Everything was ready. As one of the official
sponsors of the marathon, all I had to do was show up, or not. My check had already been cashed.
I hurried to the starting gate only to learn
that my boys hadn’t arrived yet. I was beginning to worry.
I’d had a sleepless night and had found
them on the outcrop at NIMR as sleepless as I. It was going to be a hard day
for them. Running a 26.2 mile marathon is no easy task. Both were fit enough, medically speaking, but oh the trials and tribulations
getting a runner to pace themselves properly so they’re not at the point
of exhaustion before the finish.
At least I’d managed to get some hot
soup into them as soon as I’d demanded they come out of the damp, and have breakfast later, even if I had to force feed
them. Complex carbs are very important for such a task as a long long run.
Since none of us could sleep, and since I
doubted lack of it would make any difference to their athleticism, I decided to regale them with the fascinating differences
between the varieties of plankton around the world. Lee was asleep in minutes. Not so Chip. He was more worried about Lee’s
mind set and began to tell me about the huge guilt trip Lee was putting on himself should he (God forbid) come in last or
have to withdraw.
Why should I be surprised. Lee thinks the
world of his crew, and would do anything not to disappoint them. But Chip said it was probably more about disappointing me.
I hadn’t been pushing him, had I? That had been Morton’s prerogative. Proud
of Lee, yes, and proud that Chip had decided to take up the gauntlet when Lee had registered him as an entrant too, but pushing
them? Okay, so maybe I’d told them that too many times.
Well, if I was going to push, I might as well
push Chip to get a few more zzz’s in himself, and made him use the recliner ‘to just stretch out a bit’.
In the meantime I made sure the alarm was
set in plenty of time for them to get up. As double insurance, I called Jamison and suggested he go get the boy’s gear
and meet them here so they didn’t have to drive home first .
Breakfast would be waiting for when they woke up. Well, okay, some of those frozen egg and biscuits were in the freezer. At
least I thought they were allowed on Chip’s regimen. If not, they could
choose carte blanche from the cafeteria. My treat.
I had to be at the marathon’s command
center well before Lee and Chip
would even be up. Yes, Chip had fallen asleep almost as soon as I’d levered the recliner backwards. I would have to
wish them luck at the starting gate, I thought cheerfully as I left the apartment,
seeing Will’s car drive up.
But now, back to the present, as most of the runners had already signed in and were milling around doing stretching exercises, I was
beginning to wonder what was keeping them. Tripping down the stairs? An accident? ONI? The SecNav? The President? Were they
waylaid by some urgent mission to save the world and it was only a matter of time before someone called me back to NIMR and
Finally I saw them, a bit smudged, as they
left Jamison, and headed to the sign in table.
‘We had a flat,’ Doc explained
at my scowl, as if it explained everything, which it did. Did I ever feel a fool for having let all those ‘what if’s
run around in my head.
A gentle nudge directed me to the sponsor’s
tent, which had an elevated dais and uninterrupted view of the start, and I asked Doc to join me. I couldn’t help noticing
that he had his Dr.’s bag with him, as if he was expecting further trouble. But there was no time to ask.
The officials were pleading for silence as
they recapped the rules for the waiting throng of runners. There was no rhyme or reason to where anyone was in that crowd.
I couldn’t see my boys at all.
Then the starters’ pistol fired.
Sharkey , across the road with several of
the crew waving signs and banners, suddenly pointed toward me, and I finally saw Lee and Chip take the hint and turned their
faces toward my side of the road. They smiled and waved as they had apparently done for the crew, then resumed to the business of running this race and seemed to be in some sort of discussion. Or was it an argument? Was Chip yelling at him? Was Lee yelling back?
Oh lord, it was going to be a long long day.