I made my move at mile 22.
I’d been trailing my nemesis for a dozen miles. The half-mile cutoff was 2:50, and I rolled through at 2:43, so I had plenty of room to spare, although, by this point, I’d given up on my goal of 5:30.
My nemesis was wearing a red shirt. I could see them a quarter to a half-mile ahead of me for several hours. I’d get a little closer, and then they’d pull away.
At mile 14.5, a timing device was set up, presumably to ensure the marathoners were on the second loop. I noticed the guy monitoring it (who later I learned was named Nate) picking up the cones after I went through.
I asked, “Am I in last place?”
“That’s a new experience for me. I guess I have a goal besides finishing.”
“Not coming in last.”
I knew I had several hours to catch the person in the red shirt. There was no rush. I took it easy and just cruised through miles 14 to 22. My new friend Nate the Great was at each water stop, packing things into his U-Haul after I passed. Since Red Shirt wasn’t really pulling away much, I’d stop, fill up my water bottle, and chat with Nate.
At mile 22, I picked up the pace. The last three miles of the course were on the Rail Trail. The nice people in New Hampshire considerately paint all the rocks and tree roots on the trail white, so it was a particularly delightful place to pass Red Shirt. As I went by, Red Shirt kind of groaned, and I said, “You got this,” which seemed to be the mantra for this race.
Nate was waiting for me at mile 23, ensuring I was still on the trail.
He said, “Looks like you did it.”
“Yup. Second to last place is more fun than last, but I’ve still got a few miles to go.”
“You got this.”
Yup. I sure did. New Hampshire is State #26 on my quest to run a marathon in every state. I haven’t done many in the past few years, and I’m getting slower as I get older. But I know how to get 26.2 miles done, no matter what the pace (I haven’t had a single DNF in all my efforts.)
The small marathons are my favorites. Other than looking at Red Shirt’s back for a long time, I was alone for most of the marathon, which is one of my favorite ways to exist on your planet.