Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Jottings - slice of life - 117 ( The marathon in Boston..)

Jottings - slice of life - 117 ( The marathon in Boston..)
A typical Greek legend mentions how in 490 BC, the Greek soldier Pheidippides ran the entire distance between battle field of Marathon to Athens to report the momentous victory of Greeks over long standing enemy - the Persians. It is also recorded in breathless prose by Herodotus in his history of Greco-Persian wars that Pheidippides not only ran without pausing for breath, but dramatically and tragically dropped dead in sheer exhaustion after conveying his one-word message of victory to stunned Athenian senate. It is in his honor Marathon was instituted as an event during the 1896 Olympic games. In 1897, an year after the first marathon, the city of Boston organized their own run on Patriots day, the third Monday of April. Today, 17th of April was the 121st run of this glorious American event of physical endurance, communal participation and unity.
Yesterday night, when I checked into my Hotel in Westborough, the lobby was unusually busy and vibrant. There were lots of men and women dressed in athletic wear, leaning over reception desk, bustling with energy enquiring eagerly about Hotel shuttles to Hopkinton. It was then I realized that I was right on time to be in the midst of the famous Boston Marathon. The hotel was completely full with visitors from all over the globe.
In the evening, I could only find a bar stool to have dinner. All other tables were occupied and people were queuing up to eat. As I looked around and observed , I was surprised to see only one dish predominantly served on most tables. From certain distance, it looked like a liberal helping of special kind of Pasta. Meanwhile, the bar tender handed a menu card, and with a smile educated me on the fact that Pasta is a great food the night before marathon, and every hotel which hosts runners would have this specially made Pasta dish on their menu for today. I was told It injects the much needed carbs in right proportions into the system. Interesting, I thought!! Sitting next to me was a wiry old man with a long pleasant face and sharp eyes. He didn't have an ounce of flesh on him. Not that he was bony, but his skin was taut and tightly pulled over his muscles. From the look of it, he seemed in peak health. He was sipping a glass of water, waiting for his Pasta, I guess.
He smiled benignly at me and enquired:
“Are you here for the run?..”
I laughed and said “ No sir, I wish I could run. But as you see ..” I pointed to my well developed paunch “ I am in no shape to run except for 30 minutes on tread mill.. How about you?”
He gave out a very pleasant smile and said “ Oh well, I am sure here to run. This is my fiftieth Boston Marathon, and I am 75 years old…”
For a moment, I thought I heard him wrong. I looked into eyes quizzically. He repeated his words “ I said, this is my 50th outing, and I am 75. Not a year have I missed this event. Only twice in these last fifty years, i couldn't compete the marathon, but that was because I wasn’t keeping well. Otherwise, I ensure I am fit enough to do this run..
Around me, I could see people of all nationalities. My neighbor further educated me that nearly 30,000 runners participate in this event, and many of them travel from other countries. As we were talking, few young boys walked up and took selfies with my neighbor. Apparently, he was a local hero in these parts. He quickly forgot my presence and turned the other side to share tips with his coterie of fans. Understandable!!. My understanding of marathons is next to nothing. I smiled to myself, quietly finished dinner, and sneaked back to my room.
It is wonderful what sports and athletics can do to promote camaraderie and well being. It cuts across all barriers. I understand, each year about 500,000 people line up Boston roads to cheer their running heroes and heroines. The stamina, grit, endurance and commitment to complete the 26 odd miles of a full marathon is worth every bit of adulation we can muster. Over the years, however, strict norms have been put into place to qualify as a runner. And since the brutal bombing of 2013, security ensures have also perceptibly tightened. But, in spite of all these changes, nothing has taken away the joy, power, optimism and cosmopolitanism of the Marathon. Watching this humungous human train run together in one single mass, one wonders wherefrom do we get the idea of segregating one man from another. All of us are united in our raw physicality, sweat and determination. The greek story of Pheidippides may be apocryphal, but the movement it started 2000 years ago is certainly a veritable reality.
God bless…
Yours in mortality,

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