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Buoyed by strangers

Words of encouragement from those on the race route

By Carlo Rotella
October 28, 2011

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Recently I ran the Baystate Marathon in Lowell. Tired, hurt, castigating myself for yet again not training more diligently, I had reached the familiar stage of woe-far enough into the race to have begun to suffer and retroactively hate myself for starting it, yet far enough from the finish that the thought of running the rest of it is an additional source of suffering and a cause to proactively hate myself for insisting on finishing it-the snakes and everything else become freighted with sinister resonances of meaning. The road signs speak new truths. Slow down, they warn. Watch your speed. I should have done that earlier in the race, and now I was paying for it. Marathon on Sunday; Expect Significant Delays. As I seized up and faded, I felt that the signs were talking to me. Right about then, I heard an actual voice from the side of the road calling, ”Come on, Kah Lo, you got this.” This year, the race organizers printed each runner’s first name just above his or her number. I found myself strangely buoyed by the next voice: ”Cwah-los! Lookin’ good.” I looked awful, no doubt, but I began to appreciate the goodwill of strangers who would make the effort to lie to me about it.

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