|THE GRUELLING MARATHON IS A TESTAMENT TO LONG DISTANCE GAIN OVER PAIN AND THE WILL TO IMPROVE UNDER ADVERSE CONDITIONS...AND NEARLY ANYONE CAN PUT THEM SELF IN A POSITION TO DO IT.|
|THE ONLY TIME I WAS EVER IN BOSTON WAS 1967. MAYBE BECAUSE THE MIRACLE RED SOX CAME CLOSE TO WINNING THE WORLD SERIES THAT YEAR, I ALWAYS HAD AN INFINITY FOR THAT TOWN.|
I hope the authorities can both literally and figuratively piece together the motives of these weak, impressionable weasels. They randomly killed, maimed and injured so many innocent people...and psychologically rattled an incalculable number of others. Far worse, such nonsense solidifies the awful truth that this is a new reality for today's generation. But the runners won't give up, spectators will continue to support this sport and the resiliency of the Bostonians will never waver.
This contemporary courage can be traced to the fabled long distance run of 490 BC. During the Battle of Marathon, Pheidippides, a Greek soldier who survived the fighting was given a message of the victory, to take back to Athens. He ran non-stop, 26 miles and 385 yards to deliver the good news.
|LUC-OLIVIER MERSON DEPICTED PHEIDIPPIDES GIVING HIS MESSAGE BEFORE COLLAPSING AND DYING.|
The modern day marathon was an original Olympic event in 1896. Symbolically, perhaps in honor of Pheidippides, it is saved for last. And maybe his story is what inspires so ordinary marathoners to invest so much time and energy in preparation, to test their endurance and risk various injuries...even death.
I've been told that there is a runner's "high." I can attest to all of you that I never experienced any euphoria from jogging or any other form of exercise. I asked my niece (an avid runner) about the runner's high. She joked that the high is only an excuse to "carb-load," the pre-race pizza and spaghetti...and free doughnuts afterwards.
On the other hand, my crime novelist friend CHARLIEOPERA said, "I never ran far enough to get a high from it. But I do get a weight-lifter's high. While improving during work-outs, I get a feeling of invincibility which spurs me on to bigger and better things."
My wife Sue is also a gym rat and she has also ran several ten kilometer (mini-marathons...10K equals 6.2 miles). She said, "Running is like the song, it hurts so bad but feels so good."
|"THE TURKEY TROT," NOVEMBER 1983, AT CAESAR'S PALACE, GRAND PRIX RACE TRACK, LAS VEGAS NEVADA. YOU CAN'T PUT A PRICE TAG ON THE PURE JOY OF SUCH A PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT.|
I saw no reason to come out of retirement and join in on the Turkey-Trot fun. I hadn't done any running since my high school football days and the mere thought caused my thigh to spasm. Instead, I chose to be a cheerleader flunky by following Sue around the course and taking pictures.
|I GOT ENOUGH GRATIFICATION JUST BEING AROUND SUE'S AURA OF SATISFACTION.|
|SUE'S MOM JOINED THE CHEERING SECTION, OCTOBER 1984, AT THE MARINE PARK 10K, IN BROOKLYN.|
While in Atlantic City, Sue continued running through the countrified setting of our community. She urged me to join her as she communed with nature while getting healthy. But I always turned her down. In November 1985, Sue said she was going to sign-up for the Thanksgiving, 10K Fun-Run on the Atlantic City boardwalk, (sponsored by the Tropicana Casino).
I was working nights and the race started at 9:AM. To her surprise (and mine), I decided to be part of the support team, (our friend BAYSTONES came too). Then to everybody's shock (mine too), I decided to run.
The Fun-Run was on a chilly, breezy Saturday morning. I was on four hours sleep (back then that was a rare catastrophe...today that's normal and four times a week) but I vowed that if I put my heart in it, I can do anything...once.
|BAYSTONES CAPTURED MY SMILE, SIX SECONDS INTO THE RACE...BECAUSE I WAS RUNNING COLD TURKEY (PARDON THE PUN) I WASN'T GRINNING TOO MUCH THE REST OF THAT DAY.|
In the middle of the throng that gathered at the starting line, Sue suggested that we run together, (later, we found out that 301 people signed-up. I don't know exactly how many of them actually started the race). Rather than be an albatross around Sue's neck, I said that I didn't want to weigh her down and insisted that she run her own race.
From the opening gun, I kept up with the pack. I soon realized that I was getting caught up in the excitement, so I toned-down my jack-rabbit start. A few blocks later, at the Golden Nugget, (the last casino), I lagged far behind.
I really didn't set any goals...other than finishing the race without harming myself. So I trudged along at a turtle's pace...which is faster than a slug's pace. Down beach, the course included the next town, Ventnor. I found a quiet voice inside me and prodded along while entertaining myself with pleasant thoughts...unrelated to the task at hand.
