Friday, November 7, 2008

Somethin' BIT me!

There's something strange and moving about cheering for marathon runners. You only see each one for about 4 seconds, but that window represents in some way the entire experience of the marathon. You show up having already heard descriptions and anecdotes in person or on tv. But this is good, because it means you don't have to figure out what's happening, and you can focus on what's most important - exactly what is going on with each person whom you can fix your focus on at that precise moment. A second wind. A strained calf. Focus. Disbelief. Total cake walk. Sore feet. The realization that one can only feel his bleeding nipples just enough to know that he's got to push through the last quarter mile so that it can all be over. It's brutal. It's human. It's lovely. 

The best thing to do, as a spectator, is to go out and cheer for strangers, and call their names. Many have them written on their body somewhere. And to see a runner's eyes dart briefly in your general direction, or auto-pilot out a weak grimace, or especially, pick up the pace, even if just a little bit, gets me choked up. "You can do it Gert!"(of which there were many this year) can really make a difference to someone who seems to be struggling. Even more so if his name is Gert. 

But there's this weird feeling of transportation when you cheer for these runners. And it's totally different than cheering at a professional sporting event. You hear the words come out of your own mouth, but they sound like someone is yelling to YOU as YOU run the race. And you well up with tears at how encouraged it makes you feel, that strangers believe in you, and want you to succeed. And then you remember that you are the stranger, and that you feel weird and good that you want some stranger to succeed. And at what? Simply, something that takes hard work and has meaning to each individual. It's a very raw experience. And wonderful. And the way I describe it, very self-centered.

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