The finish line

I ran for you today, on a humid, windswept morning. You didn’t know it. I was going to tell you later. But sometimes time runs out before you ever expect it will.

It was the national marathon championship and the first qualifying race for the 2000 Olympic Trials.

The cannon sounds. We shoot forward. I feel good momentarily. But my body has been weakened by the fever that came with the flu I had all last week. I do not know how much strength my legs hold.

I came to this magazine exactly one year ago. It was then I rekindled a dream laid aside fife and fate having conspired against it no less than 20 years ago: to have a shot at the Olympic Games. Twenty years. Now, at the age of 35 and at the helm of the original women’s sports magazine, which I’ve read since I was a child, I have something to prove. To myself, but for all of you as well.

My lungs, heavy and clogged, have not recovered. If I breathe deeply, I cough. If I breathe shallowly, I get dizzy. Only two miles gone by, and I am in trouble.

This magazine has been a labor of love. A tiny budget. A tinier staff. Not just faceless numbers, they are passionate women and one brave man and so few I can list them by name: Erin, the rower, with the heart of a lion; Heather, the cyclist as solid and steady as the Rock of Gibraltar; Jean, the mountaineer, with the sharpest BS meter in the business to keep us on our toes; Alli, the runner, whose phenomenal good humor humbles us all; Drea, the surfer, who passed up a paying job to intern for free because of what this magazine represented; Tara, the climber, the only photo assistant we know who can belay on a cover shoot and Theron, the skier, our token male and perhaps the only one alive who could put up with all this girl talk.

My fever is back. My vision goes dark. I think of you. A quarter of a million women, all of whom accomplish heroic feats every day. I am tired, but I tell myself there must be more inside. I feel your strength, your support, and I do not want to let you down. And so I lay down my blood and sweat on this hot Houston highway. But I cannot breathe, and my pace slows, from 6:15, to 6:30, and finally 6:45. I had thought that heart alone could do what my legs and lungs could not. But sometimes heart alone is not enough.

You see, I want you to know the staff of this magazine now because, in this case, too, heart alone was not enough. The vagaries of the business world mean that this is farewell from us to you. Women’s Sports + Fitness has been purchased by Con& Nast, which will put that name on its women’s sports publication.

You should know, then, how we have loved so sharing with you and serving you. How you have inspired us all along. How we have laughed and cried at your stories. How this has been so much more than just a job to a of us. The deal was signed the day before I flew to Houston, where I had planned to qualify for the Olympic Trials as my testimony to all of you and to the dreams we fight to retain in our lives.

I am numb, and my knees buckle. At 15 miles, a hand grabs my wrist. It is my coach. “That’s all, Dagny,” he says gently, as I collapse into his arms. “That’s all.”

That’s all.

If a dream is worth anything, it must surely be worth failing for. Of course, the irony is that this magazine was purchased because it was succeeding. For us, this dream has ended, but we will replace it with others. The journey never stops, and it is the journey that counts. As women, as athletes, you understand. It is what we shared.

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