Marathon, or Just One More Walk?

All I need is 32 kms to meet today’s goal.

The last thing I want is to walk by the bases after today.

When the jets fly over, Chelsey says, pretend you’re Reef. Brilliant idea: that grandson of mine would give anything to see a fighter jet fly so low you can’t hear yourself think.

I start under grey skies. Dare the sodden clouds. Will my eyes to see like Reef’s.

Even when my buddy’s message pings, how far today? Even when Geo checks in and I say just farther than last time. Even when I remind myself that driving 42 kms on this island can take forever, I know I’ll try to make Naha.

I can’t remember how far that is. At the bottom end of our village I saw the 38km sign so it’s at least 40. No way. You have to. Can’t possibly. Can too.

At Nakadomari my heart jumps: yaki imo, yaki imo. The sweet potato truck! I run to the seawall, shouting–I hope–stop, stop! Version 2Yaki Imo man waits for me to catch up, his face wide open in a smile.

Stretched out on the seawall, I decide: this potato will take me to Naha, my own private marathon.IMG_4791

No cheering squad. No pasta dinner on Marathon Eve. No number, no checkpoints, no finish line. The flip side of a marathon, really. The Truman Show in reverse: from the start I know it’s fake.  Who knows how it’ll end.IMG_4798

There’s the jungle from Yamada bridge again.

Today will be hard enough that the Yamada bridge photo is one of the few I take. At this point, the rain holds off but the clouds lay thick and low. Even on a clear day this view isn’t what I’d call spectacular. But I get a kick out of standing on Yamada bridge when the trucks pass and the deck shivers beneath me.

12.5 kms to OkiHam. I take a big drink, then pee in one of the stainless steel stalls behind the gift shop. Four reflections of me on a toilet. I don’t know whether to close my eyes or photograph it. Stretch at the steps out back. That last sunny day, I shot the largest pig from a different angle, to show how tall he is.IMG_4744 I’m tempted beyond decency again to photograph his balls (big as my head?) but can’t bring myself to it, especially with the busload of tourists pointing their cameras at me.

New York, Boston, Honolulu–they shut down traffic for those marathons. There are portapotties and music and people passing you Gatorade. Maybe one day.

Once down south, I can’t decide what’s worse for my Onna Marathon: the traffic or the rain. I take only three more photos. These two, to prove I went the distance…

and one more.

That all sounds like whining. It’s not so bad. No cheering squads, but the clerk at the last convenience store I pee at (where I also buy a towel so I can dry off for the bus) encourages me–in English: have a nice day; be careful. I saw myself in the bathroom mirror so I know why she adds that last bit, bless her heart.

For music I listen to tracks in my head: The Happy Wanderer, Great is Thy Faithfulness, The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York (now I’m the lucky one…). I make Christmas lists and watch out for blocked drains and bad drivers. My walking App says Naha bus terminal is the 42 km mark. The terminal is virtual, too. IMG_4804They’re still preparing the ground to rebuild so I do a victory lap around the construction site, looking for pole #14. The attendant promises me (I think) that 120 North will be there shortly.

I text Geo a picture of “Welcome to Naha” and reassure him I can go the distance. That now means waiting in the night rain for the two-hour bus ride home.

  1. Walk south
  2. Further than last time
  3. Stop before dark
  4. Bus home

True to form, when I hobble off the bus, Geo’s waiting to drive me the 300 metres to our front door.

Wouldn’t you know it: not only have I not walked a real bells-and-whistles marathon; I haven’t even gone the distance for an official race walk. Seven kilometres short. Next time, maybe.





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