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Hometown Heroes

I've been lucky enough to be at a lot of great races. Usually, I don't see the great races because I'm either out on the course myself, which means I'm not even at the half way mark when the winners finish, or I'm working at the finish line, in which case I often see just the last few hundred yards. It's rare that I can to see a race, especially a marathon, from start to finish. The past Sunday was different.

chistartI’ve been lucky enough to be at a lot of great races. Usually, I don’t see the great races because I’m either out on the course myself, which means I’m not even at the half way mark when the winners finish, or I’m working at the finish line, in which case I often see just the last few hundred yards. It’s rare that I can to see a race, especially a marathon, from start to finish. The past Sunday was different.

Because of my injured foot, I was under strict doctor’s orders [and, of course, I bumped into Dr. Chin on Friday when we were both working at the Brook’s Running booth] to stay OFF the foot. There’d be no standing around on the course cheering for my “TEAM” mates. I was more than sidelined. I was OFF the sidelines. What to do? When life hands you lemons, the saying goes, make lemonade. So, I ordered room service breakfast for Coach Jenny and myself and we watched the marathon men’s race, every step of it, on television. AMAZING.

The marathon at the elite level is part athletic contest, part Vulcan mind trick, part Chess game, and part sheer will. Steve Prefontaine is quoted as saying “Some people race to see who’s fastest. I race to see who has the most guts”. On Sunday, defending men’s champion Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 6 minutes, 24 seconds, with Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia 19 seconds behind. It was a classic battle.

chiwinnerKebede took the lead once the rabbits fell off and pushed the pace. Wanjiru stayed close but never seemed to want to take control. In the last mile or so they tested each other, surged on each other, even hid from each other. There was no clue as to who had the legs, and the courage, to make the final move. In the end it was defending Chicago marathon champion and current Olympic Gold Medalist in the marathon Sammy Wanjiru who proved to have the will and the guts to win. Watching him put the final move on Kebede was like watching Michael Jordan on his best night. It was magic.

It’s what I love about being a part of the sport of running, the feeling that I can truly, deeply, appreciate the talent, dedication, and intellect of a champion like Sammy Wanjiru. I don’t want to be him. He doesn’t want to be me either, I’m sure. And yet we can both share a common time and space in the running community.

I eventually made my way [by taxi] to the Team In Training finish tent to congratulate those who finished a bit after Sammy. To them all I say “CONGRATULATIONS”.

Waddle on,

John
 
john_jbrhat

John “the Penguin” Bingham, Competitor Magazine columnist
Author, The Courage to Start, No Need for Speed, Marathoning for Mortals and Running for Mortals.

 

Have a question for John? E-mail it to thepenguin@johnbingham.com.