“Are you running the marathon?” he asks. I know this conversation will not go well.
Mo and I are standing next to a Phoenix/Mesa Marathon sign on the way back from Usery, shooting a photo. It’s for our friend Gwen, who came last year for the race but decided to sit this one out in light of the pressure of the Muskrat Mile. We are both missing a shoe. It’s that kind of day.
The guy is running with a companion. They stop in front of us and wait for me to answer. I formulate a response in my head, which comes out as this: “No.”
Well, you should shoot a photo of HIM, he says, pointing to his running companion. “He’s running the course FOUR TIMES!”
I think he goes on to explain the whole zzzz 100 mile thing, clearly a superhuman feat unimaginable to mere mortals. I’m not really listening. He pauses and waits.
I try to formulate a response. I know what I’m supposed to say. “OH MY GOD FOUR MARATHONS IN A ROW YOU ARE THE COOLEST PERSON ON THE PLANET THAT’S SO INCREDIBLE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE LET ME HAVE YOUR BABY.”
What I WANT to say is, “ummmm, why?”
It’s not like there aren’t enough ultras around here. If you want to run a hundred, run a hundred. Isn’t the point of a race to run that race as quickly as possible? Do guys ever show up for a 5k and run 3 5ks in advance so they can breathlessly report they actually ran a 20k?
It’s not like the roads are closed a day early. Why go through all of this just to run a slow marathon? Do you need validation? I just read a Janis Joplin biography in which her whole life revolved around proving herself and being loved and doing a lot of heroin. Is this guy doing a lot of heroin? Isn’t that on the IOC list of banned drugs?
Ummmm, huh. I say. So you’re going to finish 75 just in time for the start? “Yes!!!” the friend exclaims, impressed that the dense fellow finally understands the magnitude of this endeavor.
I want to tell him I know too well that it’s all relative. A guy is currently running from Mouse to Mouse, Disneyland to Disney World, as we speak. What about Big’s Backyard? Across the Years? The Sri run? Go 3,100 miles around a half-mile loop and then we’ll chat. Don’t they know that 200 is the new 100? Does anyone even get excited about a hundred miler these days? And isn’t it all relative? Isn’t a perfect mile more of an accomplishment than an OK 100? (As it turns out, Rupp ran the half here the next day in 1:01 and change. He apparently didn’t need to run 13.1 multiple times to make his race a worthwhile effort.)
I think about the shot putters at the track yesterday. They just show up and put shots. Or something. They’re really cool guys. I don’t know if they’re world class or community college class. All I know is they have fun and they seem happy. And they don’t much care what I think.
But maybe these guys are having fun, too. I’m just not sure I want to pretend to be impressed. It’s just running.
I formulate my response at last. “Huh. Well, good luck!”
Clearly disappointed with my lack of enthusiasm, they head off into the sunset, and then I suppose the sunrise, in search of another audience.
Mo and I go back to trying to shoot a photo with a lack of proper footwear.
We watch the debate and I eat ice cream. FOUR TIMES!!!!! Please tell me you’re impressed.
I’m a crabby old man. I should have been a shot putter.