King of the Road: a marathon.
I stand stationary within the sea of runners, the camera of my eyes running through the length of everyone fighting the battle of man versus himself. And I cannot help but be amazed – what is it that makes man want to go through this undertaking and fight this battle against gravity, against skyrocketing heart rates, against pain? There must be pain: the initial brittleness of the bone, the resistance of the heart and then the pumping of the sweat through the glands until it breaks out and the player is bathed with the prize of having won against his will. The most natural state, after all, is supine. Yes, there must be pain.
Deliverance too. Because otherwise, why would they do it? I am almost sure that there is an insight here.
What is it?
I look about: they seem normal to me – some old, some new, maybe single, maybe fathers, maybe mothers. Some children are on the grass, playing, cheering a parent or parents on. I see celebrities: Rovilson Fernandez, a Kenyan runner, there were sightings too of Karylle. But mostly there was humanity – converged in these acres of grass, in various poses as they flex their bones and mentally prepare for the run.
Why do they do it?
And then I thought about the sports giants. What do they have? Can I find it in the people here?
NBA.com, NotableBiographies.com and BrainyQuote.com outlined some of Jordan’s personal history: Michael Jordan, the “greatest basketball player of all time”, was cut from his varsity team when he was in his sophomore year. But he made that particular memory his personal talisman: “Whenever I was working out and got tired and figured I ought to stop, I’d close my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it,” Jordan said. He went on to play and win for Chicago Bulls the championship for successive years – years that were touted to be the golden era of basketball. Competitive desire to succeed, fierce spirit of competition, the ability to rise above his peers and competitors: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
TigerWoods.com, NotableBiographies.com and BrainyQuotes.com had the digs on Tiger: Tiger Woods played with a putter before he could walk. His father recognized his talent and harnessed it, shouting, heckling at the sides, hurling distractions so that Tiger would control and master his powers of concentration. At age 3, he beat Bob Hope. At age 8, he won his first formal competition. He went on to receive a full golf scholarship from Stanford University, played and won several US Amateur titles, and became the youngest player and first man of color to win the Masters tournament. Exceptional playing abilities, passion for golf, an extraordinary desire to win: “I love to play golf, and that’s my arena. And you can characterize it and describe it however you want, but I have a love and a passion for getting that ball in the hole and beating those guys.”
Ordinary men, yes. But with extraordinary spirits.
The common traits: passion, concentration, dedication, blindness to failure. Money seemed to be an afterthought, an after effect.
I find myself witnessing the end of the race.
The music blared in the distance as the Kenyan runner sprinted to the finish. There was no one in front of him, or behind him. And then suddenly, bright yellow burst in the distance. There was exertion on the faces, yes, but there was also pure joy intermingled with pure concentration. They have fought a good fight. The morning broke out in a loud cheer.
I realized that I was in the midst of champions. And that I need not have looked so far.
I inched myself through the throng, smiling. I gave voice to the question ringing in my ears: Why do you do it? Some answers: My friends are here, because it is part of my bucket list, I have been doing this since way back and I find I no longer have to find a reason…
How do you do it? Smiles, unabashed pride.
Sometimes, I guess, there are just no answers. There are just pushes – to the limits and beyond.
King of the Road. Me running. I must admit – the idea is beginning to sound more and more seductive.