The parking lot was as crowded as I thought it would be.
Doc said he'd check in our gear at the two aid station’s we’d decided
on to refresh ourselves with more than the water or Gatorade that was available all along the course, and for us just to just
get our six’s to the sign in table. If we could find it, that was.
It didn’t help my tracking skills that I was worried
about Lee. We’d had a flat on the way and the
jack slipped out of my hand, landing, you guessed it, right smack on top of his foot. But Lee being Lee, he dared me with one look to just try to say anything to Doc, still in the car. He even jumped up and down a few times to prove he was fine.
Well, after we signed in and attached the organization
committee’s electronic timers to our shoes (to monitor our speed and distance) Lee
urged me to take a spot further back in the crowd with him. He said being in
front was a recipe for over confidence. That it made one start out too fast. But even I knew it was so Doc wouldn’t see us. Which meant that Lee was feeling
Lee knew and I knew and Lee knew that I knew that it was
Doc’s self-appointed and sacred duty to track him down if Lee had so much as a wince, and like a big game hunter, haul him away to Sick Bay (or the
closest hospital in this case). Hippocratic oath and all that.
I should have told
Doc, I chided myself as the officials regaled us with another rendition of
Bang. The swarm of humanity which surrounded us moved as
one when the starter’s pistol began the race and quickly removed any lingering doubt about Lee. He was actually smiling.
Or was it a smirk. No longer his trainer, just a fellow competitor, I decided to match my pace with him, for a while anyway,
until everyone would put their individual engines into
over- drive, when it became a speed test as well as endurance.
Oh, I’d heard the gossip when I’d first begun
to train Lee for this event. ‘Why, of all people,’ Ski had wondered
aloud to his friends, had the Skipper
regaled me as his trainer then I hadn’t even run more than a five mile race myself?’
I have a big mouth, and know just when to use it." Yes, that was the reason Lee had blackmailed me with to take on the job.
But now, as a registered runner myself, I knew it was also because of Lee’s
firm belief that I also knew how to keep the finish line in my sights even when
it looked abysmal ever reaching it.
I was sure either
Lee or I would win, never mind the fact that neither of us had run a marathon before.
We were fit. We were Navy (Reserve anyway). We were ready and I proved it by moving just a tad faster.
Of course, as my mind returned to the business at hand,
I began to realize my confidence in our abilities might have been overstated. Especially as Lee edged closer to my side.
“You okay, bud?” he asked. “Slow down…walk.
Give yourself a chance to catch your breath…”
“Oh- shut- up!” I yelled .
“If you can’t speak without gasping you’re
moving too fast. If you can sing, you’re moving to slow…you told me that yourself.”
“I told ..you a.. lot of things,” I managed
and stopped to catch my breath, my hands on my knees. “Got it from… a documentary…and you know.. damn well..
I didn’t get… in enough… distance… training for myself.
Too… much time… on the golf cart I guess.”
“That’s not going to stop you, is it? C’mon
let’s start up again,” he began to trot, “slower , Chip…like this…we’ll pick up the pace
again after the next aid station. Not too far from here. You gotta’ pee?”
“No, I don’t gotta’ pee!”
“Sorry. No offence.”
move on ahead of me Lee.”
“Lee,” I warned, finally able to jog and breathe
at the same time again, “the jack did hurt you,
didn’t it? Is that why you’ve been pacing along with me all this time instead of going on ahead?”
“No…I’m just not going to do myself in
before I hit the wall. It does hurt
a little, but nothing to complain about…c’mon, you’re slowing down too much now…pick it up.”
“No. You go on ahead, Lee. I don’t think I
can do this,” I whined, “twenty six miles….”
“Yes, you can. You’re talking without gasping
aren’t you? You’re doing fine.”
“Like hell I am! And you can’t order me around
here, Lee Crane!”
“Well, if you really don’t want to win…” he left me behind with a smirk.
“Watch me!” I sprinted to catch up with him, only to hear him reciting some rather
risqué rhymes to help keep him (and
me, the sneak) at the new pace. How long could I keep up…all that bragging
to myself, to the crew, about our abilities… I was beginning to wish I’d never accepted the challenge for myself.
It was a bit of a surprise when I realized that I was beginning
to outpace him and wondered if he was ‘letting’ me get too over confident,
when suddenly he passed me, again. Oh no you don’t, Lee Crane, I increased
my pace. The race was on.
We’d been out pacing each other off and on when I realized he hadn’t come near for the
past fifteen minutes. Another foghorn blaring indicating ‘runner down’
to the medical teams made me turn to look behind to see if he was lying down gasping for breath like felt like doing. But
there he was as if he was simply jogging, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine,
and merrily waved. Psychological torture, he was using now, was he?
When 30 minutes had passed and Lee hadn’t caught
up, (or wouldn’t), I began to worry. Maybe that foot was beginning to bother
him. I wasn’t going to look back when I heard another foghorn, but it was no use. After all, in spite of him being a
pain in the butt at times, he’s still my friend, and my CO. The crew would never forgive me if something happened to
him and I didn’t even bother to check.
