Column: The Birth of A Weekend Warrior
If Pheidippides could only see what his historic run from Marathon, Greece to Athens has given birth to, he would surely know that his dramatic death was not in vain.
The legend of the Greek soldier’s run was commemorated in the inaugural marathon in 1896 and boasted 25 participants. To call this a “disappointing turnout” by today’s standards would be an understatement.
Contemporary marathons often generate thousands of participants and disable entire sections of the host city as “weekend warriors” pound the pavement over 26 miles to a well-deserved finish.
The race itself, however, is only a small detail of the running experience as we know it today, as I have discovered an amazing subculture through my running pursuits: the runner’s world. Those who love to run have found ways to integrate running into every aspect of their lives, working around training schedules and race dates and forming alliances with fellow running enthusiasts.
Simply entering the word “running” in my computer’s search engine produced more Web sites than I could read in a lifetime – the key word “running clubs” alone prompted over 12,000 links. Yet the Internet running culture, while vast, is just a small part of the greater running experience, and anyone that has found a love for the sport understands this.
Every time I meet another runner along my morning route I find reinforcement in their nod or smile – a breathed “good morning” serves to seal the bond we share of the wonders of sacrificing your body only to find it stronger and more in tune with your entire being. While forfeiting a few extra hours of sleep or that extra beer the night before may seem moronic to the unknowing sedentary soul – you know, the one that looks at you in bewilderment when you talk about your short seven miler that morning – it is a small price to pay for how I feel after a flawless run.
Out on the road or in a cyber chat room I can swap ideas and questions with runners from all over the country about training, injury prevention, food (which for most runners I know is an equally important passion), gear and just about every aspect of my daily life.
Coming together for a race like the Lake Tahoe Marathon is a culmination of many a runner’s existence, as we are able to connect with participants of all ages and levels of experience. Even the recreational runners who come out annually to brave a 10-km course get a hint of harrier madness when they find themselves packed in like cattle, eagerly awaiting the race start. No matter how long it takes to cross the finish line, the cheers by contributive onlookers and benevolent shouts of encouragement make anyone feel like a champion.
I think, perhaps, this is what caught me. I cannot remember when I realized I had become “one of them,” that I had crossed into the world of running frenzy, but somewhere along the course it happened. I live for 65 degree weather, dream of light rains and anxiously await the new issue of Runners World. Many a time I have lost hours in sports stores, ogling the newest running apparel and, sadly enough, discussing issues with the salespeople like chafing and the wonders of Body Glide.
So here I am. I have officially planned a vacation around running, something I thought I would never do, and will be heading to Chicago in two weeks to run my first marathon.
On Oct. 22, weekend warriors will unite again in the windy city and I am already looking ahead to my next trip: I hear Maui has a nice marathon.
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