The Marathon Again: Running Inspired

Article excerpt

TEN thousand runners and wheelchairers headed down the seaward marathon course from Hopkinton to Boston again April 20. Ten thousand dreams enacted before hundreds of thousands of spectators, who cheered them on, reaching out with orange slices and cups of water.

Where does the inspiration of running a marathon come from?

Not from the huffing and puffing.

Those who do not prepare with regular runs of at least half the marathon course wash out early, or straggle in.

The marathon is one course with 10,000 races.

The best prepared may not be those with the best times but those whose race plan lasts to the finish.

Again, how does the notion arise to run a marathon?

Are the antecedents in watching the race itself, as do those of us who live in the hamlets like Wellesley that the runners pass through?

Is it in the recurring idea of movement? The body, after all, is built with a running gear, at least for most of us.

Is it the fascination with passing through some sense of barrier - represented by the sheer distance of the marathon, or the physiological "wall" marathoners are reputed to hit at about 20 miles?

The distance can be a measure of debility overcome.

Or just a run.

The first pass by in ecstasy; these are the fleet. Later come the labored, concentrating to keep each body part moving in sequence.

Friends, or buses, collect those who drop out along the way. The exhausted among the finishers are clad in foil envelopes; a colleague observes that they look like Eskimo Pies.

The race is covered on radio and television. Choppers overhead, motorcycles and cameras on the ground. There are the crowd shots. The struggle up Heartbreak Hill in Brookline. The finish dash in the Back Bay business district near our office.

The first few finishers hold their celebrity through the evening news; they will be on next year's video clips; they may go into the sport shoe business. …