The woman at the end of the race power walked on the heels of the pace car.. I almost missed her arrival because nobody cheered or clapped excitedly like when they had seen the other runners. My job was to act as a traffic controller and stop oncoming vehicles from making either a left or a right turn onto the corner from the side street between the Bank of America and the church. Many drivers were enraged that they would have to walk to Starbucks or Mincer’s from the Bank of America parking lot. I shrugged and continued to gesture to drivers that they must turn around and reverse down the wrong way OR wait until the last runner passed the bank. Many chose to idle and wait for the last runner, but where was she or he?
I was so busy arguing with a woman about the safety issues involved if she tried to maneuver her car through an opening between runners that I almost missed the last runner. The police car lights caught my eye and I swiveled around mid sentence. There she was. Running alone at 9 am, almost 20 minutes behind the last few racers we had seen. I mentally checked her number and began to clap and cheer this woman on. I admired her strength to run the race in the cold, alone on the heels of the pace car. To my surprise, she smiled and stopped for a second. “Thank you for staying to make sure I was safe and cheer me on. It was important to me,” she said. I smiled and yelled that I wouldn’t have missed her run for the world and mustered one more rousing good luck. For a minute, I watched her determinedly walk up the hill. To me, she was the most inspiring runner because her spirit was unyielding.
The car in front of me menacingly inched forward and a woman rolled down her window to kindly as me if now she could drive to the dry cleaners. The race was over and all the runners were safe. I reluctantly lifted my hands in the air and signaled that all the cars can now move freely on the streets again. I do not know if the last runner finished the race, but in my eyes she will always be the winner of the race. The Charlottesville 10 miler was a race of endurance–this woman mentally surpassed the front runners!