There's been a few times while running, that I felt like I was reaching down into some pit to muster up a single serving of strength to finish. Nothing since has compared to the last chunk of the ING NYC Marathon. Right now, I picture you all camping on asphalt at Staten Island. Maybe someone brought a deck of cards, maybe you're on your second hot chocolate and you found a Dunkin' Donuts hat. The excitement and impatience to start--to begin--and the hopefulness of how well you'd like to race compare just as greatly as remembering that hope, say, at mile 22.
It is easy to go down into Hell; night and day, the gates of dark Death stand wide; but to climb back again, to retrace one's steps to the upper air--there's the rub, the task.
This quote describes how I felt about mile 20 when I ran New York in 2010. My body was already pissed off at me, and then we reached the Bronx...
"How was your time?" My friend Bri asked a few days later.
"Uhh, not the best. The Bronx killed me."
"Don't worry," she said. "The Bronx has that effect on people whether or not they're running marathons."
I think the real task at hand in those late miles is to get your mind off all the pain your body's enduring. After those last, painful miles where even elites may falter, the finish line and beyond is all that matters; it's the true beginning for most of us runners.
So don't give up. And remember why you started.
Good luck, runners!