Please Don’t Hit the Wall

Submitted into Contest #235 in response to: Make a race an important element of your story.... view prompt

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Adventure Inspirational Creative Nonfiction

Please Don’t Hit the Wall…

By Kimberly LaBonte

Man come on, come on ….dig deep flip the switch. I kept waiting for the streets to thin out, but not a chance. All that keeps going through my mind is don’t slip and fall on those Dixie cups at the aid station. 

The air is still crisp,and I can see my breath. I take out another piece of Eclipse gum. It has always been my “lucky” gum and it is always the spearmint flavor. Runners, or at least myself in particular can be a bit superstitious. I always wear the same black shorts, white tank top, black long sleeve pullover, visor  gum, and playlist for every race. My music is always the same, something not too fast, and definitely not slow. It usually consists of 80’s metal. Metallica and Motley Crue lead me home with “If Darkness Had a Name,” and “Too Fast For Love.”

I see ahead my time at the split, and I am on my 8 minute mile pace. My brain processes this minor achievement and then focuses on the fact that I only 6.2 miles to go and I have completed the NYC marathon. 

I start to visualize the medal, how the weight is going to feel hanging around my neck..Wait Wait don’t go there yet. Stay focused, flip that switch.

I’ve  just turned the corner at the top of the park and heading down 95th on my way to 5th avenue. 

Legs are getting heavy, starting to do the familiar “marathon shuffle.”  

“Kim focus, there is no one here for you,  You gotta be here for you!”

 I nod my head down a bit and a little smile forms. If I could, I would close my eyes and figure out how to bottle the energy of the crowd. There is no place in the world like New York City, and running through these streets watching people yell, scream and holler for me! AND they don’t even know or care who I am!!!

Signs are everywhere….” Remember you paid money for this!”  “It’s all downhill now!” “Your legs hurt cause you’re kicking so much ass!!!!” Only in New York.  

The end is drawing near, and as I run past the reservoir, I see the end of the park in sight where I am going to turn right and head towards Columbus circle.

I am looking everywhere, where is my split? Where am I ? Doesn’t matter now, just start to kick…whatever you got…just go.!!! 

My arms start pumping. Legs, even though feeling heavy I am literally willing my feet to run like the wind…I look up and see the finish line, the grandstands…the announcer says my name…Congratulations!!!! 

I finished in 3 hours and 49 minutes. 

I feel the medal around my neck and the warming blanket they put around me that feels more like a cape. I start walking around the barriers and stop in front of the stairs leading down towards Bethesda Fountain…” Hey can you take a picture of me please?”  I say “thank you “and start to limp shuffle my way to my hotel The Surrey which is on 76 and 5th.  

I make it through the door and I see the giant picture of Kate Moss, giving me her faint smile of approval. I kinda giggle and make my way to the elevator and now it is starting to hit me. I am getting my usual post marathon nausea and feeling like I am going to pass out. I glance at the clock and it says 2:45p.m.

I barely make it into the shower and mentally set an alarm, you gotta be quick you have to make that flight home. 

I am in there a long time. 

So long in fact when I get out it is now 4pm…Oh man, Oh man, keep it together…Call down and have the doorman grab you a car.

 I can’t believe I forgot to arrange that …idiot!!  

Luckily the car is there, and I throw my gym bag in and tell him I'm flying American. Take me to Newark please. 

I exhale, and I look outside and see people everywhere, smiling, cheering, and some  walking with the finishers.

Wait Wait Wait!!! Hey I said Newark !! Where are you going?

“I thought you said La Guardia”

I look outside and realize we are speeding along the FDR. 

“NO NO NO….OMG my flight leaves at 530…I cannot miss it…it is the last flight out!!!”

“Lady listen, I don’t know what you want me to do. We gotta go thru the Lincoln, traffic is crazy cause of the marathon.”


“Woah seriously? Congratulations!!..HOLD ON!” he says.  

“Okay,just please please get me there.”

We come out the other side of the tunnel and speed towards Newark.I am staring at the time on my phone, praying that we make it. 

Miraculously,  he pulls up to the American terminal. I hurriedly shove the money in his hand and utter a “thank you!”

As I get out of the cab, I  glance at the time…4:50 p.m. 


I start willing my legs to move, shuffle, do anything just anything to keep moving forward. I pass people on the escalator hollering, “please please I am gonna miss my flight!”

I run up to security and start to run through but realize the medal is still around my neck. Crap.

“HEY Congratulations!!!”

“Thanks any chance you can call ahead? …Please  can you call the gate, and have them hold the plane?”

I run through security and grab my bag, and slide my poor aching swollen feet into my running shoes. I then notice I have some blisters that need bandaids. 

Just when I think there is no way in hell I am gonna make this flight, one of those golf carts  pulls up with the light flashing…”JUMP IN!!”

( No way!no way! Ok just run with it!) We speed up to the gate and I am literally the only person in the area. I look up at the board and see that I am at the right gate, but the real question is am I too late?

I jump out of the cart and run/limp to the gate.  

The flight attendant smiles, and says,”take a deep breath …you made it!!!”

I struggle with my bag, down the jet way and as I step into the plane I hear this, “Ladies and gentleman…the reason we were holding at the gate was for this New York City Marathon Finisher!!! Congratulations Kimberly!!!!!!” 

The entire plane starts clapping and cheering!!!! And for one tiny moment in time…I was on top of the world.

January 28, 2024 23:39

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1 comment

Conrado Maher
12:41 Feb 04, 2024

I find it amazing that people can finish a marathon, then turn around and travel back home the same day after putting their bodies through the experience - I think I get that they have lives and work to get back to and that the cost of accommodations in NYC is non-trivial. I think I also get that to some people it might not be such a big deal if they have run multiple marathons. Do you think including your motivation for going back home the day would have added to the story?


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