Beardsley had come off Heartbreak with Salazar breathing down his neck. The crowd pressed so close there was barely a path to run through. They were screaming so loud he couldn’t hear himself think. He couldn’t feel his legs. They seemed to belong to somebody else.
Twenty-one miles into the eighty-sixth Boston Marathon, and he was running a stride in front of the great Salazar, who must be hurting too. Because if Salazar wasn’t fried, he would have blown past him by now.
Five more miles was unthinkable. Beardsley decided he’d just go one more mile. That would be easy—or at least possible. Stay ahead of Salazar for one more mile. After that—well, he’d think of something.
He couldn’t feel his legs. One more mile.
Meanwhile, Salazar was hurting. Shards of pain splintered up from Salazar’s left hamstring. Sometime during the last few miles he had stopped sweating. His singlet had stiffened, as if covered in dried blood.
All that mattered now was not losing. That made things simple. He could forget about his time and focus on that single and sovereign goal. He might lose a ten-thousand-meter race to a Henry Rono, but he did not lose marathons, especially to a palooka in a painter’s cap. Any moment now Beardsley might blow up and drop away like a disintegrating booster rocket. If he could maintain the pace, then it would simply be a matter of outkicking him.