Part V – The Wee hours, and Jesus Runs “The Miracle Mile.”
Now that only 8 of us were left in the relay, we had that much less time between miles, and it had an adverse affect. Obviously, it wore us out even faster, which was reflected in our slowing times. The only upside was that with the slower times, we ended up close to the same amount of recovery time as with 9 men; in fact, our recoveries became longer and longer as the night wore on.
Our exhaustion led to a change in our attitudes about what we were doing – and that is the point – the longer we did this thing, the more our priorities became fixated on survival instead of performance. I was one of the exceptions however, because I was determined to keep my mile times constant, and as the 15-mile mark approached, it was “steady as she goes.”
Earlier, I stated we couldn’t really rest between stints, because of the risk of cramping muscles; but that wasn’t true for all of us. Jesus, probably the most natural athlete in the group, would grab a drink, towel off and fall to the ground asleep. They woke him up as his runner started into his mile, and Jesus would be ready to take the baton from him by the time it was his turn to go again. But at around 2 or 3 a.m. Jesus did NOT want to wake up, and after a kick and a shake or two, the person in charge of informing the runners lost track of Jesus in the confusion of activity in the dark. When there was less than a half lap to go, someone realized that Jesus was still sawing logs.
“Jesus, get up man! He’s coming around the turn! Get up!”
Jesus sprang straight up off the ground and had just enough time to stretch his hamstrings for five seconds before accepting the baton. As soon as he had it, he took off like a shot, swapping the baton immediately from his left to his right hand. Incredibly, he ran like a man possessed. He roared through the first quarter mile in under 75 seconds. Everyone took notice at that and we yelled at him, “Go Jesus! Go! What the hell are you doing man?!” We laughed in amazement, but we felt an undercurrent of nervousness.
We were excited, but concerned. Had Jesus mentally imploded? Was he off his rocker? While most everyone else’s times were slowly and surely degrading by whole minutes, he was suddenly running like he had just swallowed a handful of amphetamines, and his pace never faltered after that first lightning lap. He continued his mad dash for four complete laps, finishing in 4:57.5. He went directly from the finish line back to his blanket, and lay down. We gathered around him and asked him why he had run so fast like that. He answered nonchalantly: “I just wanted to finish as fast as I could so I could go back to sleep.” He yawned, stretched out, and did exactly that.
The night slowly wore on, and although my times were no longer averaging 5:15, or even 5:20, at least I was managing to slow down the least. The lack of sleep and the lack of nourishment was getting to me, and let’s not forget that we were running one serious mile after another. I was in new territory physically; and in the surreal atmosphere of the dimly lit football field / track, I felt like a scientist observing a test subject. Only in this case, I was my own case study. I had no idea what was going to happen to me as I continued to really “run” my miles. Make no mistake – I was not jogging, I was pressing each lap as hard as I had the first. I wanted to see what I was capable of.
One of our biggest problems was the inability to take in substantial food. We had to eat, but we found that the only thing we could get into our systems was a few bites of fruit at a time, and we had to eat it as soon as we could after running. I read once that fruit by itself will pass through the stomach as quickly as 20 minutes. Prepared food containing meat and grains can take hours to clear the gut, so we stuck to raw small portions of fruit. Thing is, it did little to stem our hunger, which grew more profound by the hour. Several of the guys tried to eat heavier things like bites of sandwiches, but that either caused them to slow down dramatically, or they became nauseated and threw up. After watching them I stuck with the fruit slices and juice.
Then, disaster! We were into the “false dawn” part of the night, when the suns rays begin to diffuse into the sky from the other side of the horizon. It’s not light out yet, but the night is no longer so opaque anymore. I had just finished my 22nd mile in my slowest time yet of 5:32:1, but that wasn’t so bad considering how far I’d come. I was so sleepy I could hardly keep my eyes open, even as I ran. Instead of walking over to the gym I decided to lie down and do my leg stretching routine. Next thing I knew someone was kicking me and as I came abruptly awake I had the most vivid dream of eating pancakes and syrup, but couldn’t quite get them to my mouth, because the person waking me up was pulling the fork away.
“Phil! Dude! Wake up man! You’re up!”
I woke up into a nightmare!