I’m reading a story about a guy who died just before the finish of the Chicago Marathon. He was a super-fit firefighter, a hubby and dad, chasing the holy grail of a 3-hour marathon. That’s not the saddest part.
A ton of other runners, chasing that same 3-hour goal, passed by as he was dying in the road. I suppose they thought their help would be futile, that medical guys would be there in seconds. But mostly I suspect they could see the finish line and had to make a choice. Help another human or hit 3 hours. They chose the latter. I can’t imagine how someone could make that decision. It’s only a race.
I’m running a half marathon. I haven’t run one in about 120 years so it’s a really big deal. My only goal is to finish inside of 3 hours, which the race has advertised as the strict cutoff for officially finishing. I am on a mission.
I have enough minutes in the bank that I’m ahead of schedule going into the last couple of miles. A steep climb over the harbor bridge wipes me out, but I’m down to less than a mile and I’ve still got it. I go from jog to shuffle to walk, but I’m on pace (thank you, Mr. Garmin). It’s just two more blocks, a left turn and one block to the finish. I’m going sub 3. Exactly half the speed of a 3-hour marathon, embarrassingly slow, but a huge victory for me nonetheless.
Then I see them. Barely moving along the sidewalk are an elderly couple, maybe in their 90s. They remind me of my grandparents in their final years. The man, dressed in a well-worn but immaculate black suit, tie tied just so, is pushing his wife in a wheelchair. She is wearing a frilly white dress and is holding what must be the hubby’s cane as they move along at their turtle pace. The race shut down the area roads, so they are having to make a long hike to reach their church service.
I stop. I’m really sorry you’re having to do this because of the race, I offer.
Yes, it’s a long way, the woman says wistfully. That’s all she says. They continue.
I pause. I look at my watch. I can just say screw it. I can push the woman and make it a little easier for the man. They’ll tell me stories and we’ll laugh. They’ll go into church thinking maybe the world’s OK after all. I’ll eventually finish my race. Who cares what the time is.
But I’m just two blocks and a left turn away.
I wave at them, looked over my shoulder once to watch them precariously moving along, and pick up my pace.
Life is funny.