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Friday, August 27, 2004

The race is over, let the party begin!

August 27--The race is over, let the party begin!

Another amazing Olympic experience to cherish, if only I could remember anything from the race. There are just a few flashes, glimpses, fleeting memories that linger in my mind: the rush of emotion as I stepped out onto the Olympic track under the glare of lights; the dim light of dawn in the stadium as we waited for the starter's pistol; the steady drum of my heartbeat as I settled into a rhythm on the road away from the track to the 2km circuit; the deafening whistles, bells and shouts of the exuberant Polish fans who cheered for every walker but especially their pride and joy, winner Robert Korzienowski; the shadows of trees, buildings, and clouds passing over the sun forming an unpredictable mosaic of light and dark on the road, across my line of sight; thinking of the shadows on the river Styx and wondering if I had my Greek mythology right and thinking, 'Why am I thinking this? Focus;' the steady dull ache of tired hamstrings and sharper, more acute pangs of blisters as they formed then popped late in the race to moisten shoes and socks; the brief emotional crisis late in the race as a well-meaning supporter yelled "Do it for Al!"; biting back the tears and focusing on my breathing, relaxing again; the surge of adrenaline as I passed one, two and more walkers who faded in the final kilometers; the long, climb back towards the Olympic stadium, breathless, fighting for control of my limbs; finally entering the stadium for the last time, eager to finish yet eager to extend this Olympic dream for as long as possible; and finally stumbling through the press zone to the showers to the bus to the Village to lunch and bed.

Now that I have recovered somewhat, I'm going into Athens to visit with my wonderful family who cheered me on for the entire race. I'll get some food, maybe go to the stadium for an exciting evening of track and field, and then collapse somewhere and sleep, if only my sore legs will allow it.

Thank you to all who have written emails of encouragement and congratulations. Thank you for following me along the incredible journey. It's not over yet, so expect a few more journal entries in the next day or two. Continue to enjoy the Olympics, the good parts of the Games where everyone plays fair and all the countries come together in peace and harmony. It's not a naive dream if we all share it together. "Can't we all just get along?" I see it here in the Village and out on the race course today: Americans congratulating Greeks, Chinese walkers shaking hands with French walkers, Poles hugging Aussies. It's all so wonderful.

You may be able to find some photos from the race soon at www.racewalk.com thanks to Jeff Salvage.

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