Instead of how I did run, 1:09:47, a personal worst, nearly three minutes slower than my half in February, my half in March, surely not just because I'm getting older despite seven people propounding this post-race, as though it's normal for someone to lose three minutes in seven months, as though it's normal for someone to fall off a cliff. People fall off cliffs every day.
From recent workouts I figured I was in 1:07:30 - 1:08:00 shape. My heart rate had been good. I didn't have any MS symptoms. When I woke Sunday morning I felt strong. Strong and light. This is what I do when I wake race morning: I go for a 1 mile jog to enliven my body. One mile slow through Beacon Hill park, which in October at 5:15 a.m. is dark. Dark and hungry. An hour that wants. On my return there wasn't even a sound; just the sudden and panicked emptying of the air around me, and sharp talons digging into my scalp. I ducked and spun, and when I focused to see what the fuck, the owl had circled back and was diving again. Then there were sounds. Me like something inarticulate and blunt and extremely loud. Something Neolithic.
Now here we are and the race is underway. My body is light. My body is springing off the ground. It's hard to keep my body on the ground. This feeling lasts a kilometer and that's the end of it. I don't feel like that again. At 3km I'm behind pace and I fall further behind with every kilometer. But I'm not feeling terrible. The top four seeds have bolted ahead, and there are another five of us together and I'll run with them in the second pack and then blaze the last 5km, is what I'm thinking. At 16km I'm still thinking this. Our group has been whittled to three, the other four too far up the road. I'll just rip it home and collect the master's record time bonus.
One of the guys surges up the hill and he's gone. He was next to me, and now he's so far ahead of me I can't tell the colour of his singlet.
There's still one guy next to me. He drifts to the middle of the road and starts high-fiving the marathoners on their way out. He knows some of them by name.
We split from the marathoners and now it's just the two of us, and five guys ahead we can't see, and behind us another guy but he's pretty far back. I look over at this guy. He looks young. One of those tall and baby-faced types, someone who doesn't yet need to shave. His legs are long. I'm watching his feet hit the ground, making sure they do. Making sure he isn't cheating. Then he's gone too. Up the road somewhere.
There's 1km remaining and I'm in real trouble. That guy way behind me is now right behind me, maybe ten seconds back, there's his yellow singlet, and I know I just need to turn on the jets for 400m or so to hold him off. He streaks past me. I can still see the yellow from where he'd been.
Sometimes you don't even do a cool down. My race number is already crumpled and in the garbage. I walk-jog to find my mum and the 8-year old with her. The two of them are still on Dallas road watching the race, and when I find them we start heading back to the finish. My mum has a bum knee. The 8-year old is eight. They're sort of jogging to the finish area, sort of walking and also sort of limp-jogging. I can't get my body to move faster, so I yell up to them that I'll just meet them there.