Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A running resolution

Though the snow was coming down hard today, I laced up my shoes and headed out into the winter weather for a short run. There was a time when I ran 26.2 miles in a single day. What follows is a story about one of those days.

A journey of 26.2 miles begins with a single step, or at least that is what Confucius would have said as I stood shoulder to elbow with a few 16,000 other runners (almost all European) at the start of the Stockholm marathon. As I stood at the back of the start line an excited Swedish announcer shouted out what I imagined to be words of Swedish inspiration while my knees and legs had plans of their own. They tried desperately to convince my brain that their leader had gone mad and mutiny was the only option.  I admit, my legs had a good argument. My amount of training for such a distance could be brought into question. Two choice words that Runners World magazine might use would be "severely inadequate". But my mind held firm, I had crossed ocean to see this goal through to the end.

Though youth was on my side, history was not. The first man ever to run a marathon died after he finished, in fact the evolution of the marathon is a brief story worth telling. The marathon race commemorates the run of the soldier Pheidippides from a battlefield near Marathon, Greece, to Athens in 490 B.C., His mission was to deliver news of the Greek's victory over the Persians. Sadly Pheidippides died at the end of his historic run. When the Olympic games were held in 1896 in Greece, Pheidippides' epic run was recreated by a 24.85 mile run from Marathon Bridge to Olympic stadium in Athens. The first organized marathon on April 10, 1896 had a total of twenty-five runners. Spiridon Louis, a Greek postal worker came in first, his time was 2 hours, 58 minutes. When it was all over nine runners finished, 8 of them Greeks. At the 1908 Olympic Games in London, the marathon distance was changed to 26 miles to cover the ground from Windsor Castle to White City stadium, with 385 yards added on so the race could finish in front of King Edward VII's royal box. After 16 years of discussion, 26.2 miles was deemed the official marathon distance at the 1924 Olympics in Paris.

Here is a mental transcript of my 26.2 jog across Stockholm in 3 mile intervals:

mile 3: What a great idea this was!
mile 6: Look at all these nice Swedish people along the roads yelling god only knows what.
mile 9: And to think I was worried about how little I trained.
mile 13: Halfway there. hmmm. Only halfway. interesting.
mile 16: It will be fun to sight-see around Stockholm in a wheelchair tomorrow.
mile 19: The great marathon runner Toshihiko Seko who once said "the marathon is my only girlfriend. I give her everything I have" Applying this wisdom, I have just given her everything I have, we are fighting about how I should give her more, and considering we are going to fight for the last several miles of the race I see myself introducing our breakup with "It's not you, it's me."
mile 22: I wonder how I would feel right now if I had actually trained properly.
mile 24: I have a few choice words for Pheidippides.
mile 26: So happy that I get to run an extra .2 of a mile thanks to King Edward's royal f-ing box.

The Stockholm marathon finished with a half lap around the 1912 Olympic stadium. I waited for this moment the entire race imagining the 83 world records that have been set in the stadium. A picture made even easier to visualize with it filled to capacity with cheering fans.

The fading hours of daylight stretched across the city as I made my way along the lower field behind the stadium where the finishers gathered after the race. Loud speakers carried the announcement that the official registration for next year's marathon was officially open. 

Maybe it was just me, watching as a sea of runners hobbled down the stairs (myself included) like a pack of senior citizens during a fire drill, but the last thing on my mind at that moment was committing to run another 26.2 miles.

No comments:

Search This Blog