Yesterday I watched the televised (and delayed) coverage of the New York City Marathon. What I love about watching the NYC Marathon on TV is that you get to see ALL the action. A split screen keeps the viewer up to the minute on leaders in both the men’s and the women’s races, and then every so often the video cuts to the average runners, the folks like you and me. I was struck again this year at how the front runners look like they’re breezing along with hardly any effort (at under 5 minutes a mile), while the other bazillion participants look like their fighting hard for every step, especially near the finish.
I’m not a big fan of televised sports – never have been. I don’t even watch the Super Bowl for the half-time show; I go to the movies that day. But running is different, of course, because of I’m one of them. This year I actually found myself yelling at the TV. As you may remember, I met Meb Keflezighi, American marathoner, earlier this year after the Seattle Rock N Roll Half Marathon. He autographed my race number and congratulated me on finishing my goal to run the marathon distance on all seven continents. Naturally, I was cheering for him as the leaders in the men’s race sped through the course. At a certain moment, though, long after the midpoint yesterday, Meb grimaced and there was a sudden change in his gait. He wasn’t limping, exactly, just not sailing anymore, and he dropped toward the back of the front – if that makes sense. He ended up coming in sixth at 2:11:38. The winner is a fellow from Ethiopia who was running his first marathon! Gebre Gebrmariam came in at 2:08:14. I can’t even drive to Seattle in that time on a busy Friday afternoon. Congrats to Gebre.
Also running her first marathon, was Shalane Flanagan from Boulder, Colorado. I found myself screaming at the television, “Come on Shalane! You can do it,” when she slipped back to third place late in the race. Edna Kiplagat from Kenya had pulled ahead and was clearly going to win the race but Shalane and Mary Keitany (Kenya) were battling it out for second. Nothing against Mary, mind you, but to be running her first marathon and coming so close to winning, Shalane just HAD to come in second, from my point of view. And she did. She pulled ahead of Mary and came in at 2:28:40, 20 seconds behind Edna and 21 seconds in front of Mary. Yay for Shalane!!!
The great runners I watched on TV yesterday are like gods and goddesses to me. They’re freaks of nature who add a whole hell of a lot of training to their already perfect physiques and make their bodies perform miracles. Far from discouraging me, watching their magic inspires me. I want to breathe the same air and run the same courses they run – and it doesn’t matter to me how far behind them I come in. I can see in their strides what human beings can do when all the circumstances and motivation align.