"Let’s just pitty-patty" By Bill Allbritton

It was my first Grandfather Mountain Marathon and my third marathon overall. I had been swept up reading about Grandfather Mountain Marathon in George Sheehan’s Running and Being. I was so swept up that I had dragged a running friend, Brent Montgomery, from Alabama with me. It was his first marathon. We ran the first 18 miles or so together and then he began to drift back. He motioned for me to go ahead. I soon began to have my own difficulty and by mile 21 was forced to walk more and more. By mile 24 I was pretty much done. Just past the 24-mile marker a lone volunteer was standing beside one of those aluminum lounge chairs. I took the water that was offered and sat down on the lounge chair. I decided a little break wouldn’t hurt and maybe my friend Brent will catch up. The lounge chair was verrrry comfortable and I was really starting to lounge on it. I soon realized that it would be difficult to get going again and where was my friend? By now I wasn’t in much of a hurry for him to show up. Just as I was about to abandon any real hope of a finish I heard two booming voices with heavy Scottish brogues coming up the road. I saw two huge guys wearing kilts and as they passed they saw my race number. They stopped. They asked if I was running the race. I told them I had been, but now I was just waiting on my friend. They were Highland Game competitors and headed to McRae Meadows. They carefully looked down the road and told me that no one else was in sight and it’s time to go. “Time to go, laddie,” they said. With that each grabbed one side of the lounge chair and pulled me upright. They held me until I gained my balance and then gently, but forcefully, lined me up towards the finish line. The three of us set off towards McRae Meadows. After a few minutes of walking one said, “Let’s just pitty-patty.” He demonstrated by holding his hands high and close to his chest and running with very short steps. And with that we began to pitty-patty. A skinny and very tired runner between two giants pitty-patting down the road. The three of us pitty-patted for quite a while and when I began to falter I would feel a strong arm on my back and an encouraging, “you can do it, laddie.” I wasn’t so sure. As we approached McRae Meadows I desperately wanted to walk, but I didn’t want to let them down. Suddenly, I heard the unmistakable sound of bagpipes and I understood what George Sheehan had been talking about. One of my giant friends asked me, “Can you hear the bagpipes, laddie?” Too emotional to speak I nodded yes, yes I could. The three of us picked up our pace. The other giant gave me a quick one-armed-half-a-bear-hug and with his heavy Scottish brogue said; “Now there’s music to march into the very jaws of hell for.” I knew exactly what he meant.