Continued from Part 1.
After I handed off the baton to our next runner, we leap frogged the rest of our runners into the early evening. We had a blast cheering on our runners, ringing the cowbell, and chatting with our teammates and other runners. Our last runner finished just as the sun went down, and handed off the baton to the first runner in van #1, and we drove to the next major exchange (#18), stopping for some dinner along the way. At the exchange area, we tried to get some sleep. Cramped in an SUV with 5 others didn't make for very comfortable sleeping arrangements, though. I think I slept about 30 minutes before it was time to get up and meet van #1.
Somewhere around 1:00 am, our van's first runner got the baton, and took off for his 7-ish miles along the quiet highway. We met him three times along the course to give him water and encouragement (and cowbell). During one of our stops, we saw a police car, with lights flashing, fly by us. We then headed to the next exchange where I was to get ready for my 8.8 mile run. When we arrived, the volunteers said the parking lot was full. I jumped out, downed a gel and some water, and they directed the driver to pull back out on the highway and park on the shoulder. When I thought our first runner was getting close, I pulled off my jacket and pants, and headed to the start line. As I was waiting, they told us that there was a serious accident down the road, and the road was blocked, and that they weren't letting anyone go yet. So, we waited and waited. Our runner arrived to pass off the baton, and we waited some more. And then some more. Then, they finally told us that, due to the accident, everyone was to go directly to exchange 24, skipping legs 20-24 all together. Needless to say, we were all disappointed, but our thoughts were with the runner, or the volunteer, or the individual with no association with the race whatsoever (the rumors were flying, and nobody really knew what was going on).
At exchange 24 (where van #1 would have been scheduled to run), we were told that they would be starting everybody from that exchange, but there was a lot of confusion as to what was to be done with the rest of the legs. It turns out that we could pretty much do whatever we wanted. We contacted van #1, and found out that our captain was sick and not able to run again, her husband was hurting, and everybody else was indifferent on whether they ran their final leg or not. So, we decided that van #2 would run the 6 legs van #1 would have run (legs 25-30), and three of us would join three of van #1 for the final six legs of the race.
Coming out of exchange 24, I ran the first leg of 8.5 miles, all of which was uphill. Prior to starting, the accident was really getting to me. It put a real damper on everything. None of this mattered. Somebody was hit by a car, badly injured, or dead for all we knew. But once I started running, I began to feel invigorated, grateful to have the opportunity to run, grateful to be alive. As I ran, the sun was just starting to rise. A new day was beginning, and the world was brightening. I was filled with energy, and hardly noticed the hill. I began passing person after person, encouraging them as I passed. And my teammates were there for me, cheering me on. I reached the end of that 8.5 mile long hill with all smiles in an hour and 2 minutes, wishing I had said I'd run that last 8 mile run instead of the 3.3 miles in the last stretch to the finish.
Click here for Part 3.