My only regret was that it was a half marathon, not a full one. There seemed something poetic about the world ending 500 metres before the finishing line of the full 42 kilometres, rather than a meager 21km. Nonetheless, it was, at the time, a moment of pure euphoria, combined with a certain melancholy and a large dollop of ‘OMG I am the last prophet and I understand all the mysteries of the world’.
It would appear that severe dehydration and heat exhaustion can bring about this kind of delusional behavior, which may explain the somewhat unsubstantiated reports of people who lie in the sun, don’t drink any water and think that the big G is speaking to them. Unlike these layabouts, however, I did not see God. Instead, I saw myself writing a profound book on the end of the world and the untold secrets of the universe. As with any decent book, it was to begin in reverse chronological order, starting, of course, with the final words I uttered on my deathbed.
I sat up in the wheely bed, in what would be my final act, proclaiming: “I am the first genius. I understand it all now! There is no big explosion where the earth melts into the sun, no rapture, no second coming of the Big Bang: this is how it ends right here (in Sheffield’s Don Valley Stadium)”.
My thoughts then turned to posterity: “who will remember? Someone must write this down!” A strange thought perhaps, given that the end of the world was nigh. But there is some internal logic to lunacy, even if it can’t be retraced in retrospect. The nurses and doctors joined the cacophony: “just try and calm down now. Lie back down”. I repeated their words as if there was some profound hidden meaning that was so obvious to me, and which, if only it could be written, would be understood by everyone.
Seeing a concerned paramedic lurking close by I shifted focus: “There is an old man behind the curtain. I see his eyes. I can’t see his eyes anymore; he cowers away. Why are you afraid? It is you, you will remember! You will be the scribe! You are the first genius!” This train of thought continued for some time, and may have included some widespread declarations of love (including for my girlfriend’s father), the soiling of three different doctors clothing through strategic projectile vomiting (the nurses, with their superior foresight in such matters, escaped unscathed) and some proclamations on the inevitability of incest at the end of the world (I think I borrowed that last one from Gabriel Garcia Marquez).
As the diazepam kicked in I lay back down, sedated and somewhat disappointed that the trip was over. The uncomfortable awareness crept up on me: “They had heard all of that, and it seems a whole lot less profound on reflection”.