An eternity later, way up ahead, volunteers behind yellow emergency tape were guiding the few stragglers in front of me, off the boardwalk. By the time I got near that point, the first of the ardent runners were coming up the ramp, retracing their steps and heading back. The race route took me onto the city street. It was there that hordes of mini-marathoners zoomed by me, included Sue, in the opposite direction. Soon after crossing into Margate, (the next town), more emergency tape and a bunch of freezing kids waving American flags identified the halfway mark and the U-Turn back.
In my mind, I was still doing all right as I neared the ramp to get back on the boards. My appreciation of the friendly, encouraging volunteers evaporated when one of them commented, "Hey buddy, you're in last place!" Not only did that remark sour me but a budding blister on my left heel and the pain of a side-stitch began gnawing at me.
On the boardwalk, my plight worsened because I saw zero racers in front of me. The situation seemed to be spiraling out of control when the invisible, whistling gale that pushed me forward in the first half, now frostily bit my face and held me back. That wind-shear caused my left eye to tear-up as a sharp stabbing pain intermittantly invaded my shins. Motivated by survival, (to hurry up and get out of the harsh conditions), I dug deep, stopped hobbling and picked up my pace.
Trust me, despite the increase in speed, I was hating every second of this torture. I was calling myself a stupid idiot for getting involved as I scanned the blank, never-ending horizon in the hopes of seeing nirvana...the Tropicana and the finish line.
Through blurry vision, instead of seeing what I wanted, I saw a mirage. And what I thought I saw...was a single runner several streets away. I rubbed my eyes, blinked twenty times and squinted. That's when I realized that I wasn't seeing a phantom hallucination, it was a real person. I decided to make things interesting. I made my move, in search of my own victory.
My aching body was telling me to stop but I was locked-in to the concept of passing this solitary somebody. I could finally see the casinos as I charged to within a block of my quarry. I soon realized by the lilac windbreaker tied around my foe's waist that she was a woman. She was moving in slow motion, (slower than a snail's pace), as I chugged by her and found out she was elderly.
The fact that she was old did not diminish my contentedness. A little victory is still a win! But sometimes in life when we fulfill our dreams too easily, another challenge falls in our lap. I was crossing from Ventnor back into Atlantic City when I looked ahead and a few streets up...I saw another runner. I could see, my rate of speed would not be enough but a vigorous blood lust exploded through my weariness. Somehow, I found another gear. This person still had a sizable lead on me as they slowly proceeded in a listless gait past the Golden Nugget.
I could see the finish line two streets beyond my unsuspecting adversary. I was already gasping for air as I rose up from my fatigue and awareness that I'd have to pay the pain piper the next day. From a two-block deficit, I once again cranked it up another notch and went full throttle, (if sprinting is proportional...to a true runner, I was probably going only slightly faster than a canter). But to me, I was tearing ass and believed that I could overtake one more person...and win.
My innards were burning as my normal feebleness begged me to quit. But I seized the moment and knifed through the gusts of a bitter headwind like a gazelle on a mission from God. A half block from the finish, I was making up ground with each stride. It was then that I realized that my ambling opponent was a heavy-set girl. Simultaneously, she turned around and was surprised to see me scampering towards her. In defense of her position, she took off. I was not to be denied my imagined trophy. I summoned my last bit of reserve energy and made a mad dash. I swooped down on her. We were neck and neck with ten yards to go as she inched back ahead. But with one last burst, I surged forward and galloped past her at the wire.
|A LOT OF PEOPLE SIGNED-UP BUT DID NOT RUN. MANY OTHERS STARTED BUT DIDN'T FINISH. WHEN BAYSTONES INFORMED THAT I CAME IN 77th OUT OF 79 FINISHERS, I TOOK TONS OF PRIDE IN MYSELF...EVEN IF I BEAT AN OLD LADY AND A GIRL WHO WAS OUT OF SHAPE.|
It's too bad that the actual photo of Esposito awarding Sue (and the medal itself), couldn't be found at press time. Because he, like the hard-working, long suffering city of Boston, (Red Sox fans) represent the essence of sticktuitiveness.
In sorrow, they will mourn the dead, dismembered and those injured in the Boston Marathon bombings. But afterwards they will heal. They will not be crushed down by the depraved indifference of this heinous and cowardly act of terrorism. This attitude proves how insane the bombers were because they overlooked the fact that the strength and resolve of the people to go on, will only intensify.
JEFF BAUMAN WAVING A "BOSTON STRONG" FLAG (above) LOST BOTH HIS LEGS DURING THE PATRIOT'S DAY BOMBING AT THE BOSTON MARATHON. HE PARTICIPATED IN YESTERDAY'S PRE-GAME CEREMONY TO SUPPORT ALL THE VICTIMS, HIS HOCKEY TEAM AND THE CITY.
I still won't run but I frequently experience a "writer's high." Most people can't relate to it because it seems so abstract to think anyone can be at a keyboard all day...but once the creative juices flow...like Dr. Frankenstein in his laboratory, food, rest or inane entertainment are all valueless to me.
I'll have to text CHARLIEOPERA to see if there's a correlation between his weight-lifter's high and writing? If not, I might still be typing this blog until tomorrow.