But when I did see him, he seemed fine. He even waved and
stuck out his tongue. I could see the sweat had already begun to curl his hair, but it wasn’t dripping all the way down
into his socks like mine was.
What the heck had we been thinking? We were sub drivers,
not marathon runners! And I had to pee. Really bad. Would I ever be able to start over after the short respite? But nature
called and I stopped at port-a- potty station to relieve myself, then slug down another paper cup of Gatorade. Hydrate, bud,
hydrate…that’s what I’d stressed to Lee. It was in all the runner’s magazines. But where was he, I
wondered as I resumed my pace. Probably way up ahead now and I’d never
And so I’d barely given the new foghorn’s alarm
much thought as I’d moved further along, until I noticed some of the spectators, including more than a few from Seaview,
running down the road behind me.
I didn’t know the if the rules allowed one to actually
turn around, (would that be an automatic disqualification?) So I ran backwards.
When I reached Lee, he was indeed down. He was rolling
on the road, holding his knee (badly scraped and bleeding) with one hand while using
the other to hold onto of all things, a dog.
“No!” he was yelling as Sharkey tried to help
him up, “Don’t touch me…don’t help! You’ll disqualify
me! I’m fine, get a vet! I think I hurt her…”
Kowalski took charge of the frightened animal, and Lee promptly got up. Or tried to.
“Damn,” he gasped, as he sat, (or fell, I couldn’t
quite tell which) and held his ankle now.
“Lee?” I asked, bending down.
“I think I sprained it. Strained, it. Something anyway.”
“Give it up Lee,” I ordered. “C’mon. Let’s go home.”
Of course, he did what he always does best. He ignored
me. “Kowalski, how’s the dog?”
scared than anything, Skipper. There’s a collar……”
of nowhere. I tripped right over her…and I think she’s pregnant.”
“Well, don’t look at me,” I replied,
‘C’mon Lee, you’re out of the race.”
“You go on ahead. You can win this Chip,” he
said as one of the approaching officials started to examine him.
“Yeah sure. Like when hell freezes over. I’ll be lucky to finish…”
“Ow! Take it easy will you” Lee complained as he was prodded and poked by the course medics.
He has a bad
foot too,” I told them.
“I knew it, I knew it!” Jamison arrive via
another golf cart and bent down to minister to the patient. Or at least tried
“It’s okay,” I told the officials who
barred his way, “he’s a doctor. Has a stethoscope and everything.”
“Doc?” Lee yelped, “thank God you’re
here. No, not for me! For the dog! Over there…she’s hurt! Chip? What are you still doing here? You’re
losing time! Get going.”
I still hesitated.
I guess that ‘no man left behind’ so ingrained is us…
“What’s the matter with you. Move it!”
“You can do it Mr. Morton,” Sharkey said, in
full agreement with the rest of our support team.
Well of course I knew I could do it, finish at least, hopefully
without dropping dead like that very first ancient Greek messenger.
“Please Chip?” Lee pleaded, looking very much
like that little boy again.
Well, that clinched it. I straightened up and said,
“Take care of him Doc,” and began to run.
It was when I was at mile 19’s aid station downing another Gatorade, (I was beginning to
hate the stuff) when I heard some of the volunteers at the table speaking about ‘one of Nelson’s boys half walking, half stumbling, refusing to withdraw from the race.
Lee was still in the race? How the devil did he manage
to get out of Doc’s clutches? For that matter, where was Doc? Where were our men? And how the devil could Lee put any
weight on either leg?
I was beginning to become an expert and running backwards.
“What the hell are you doing ?” Lee scolded
see this for myself. Are you insane, Lee? Did you hit your head in that tumble or something? You can barely walk, let alone
He said this, of course, while a few dribbles of blood oozed out from under the officially approved knee brace, and was trying hard not to stumble
all the while the ankle brace was making walking difficult. As for his foot, well, he’d had to unlace most of the
ties to allow for the swelling. All in all, he did not look like a happy camper,er, runner.
going to finish the course, Mr. Morton, come hell or high water. Now will you get going? ”he managed as he half walked,
half jogged, or tried to, wincing with each move. “I’d like at least one of us to place.”
“That’d be a cute trick.”
can walk just a little faster, Lee, we might be able to make it to the finish line in time for supper.” (It was all
of noon right now.)
“What do you think. C’mon, now let’s
see…how'd that limerick go? There was young lady from….”
I can’t remember now how many times we added to that
limerick, as we pressed on, me trying hard to keep Lee’s mind off his pain, and trying harder still not to laugh at
some of our almost drunken sounded lyrics.
We’d reached the 18th mile when he suddenly
stopped, panting, bent over, both hands on his knee.
“Chip…I…I can’t …do…
“Belay that! Yes you can. You just think you can’t!”
