Saturday, May 09, 2009

My Spring Essay: Why I Love Marathons

I love marathons of all shapes and sizes. I really love the small local ones where the entry fee is a can of soup for the food bank, the runners are all friends from our local running scene, and the course winds through a forest or along a rails-to-trails course. I love point-to-point marathons - the idea of running from city to city tickles my fancy. Kent to Seattle, Puyallup to Sumner to Tacoma, Sequim to Port Angeles, or next week, Post Falls, Idaho to Spokane, Washington (city to city and state to state - what more could I want?). City to city seems to spell out the distance in ways that giant loops do not.

I love the couple of big marathons I've run: Nike Women's in San Francisco, so crowded that it wasn't till the half split off that I could finally take a comfortable stride, or The Marine Corp in DC - the Marines, the crowds, the national landmarks, the thrill of being at one of the "big" ones. I love the marathons that show off nature in all it's glory: the Yakima River Canyon and Big Sur both come to mind, as does the double loop of Leavenworth. The scenery of these marathons gives perspective and peace.

But what I really love are the ways a marathon shows me a city - the good and the not-so-good sides both. I've run through ugly industrial areas that remind me of the hard work that goes on there and helps many people make a living. I've run through beautiful neighborhoods that remind me of patchwork quilts - colors and shapes and sizes detailing so many lives. Running through the hidden jewels along the way - the small and tidy parks, the large and glorious parks, the waterfronts, next to rivers. Running past college campuses, through deserted early morning downtown streets, offices and businesses edging the course. Under bridges and past missions where the homeless gather, sometimes watching in silence, sometimes cheering us on. I've run down an alley where dumpsters overflowed, through pot-holed and cracking streets. Past grade schools and high schools and churches. The unique experience of running on the boardwalk crossing the bay. Across old bridges and floating bridges and along freeways. Running a marathon through a city gives a perspective that is like no other.

I love the challenge, I love the hoopla, I love the buzz from the other runners. After finishing Tacoma last week, I found that everything that makes a race for me was present: a challenging course, friends to run with and friends along the way, the city tour, the palpable thrill of all the exhausted runners gathered in the square after the run. Satisfaction was hanging in the air, smiles were huge, I could feel it. And that is why I love marathons.


olga said...

I should write a post "why I like running mountains for 50-100 miles":) It is so awesome we each find what we really love and find joy in doing it no matter where, how fast and what weather? Good post!

Sunshine Girl said...

I had almost forgotten the joys of the marathon! I haven't one in a few years (because I have the same disease as Olga) but here are a few of my favorite memories:

-my first marathon I ran I never ate or drank. I just ran. With a big smile.

-3 ancient Irish ladies wearing overcoats and scarves on their heads standing in the middle of the meridian CHEERING at the Dublin Marathon. They had a cowbell to help.

-the 3 beers I drank during the Victoria beer drinking marathon.

-getting hugs and photos mid marathon at Boston with:
1. Uta Pippig
2. A 6'4 man dressed as a pregnant drag queen in sequins and heels.
3. A ridiculously buff Boston College fella' who was a little drunky pants.

Great Post!

P.S. That new marathon in Spokane sounds faaaabulous. If I wasn't planning a few mountain miles I would get in my car and drive! It is only 8 hours from here.

justrun said...

Love this! I especially agree with: "But what I really love are the ways a marathon shows me a city - the good and the not-so-good sides both." It's the best way to see a place-- all sides of it.

I have friends that argue that it's better on a bike, but that's too fast for me. I would have never had a conversation with a guy that popped out from under an overpass just as I was passing by had I been on a bike. :) Besides, who wants to worry about flats?

Also, Happy Mother's Day to you! (My Internet mom!) :)

bagelsong said...

Very lovely marathon post, Michelle. It makes me want to give everyone a link to your blog when they say things like, "I don't know why anyone would want to run that far." There is much more to it than the running itself, and you explained it perfectly. Cheers and happy mother's day.

Wes said...

Wha? You love marathons? No! :-) Happy Mother's Day!!!!

Anonymous said...

Running to another state. That does sound impressive. Great post.

SDATHFRHHC Nic said...

Well said! Thanks for the great read :-)

Jenny, Maniac #401 said...

Nicely said. Glad I could share a few with you!

Anne said...

So nicely said, Michelle. I think this essay deserves a big A.

Donald said...

Very nicely said. I agree with the part about discovering new cities - there are at least 10 cities that I never would have visited or explored if not for a marathon.

Sunshine said...

Oh yes! I love marathons, too.
You are so incredibly blessed to have run so many.
May you run many many more!!

Lisa B said...

Ah, yes. Excellent post! It was great to see you at the start of the trans-border marathon Saturday. Congrats!

Darrell said...

Exactly. I couldn't agree more.