The Persians, their eyes and arrows set on conquest, had been crushed on the plains of Marathon. As the sun set on their corpses on the field, so it also did on their ambition of empire. The Athenians’ homes, farms, families, philosophers, their beloved agora, hell, their entire way of life had been saved. Western Civilization was going to fight another day (it was actually going to do so, for a few more millennia).
But this big picture of politics and other puffery didn’t matter to Philippides. Or not at that moment, at least. He was focused on his aching feet, his nose, the breeze from the Aegean, his lungs, the ground he tread on, and the blessed, blessed news he was bringing. This duty to both polis and people. His countrymen had vanquished the Persians, and he had been sent to run from Marathon toAthens, to tell all of how the gods had protected them.
He would go on to reach the gates of his city. He would shout, “Nike!” Victory. But alas, he would also fall down dead.
And millennia after, he would become legend. He would have historical pricks debate over the veracity of his very existence. Whatever official place in history he is assigned, he would still seize the imagination of countless generations of athletes.
His legend and legacy would live on every four years as part of Olympic Glory, and on every road that runners’ shoes would dare to tread on. Every running distance would be compared to the whole length which he ran. The 42.196 would be immortalized as the full marathon – every serious runner’s ultimate ambition, an item on the bucket list on non-runners’, and the pride of the world’s best cities to host such an event. There would be half-marathons, 15Ks, 10Ks, 5Ks, and 3Ks, each one a rung on the ladder towards immortality.
Last March 18, his feat was multiplied a hundred times over by runners who sought to defy the limits humanity had set on itself. Not on the plains of Marathon, but on the scattered hills of Nuvali.
The Bull Runner Dream Marathon, a unique, fantastic program designed to help the average person go from from zero level to marathon level in approximately six months (Philippides could have probably used this). There are talks (they call them bull sessions) running clinics, running sessions, weight management programs, and an online support community. Led by the Bull Runner herself, Jaymie Pizarro, and top-notch coaches, it is simply one of, if not the best running program in the country, especially because it makes running accessible to anyone. (link to her site: http://thebullrunner.com/ – this might help if you want to join next year’s TBR Dream Marathon!)
A year ago, my girlfriend, Bianca, actually slept on her first run. She missed the 530-ish Gun Start. After I completed my own run, I found her sulking on the pavement of Bonifacio High Street. Fast forward to this year. She completed her first full marathon, and I’m eating her dust. She already has run the whole 42 Kilometers Philippides ran eons ago, and I’m just halfway there.
She called me up when she signed up for the program (I, on the other hand, missed the deadline). I listened to her tales of anguish and glory as her distance began growing and growing. I tried my best to help her diet (Operative word: TRIED). I was there when she doubted. I was there when she was sure. I was there when she crossed the finish line. And what I saw was the triumph of her spirit.
She would wake up as early as 3AM, to run for 2 hours or more. Then she’d go off to teach her kids (which sometimes can be even trickier and tiring than roadwork). She’d come back home to help out with tasks that had to be done in the house. Her soles may have been tired, but her soul shone ever more brilliantly.
At the end, she didn’t shout out and jump and dare the sky to come down and try to stop her, though she and everyone else had every right to do so. In the madness of the moment, she tried her best to hug everyone. I mean everyone. The pacers, Coach Jim, Coach Litt, her family, her co-teachers, her cousin, the other runners. She wanted to share it with as many people as possible.
She inspires me, (she always has, even without signing up for this), and I’m sure she inspired her family, her co-teachers, and everyone else who stood at the finish line waiting for their own heroes.
Each runner, like her, was embraced by cheering and crying family and friends. The scene looked like an airport’s Arrivals area.
These runners, unbound to any Polis unlike the original Marathon Runner, still had a message to bring to whoever would listen. One by one, they crossed the finish line and shouted “Nike!” They declared victory. Victory over the limit that humanity had set on itself – 42Kilometers would threaten their feet no longer. Victory over laziness. Victory over 2AM roadwork. Victory over airconditioners and warmers and pillows seducing them to come back to bed. Victory over half-baked dreams, abandoned garage projects and uncompleted summer workshops. Victory over youth’s wastefulness. Victory over bones wearied by too many years. Victory over the worst their selves could muster.
Not all of them jumped or screamed to the heavens. Some of them limped. Some of them silently took their medal and smiled. But each one, from that day forward, would be in league with Philippides. They would belong to legend. They would belong to the victorious.