November 6, 2011

Better Than Football and Beer

There is something right about a Sunday morning spent drinking Ethiopian coffee, watching East Africa's finest distance runners torch the New York City pavement. And although Kenyan dominance is at its apex, Ethiopia represented itself well, claiming the first two spots in the women's race. The unrelated Mutais of Kenya topped the men's field, Geoffrey (he of the unofficial fastest marathon ever) dropping the proverbial hammer on everyone else.

You watch, noting the arm carriage, foot strike, turnover, and facial expressions. You try and glean from those things anything you can, hoping to emulate their technique - and thus their success. You feel a bit like an 8-year-old flipping your bat around like Barry Bonds in the back yard, thinking his timing mechanism will enable you to crush 40 homers a year. (We'll not mention the steroid induced forays beyond that number, in his later years.)

But ultimately, you know better. It's not any of those things that makes the runner. Nor is it the shoes, despite all the talk these days about them. (I'm as guilty as anyone.) The outward appearance is merely the chassis, under which the real work is being done. The heart, lungs, muscles and skeleton all pushed, strained and tortured - their protests ignored. It's that mental fortitude that wins and loses races, the ability to override and ignore your governor. That's as true for you and I as for Mutai.

And that's how I watched the New York City Marathon, coffee in hand. To be anything but inspired is to lack a pulse. And so I'm going to have another cup of Yirgi, head to the trail, and see how high I can push mine.

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