Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Champion Among Giants

I'm watching the amazing women's marathon from Beijiing. Heres a shot of the leader, Constantina Tomescu-Dita of Romania. (image from let' As I begin this post, they have been running almost two hours. I am amazed at their courage, their physiques.
I cannot imagine the exhilaration of leading such a race. The leader  keeps pulling away, the chase pack keeps trying to reel her in. It's a classic and primal contest. I have a feeling that the marathon is about 30 percent ability and 70 percent will. That's the impression I have from watching the handful of marathoners I have known. It is certainly what it looks like on the screen.
Watching an entire marathon is a unique experience. It unfolds slowly like a screw turning a tiny tick at a time. The numbers fall as the screw turns. 10 miles. 20 miles. 2 hours.
Mrs P says that they look like they are miserable, like what they are doing hurts. It probably does hurt, but I see something else in their eyes. Determination. Each has a goal and a plan to reach it. The goal is out of their sight, the greatest obstacles are as present as their own hearts. I see warriors who refuse to be defeated. Not by weather. Not by fatigue. Never.
The runners whose pain is so great that they must drop out have their own courage and tragic glory.
My God. She just ran into the stadum. She is all alone. They were actually unrolling the tape as she ran past. What an amazing thing to witness. What an inspiration. 38 years old.

And after the winners come the rest of the heros. Limping. Cramping. Gasping for air. Battling agony. These women are giants.

Tomescu-Dita. What a name. What a champion.
The Marathon seems to be to be the most Olympic of events. All nations competing at once. Nationality seems to fade away. The parochial "where are the Americans" of the announcers no longer matters. It may not be great television, but it is great drama.

It makes a Pennsyltuckian want to run.


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