Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Marathon. In my opinion, this is the one that counts. The modern marathon originated with the first modern Olympics in 1896. The distance (about 40 km) is the distance from Athens to Marathon. But the concept really is as old as Greece. Biblical statements like "running with patience the race that is set before us," or "pressing toward the mark" seem to reflect the ancient Greek emphasis on developing personal discipline in preparation for warfare. In the early days of the (modern) Olympics, the final awards were handed out at the end of the marathon track. That has changed now; the marathon race ended earlier in the day, several hours before the closing ceremony in a different location. But it was interesting to note that, in deference to tradition, the medals for the marathon were not handed out at the end of the race, but as the first event of the closing ceremony.

I didn't even attempt to get tickets for this event, because I didn't need to. If you wanted a choice seat near the finish line, then, of course, you would need to purchase tickets. But the marathon course was published in the spectator's handbook, and I noticed that the runners were going to be coming right down Zhichun Lu, which runs east and west across the south end of my campus, so I just picked out a spot along the street near the southwest corner where I had a pretty good view of the race.

The marathon began at Tiananmen Square, so by the time it reached the vicinity of my university, the runners were spread out quite a bit. There is a little bit of distance between the first few Africans and the rest of the pack. But that really is the point of the marathon, I think. It's really a separate race for every runner. Endurance. Determination. Grit. The will to keep going. It really embodies so much of what has slowly been lost to a generation where everything seems to be about winning over competitors instead of personal mastery and discipline.

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