“As if that's news! You can’t be all that badly
hurt if the course medics didn't pull you. Now…c’mon…only 8 more miles. Only 8 more…”
“So do I….so the sooner we finish, the sooner
we can take these damn shoes off!”
“You’re going to force me to the very end,
“That’s what you hired me for in the first
place wasn’t it?”
“You could have finished by now, if you hadn’t
stayed behind with me in the first place…”
“Enough already! Shut up and pick up the pace, Skipper."
I thought it best to use his superior position against him, then had a scintillating thought.
“’ll give you a doughnut, Lee. In fact, I’ll give you a dozen
of them. Jelly filled with powdered sugar on top…but only if…”
“If you just keep on. Now where were we…there
was a young lady from…”
so sick of that jingle I think I’ll puke.”
Puking is not a good sign for a runner. It could indicate
all sorts of problems. But would Lee forgive me if I let it affect him?
“Over there…”I pointed.
“It was metaphorical!”
“We’ll try something else. I know…hut,
two, three, four. Hut, two three…think Annapolis…think hell week.”
“Hell week has nothing on this.”
“Lee,” I stopped and stared at him. He really
did look sick. “Look, if you really want to stop…I can signal for a golf cart…maybe an ambulance. I mean
it Lee. Whatever you want…”
letting me quit?” he asked, incredulous, looking so bedraggled that I wasn’t
sure if I’d said the right thing. I really was ready to take him out, right then, but suddenly
he grinned. “Pick up the pace, then, Morton..’hut, two, three, four…Hut, two, three, four…”he
forced himself on. Step by agonizing step until we finally came to mile 26.
“Not much further, now,” I said, looking at
my watch and wondering if there’d be any food left at the finish line fiesta for the last two stragglers.
As we neared the .2 of the 26.2 mark of the course, we
could hear a lot of noise, then as we turned into the stretch, and could see the finish line there was yelling, and screaming.
we- do- wrong?” Lee panted, confusion showing on his face.
“Nothing! It’s a welcoming committee!”
It looked like the whole town of Santa Barbara was there
waiting for us, including the crew of Seaview, with Nelson, and Doc, cheering, waiting.
Waiting for us to cross that damn
‘Just a- couple- more- steps, Lee."
Well, he almost collapsed into my arms as soon as
we finished, but Doc was prepared
and aimed the waiting wheelchair so he fell right into it.
Nelson was at his side right away, saying something only Lee could hear. Doc wouldn’t let him talk long though
as the waiting Medevac truck lowered its wheelchair lift.
But before they could hoist Lee up into it, the winner,
with his medal gleaming around his neck called for quiet , and raising a glass of Champagne, made a toast to us. “To
the real victors! ”
come in last!
was the finest display of the sportsmanship and
the spirit of the marathon I've ever seen," he continued, "especially Mr. Morton’s sacrificing his own chance of a win,
however remote, to encourage a friend to the finish.”
“To Nelson’s boys!” one of the spectators
The cheers were still reverberating around my head as Nelson
finally managed to squeeze through the crowd and embraced me as the Medevac pulled away, “Well done, son, well done!”
“Well?” I demanded of Doc hours later , showered and changed into some sweats, as Lee finally emerged (in a wheelchair)cleaned up, from the NIMR Med Bay, arguing with Doc, who, instead of looking angry, seemed almost
happy he was. Lee just wasn’t Lee if he didn’t argue with him.
“He’ll live. Sprained ankle, bruised kneecap,
bruised foot. And if he’s smart, he won’t be doing any marathons in the near future. At least not any that have an
open course like Santa Barbra’s where a stray dog can collide with him.”
“No problem,” Lee said, “after all, the
Olympics are pretty good about keeping the way clear.”
At first I laughed with Doc and Nelson. But that smirk
“By the way, ”
Doc’s words interrupted my thoughts, “ the dog’s owners were
found thanks to an implanted microchip. Seems she got out of the back yard. Well, they’re giving
you first choice of the pups, if you want one, Lee. Apparently the shock of the collision rather induced labor.”
“Guess that kind of makes you top dog Lee!”
I nudged his shoulder.
“Ever doubt it?” Lee grinned back at me, then
scowled, “hey Chip, I thought you promised me some doughnuts…”
up, bro, coming right up…I know I left them someplace around here…”
It's nearing midnight now, and I can’t sleep. Lee
sort of fell asleep as Nelson hosted a kind of celebration in his office, and was promptly taken to his apartment upstairs.
I begged to hang around as I was sure he must be hurt
worse than Doc said. After all, I'd run, er...walked with him. So I was allowed to bunk here as well.
I told myself the insomnia was due to the recliner or that it was just the strain of the day, the aches and pains from
all that time on my feet…and an excess of jelly filled doughnuts. But I still couldn’t get the image of Lee’s
smirk out of my mind….
First thing tomorrow, I’m going to invest in one
of those little dog repellant noise things, those sonic things that they don’t like but we can’t hear….just