Almost three and a half hours had lapsed since the gun was fired to start the race, and in front of the Bannerman Park swimming pool, 10 miles from where nearly 4,500 runners and walkers started the Tely 10, folks began packing up to call it a day.
There was no more crowd of spectators lining the side of Bannerman Road, by the Colonial Building. No music blaring over the speakers. And certainly the guy who was doing the play-by-play, telling us all who those competitive runners were earlier crossing the finish line, well, he had long gone home.
But it didn’t stop Karen Greene.
At roughly 11:30 in the morning this time last year, the 58-year-old from Paradise turned the corner of Military Rd. and Bannerman Rd., to trudge the last stretch of pavement and the conclusion of Newfoundland and Labrador’s most popular road race.
The people looking after the race timing system were about to pack up. Same for the folks in the tent at the finish area, where competitors get their medals, a drop of water and a banana.
Greene was not deterred.
She finished the race, in three hours, 29 minutes and 58 seconds — bad knee and all — good for 4,355nd place and two hours, 32 minutes and 42 seconds behind the first female to finish, Jennifer Murrin.
Greene was, history will forever tell us, the last person to complete in the 90th Telegram 10-Mile Road Race.
But she still felt like a champion.
“It was down by the Basilica, and people who were still out watching knew I was obviously the last to come in,” Greene recalled this week, “and they knew I was so close. They were telling me along the way I had seven minutes left, five minutes left, three minutes left.”
She won’t be walking in tomorrow’s race. The wonky knee won’t allow Greene to do so.
It was a glorious Sunday morning last July 23, when Karen and her friend, Judy Gibbons, arrived at the Paradise start line, not far from Greene’s home, to complete an objective that had been planned many months before — that was to get in a bit better shape.
One of them mentioned the Tely 10, and the looming 90th anniversary. If they were ever going to do it, this was the year.
“You know, I’m not a small lady, but the encouragement along the way was exhilarating,” she said.
“My husband (Paul), God love him, was there at various intervals to ensure I was doing okay.”
Somewhere on the course — Greene thinks it was near the Royal Garage on Topsail Rd. — one woman in the crowd of onlookers reached out to hug her.
“I was encouraged the whole time I was out there. Not only by my husband, but by spectators … perfect strangers.
“It’s funny, but when I got the medal, it really didn’t mean that much to me,” she said. “It was finishing the race that meant the most.
“But now, at the end the of the day, the medal is nice. I have it hung up at home and every so often I’ll look at it and say, ‘Yup, I did it.’ I’m proud of that.”
She’s not ruling out another crack at the Tely if the knee gets better. Strange as it may sound, she loved every minute of it last year, walking those 10 miles.
Today, Greene leaves every morning and drives from her Paradise home to her work downtown. And she usually takes the Topsail Rd. route, along the Tely course.
And she still looks at the signs, the ones that say seven miles here, six miles here, five miles …
On Sunday, Greene will head down to Topsail Rd. to watch the runners and walkers go by. When she does, chances are she’ll cheer on those sprinting for the win, and the others just looking to solve the course.
And if she could, she’d probably tell them that whether you’re first or last, just finishing is all that matters.
“On a scale of one to 10 of all the things I’ve done,” she said, “getting married is No. 1. No. 2 is having my son. Three is finishing the Tely 10.
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort