I have no idea where I'm getting the energy but I love it. Just when you think you can see the top, the road turns and another hill appears. Reminds me of killer hill repeats my high school coach made us do. Christopher is breathing hard and falls behind me just short of the top. I learn soon after that he had just eaten breakfast and hadn't stretched or even warmed up in the cold morning. What a strong kid!
To be continued.