Jenny opened the official-looking letter with shaking fingers. She was two weeks overdue on her rent so she had been expecting an eviction notice any day.
The company she worked for had gone bust so she had lost her job, and she had been searching for another one for over a week now without any luck.
Jenny read the first few lines of the letter which included “inherited $1,000,000.”
Her hands were shaking and she suddenly felt like she might faint, as she slumped down into her lounge chair.
“This can’t be right, it must be sent to the wrong person!”
She picked up the envelope she had dropped and checked it.
There it was, her name and address, which was also on the top of the letter.
Jenny slowly read the letter again. It was from a solicitor, for the estate of a Mr John Stevenson. Apparently he was an uncle somewhere on her Father’s side of the family. She had never heard of him before, but then, she had a lot of relatives on her Father’s side she had never seen or heard of.
When her Mother and Father had split up, her Father had disappeared and she had never heard from him or any of his family, ever again.
“Why would any of his family leave money to me? They don’t even know me! This has to be a mistake!”
Jenny continued reading the letter, out of curiosity. The inheritance was hers, but there was a catch.
To be able to claim the inheritance she had to run a marathon, not just any marathon, a thirty kilometre marathon, and also win it!
“Well that’s that!” she thought. “There is no way I can run a marathon, let alone win one!
“Look at me, I’m several kilos overweight, never been inside a gym or ever been on an exercise program, never tried to diet, and eat whatever I like! Me, run a marathon, they have to be kidding!” She threw the letter aside in disgust.
Although she tried to persuade herself that she couldn’t possibly do it, the $1,000,000 kept swimming before her eyes.
Jenny thought about having all that money. She could buy her own flat and never have to worry about paying rent again. She could probably live comfortably and never have to work again, just concentrate on her writing and painting hobbies.
It all sounded wonderful, but also so far out of reach.
Jenny decided to show the letter to her best friend Susan, when they met up for coffee the following day.
Susan’s eyes dilated and her mouth dropped open.
“Really!” Cried Susan, as she read the letter. “You’re a millionaire!”
“Not yet, keep reading.” jenny said.
“Oh, well that’s bad luck, how on earth are you going to do that?’ Susan asked. “Six months isn’t a long time to prepare for a marathon!”
Jenny had neglected to read the last few lines of the conditions which stated that ‘the marathon would be held along the coastal road, in six months time. She had to register by the end of next month to be in the race.’
“What!” Jenny snatched the letter out of Susan’s hands and scanned it again. “Oh no, this just gets worse by the minute! I can’t possibly do it in six months, it would take me more like six years!” She groaned.
Susan looked at her incredulously. “You are not seriously thinking about throwing in the towel, are you? Jenny, that money would let you live comfortably for the rest of your life! You have to have a go at this!”
Jenny looked at Susan and smiled.
“Thanks Susan, that’s what I wanted to hear. You have to promise you will stay with me on this journey though, I can’t do it alone!”
“Jenny we are best friends, of course I’ll be with you all the way, through thick and thin. Oops, sorry about the pun!” Susan and Jenny laughed together, which helped to break the seriousness of the moment.
“Okay, where do we start?”
“Well from today you are now on a strict sports diet, guess that was the last of our weekly coffees! Oh, and you can move in with me from tomorrow, we need to be together to plan this out properly.
You will also have to book in to the gym for leg strength exercises, and do a daily run, starting off with a couple of blocks and increasing the run every few days. I will do it all with you, I could do with some exercise as well!” Susan laughed as she eyed her behind in the shop window.
From that day Jenny’s life changed dramatically. She found a part-time job to help pay the rent and immediately went on a strict diet.
For the first few weeks her stomach wondered what had happened, and she felt like she was starving to death. Gradually her body got used to the smaller amounts of high energy food, and she realised that as well as losing weight, she actually felt great, full of energy and vitality.
When she started at the Gym she almost gave up in the first few hours. Sweating and gasping for air and she’d only done a couple of exercises!
The Gym leader showed no mercy after she had told her about the marathon, in six months time.
By the end of the first month Jenny had lost four kilos, felt wonderful, and could run eight blocks. Her goal seemed to be getting closer every day. Susan kept her word and was with her at the Gym, and during her runs.
They both went to Barnborough on the coast, and both registered for the marathon.
The man at the desk smiled at Jenny. “Ever done this before Miss?
We have fifty contestants so far, some of the best marathon runners in the State!”
Susan stepped in front of Jenny. “Well you are looking at two of the best runners, right here. Would you like our autographs now, or after we win this race?”
The man laughed out loud. “With spunk like that I bet you can!
I’ll be waiting at the finish line for my autograph, when you win!”
The next five months flew by in a whirl of exercises, running and salads.
It was finally the week leading up to the big race day.
“Susan, I feel so wonderful! I wish I had done this years ago!”
“You are doing brilliantly Jenny, and you’re right, I feel incredible as well!”
“If we pull this off I am going to throw the biggest party bash you’ve ever seen!” jenny said.
In the last few days Jenny ran the thirty kilometres, twice, to make sure she could do it. Now she knew she was ready. “Bring it on!”
The day of the marathon Jenny and Susan lined up with about sixty other hopefuls. Some of them looked the girls up and down like they had no hope. Which only spurred them on.
Jenny and Susan took off together as the starter pistol rang in their ears.
By the ten kilometre mark Susan was starting to slow down a little, but Jenny was up there with the leaders making sure to breathe properly, grabbing a sip of water now and then and felt really good.
As they passed the twenty kilometre board, Susan was nowhere to be seen, she was still there but a long way back. Jenny was starting to feel the pressure as other contestants decided to go past her. She needed to put on a little speed to keep up with them. With two kilometres left Jenny was up front with four others. She kept pace with them right up until she had the finish line in sight, then she took off.
She had been holding back for a long time so now she put everything she had left, into the last half a kilometre.
Two contestants were keeping up but as the finish line loomed in front of her she threw herself forward. She was so tired, gasping for breath on the ground as people milled around her with drinks and towels. The last kilometre had been a blur, she had no idea if she had won, but she knew she had to have come close.
About a minute later Susan collapsed beside her, too out of breath to speak they just looked at one another and smiled.
Suddenly someone pulled Jenny up and shoved her forwards. People were patting her on the back and yelling “Congratulations!”
It took her a few minutes to realise what was happening, then an elderly man placed a green ribbon around her neck.
“Hi Jenny, my name is Geoff Stevenson and I organise this event every year. It was first organised in 1948 by my late Father, John.
“Oh my goodness you are his son! The J. Stevenson in the letter I got from the solicitor!”
“Yes I am, and you have just won the marathon, so you know what that means?”
When she came to she was laying on a blanket under a tree and Susan was sitting beside her with a worried look on her face.
Jenny sat bolt upright. “Where is he? The man who put the sash on me?
He is the son of my benefactor, who is supposed to be leaving me $1,000,000!”
Susan handed her a letter. “He told me to give you this letter.”
Jenny ripped open the envelope.
The letter was from the solicitor, telling her to please be at the reading of the will where she will formally be given the cheque for the amount of $1,000,000.
“We did it Susan, we actually did it!
Now to get back home and organise this party of a lifetime!”
They both laughed and hugged each other, as jenny thanked her best friend for being on this journey with her.
“Thank you so much Susan, I could never have done it without you by my side!”
Susan and Jenny are still best of friends, fifty years later, with families of their own to share the story with.
Jenny tried to get in touch with Geoff Stevenson for several months, but gave up, and she never saw him ever again.