There was a point in the Golden Gate Bridge Trail Marathon where I slowed and, if the rocks could talk, I stopped. I feigned that I was fine as I posed with a fellow runner. A smile in the midst of a personal war. Whether it was the steep inclines, the jagged rocks digging through my soft marshmallow shoes, or the smashing of my joints as my bones crushed into the rocky steps beneath my feet, I knew I was doing physical damage. The taste of blood formed in my mouth and it seemed like some of the damage would very well be permanent. Two seconds later, a lithe spring like runner sailed past my collapsing body. It wasn’t getting passed that bothered me so much. It wasn’t even the thought of getting beat by one or more runners. It was that this simple distance of 26.2 miles, which I had done 297 times before, was now extremely difficult. I was broken physically and actually happy that my early suicidal pace had taken it’s toll. Mentallity it’s why I went to the race in the first place. I wanted to be broken. But, now, my mind was looking for excuses. Weak excuses. It was as if pain was no longer my friend, my fuel. A lapse in focus and I conceded defeat…to the course. Some would blame a headwind. But if I was beaten how did the victor survive my claim to such a breezy onslaught? Others would blame the heat? I’m a sun worshipper and that excuse, despite my current state of mind, still seemed silly. It was hilly. The course not paved. Water stops a mirage of four miles apart. I could hear Pheidippides laughing at me. I was hoping to see a bone coming through the skin of my shin. All I saw was a view of the Golden Gate Bridge which seems hundreds of miles away. I didn’t have any real excuses. Are there ever? My eyes, while blurred from salt and sweat, still smacked my brain with input and brought my body upright. I was fine. A bit dehydrated. A bit unprepared for the course, but that was my own fault. And the guy in the lead didn’t care about my ill preparedness. I clinched my jaw and, out of desperation or delirium, I bit down hard on my lower lip and ground my teeth. I felt sand and grit and chapped lips. So many had told me that age would catch up to me. This race was surely my undoing. Was it too much of a challenge? Had I finally and poignantly witnessed the age of my body betraying what my mind thought of as “a bit of a challenge for a mere 26.2 mile jaunt?” Others had told me about this slow transition. I stared at that moment for what seemed to be an eternity. If this was it, it was immediate and not a “slow transition” at all. The gap between me and the runner in front was growing and the runner behind closing. It rattled my fuming orb of a brain. Fear set in. I didn’t fear death. But I feared those three little letters. DNF. It was the matadors cape and I suddenly became a charging bull. I was a mere 10K from the finish. I surged without regard to the pain. I felt dislodged toenails digging into the soft skin of my feet. How many had I lost? My socks were soaked with liquid from blisters busting due to my nonchalant pre-race antics. I had completely overlooked applying anti-persperant to my toes. My hamstrings cried out with every desperate reach I made to close the distance. I hurled myself downhill with a madness only known to the likes of double black-daimond skiers. I flung my arms and legs wildly as if in a free fall to my doom. There were brief instances where my brain registered glimpses of the course. I plummeted upon another runner still on his first slap and slammed my weight into a boulder to avoid the collision. As I vaulted by he stated “Are you in the marathon?” I replied with a phlegm filled gurgle. His reply was “OH! you’re close!” I heard that as a rally cry. Still just over 4 miles from the finish but his words seemed to transcend the distance and I would cross that finish line. The last water stop was at mile 22 and I grasped for anything. I found a pretzel which I quickly shoved into my mouth. The dry saltiness seemed to insult my bodies cravings. The last image that burned the back of my eyes before I let them partially close for the remainder of the race was that of the runner who had passed me. Had I snuck past him? Was he really stopped at the aide station? Was my mind playing tricks on me? Hell, I could have been unconscious in an ambulance with the breakneck pace that I felt I was running down some of the single-track trails. I popped up to a flat part of the course high above the San Francisco Bay and strained to see the parking lot and finish line. It was about 3 miles away near the beach. Several cyclists whizzed past me and I longed for the days of training on my bike. A quick flick of my wrist to see my watch and it confirmed that I was indeed close. Close to ending this self-inflicted pain that I voluntarily started some 3 hours ago. I actually remember asking myself “what the hell was I thinking?” For 3 miles I pondered driving 9 hours to the race. For 3 miles I pondered stopping and asking a friendly passer-bye for a ride in their car, RV, or even motorbike. There were others still traversing their first lap and they looked steadfast on finishing. I felt compelled to hurl my body downhill toward the finish. Walking hurt. Jogging hurt. Running, and fast, seemed the only way to end the biting torture surrounding my legs and feet. Only finishing would allow me to shed my binding shoes and begin to discern the destruction that I had done to my feet. A slight one meter climb over the last one-hundred meters hobbled me to the finish line. I staggered. I winced with the pain that any marathon runner has felt when doing whatever it takes to finish. In fact, I knew I should have stopped after the first lap of 13.1 miles. My legs were trashed and I told a woman at the aide station that I would walk the second lap and enjoy it. Perhaps it was pride or sheer insanity that caused me to begin those first steps away from the aide station in a jog and not a walk. Thirteen more miles and FINALLY I was done. I do not know how many more marathons I will run. I do know that with each one that I encounter and finish, I grow ever mentally stronger of what it will take to finish that last one and I honestly believe it is a long way off. RUN MORE!