The annual marathon usually occurs during a heat wave. Lisa’s job was to follow behind the runners in an ambulance in case any of them needed medical attention. The driver and her were in an air-conditioned ambulance behind thousands of athletes waiting to hear the sharp crack of the starting gun.
“We’re supposed to stay behind the last runner, so take it slowly,” Lisa said to the driver, Doug, as they began to creep forward.
“Let’s just hope the last runner is fast!” Doug laughed.
As the runners began to pace themselves, the front runners started to disappear. It was then that Lisa noticed the woman in blue silk running shorts and a baggy with T-shirt.
They knew they were already watching their “last runner”. Her feet were turned in, yet her left knee was turned out. Her legs were so crippled and bent that it seemed impossible for her to be able to walk, let alone run a marathon.
Lisa and Doug watched in silence as she slowly moved forward. They didn’t say a word. They would move forward a little bit, then stop and wait for her to gain some distance. Then they’d slowly move forward a little bit more.
As Lisa watched the woman struggle to put one foot in front of the other, she found herself breathing for her and urging her forward. She wanted the woman to stop, and at the same time, she prayed that she wouldn’t.
Finally, the woman was the only runner left in sight. Tears streamed down Lisa’s face as she sat on the edge of her seat and watched with awe, amazement and even reverence as the woman pushed forward with sheer determination through the last miles.
When the finish line came into sight, trash lay everywhere and the cheering crowds had long gone home. Yet, standing straight and ever so proud waited a lone man. He was holding one end of a ribbon of crepe paper tied to a post. The woman slowly crossed through, leaving both ends of the paper fluttering behind her.
Lisa does not know this woman’s name, but this woman became a part of her life since that day – a part she often depends on. For the woman, it wasn’t about beating the other runners or winning a trophy, it was about finishing what she had set out to do, no matter what. When Lisa thinks things are too difficult or too time consuming, or she gets the thought of “I just can’t do it”, she thinks of the last runner. Then she realizes how easy the task before her really is.