Bicycle Diaries: Μαραθώνας & Chicago

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Μαραθώνας & Chicago

our battle
and theirs

ABC News, 7 October 2007:
In a race run in scorching heat that left one man dead, Kenya's Patrick Ivuti won the Chicago Marathon by a fraction of a second Sunday. At least 49 runners were taken to hospitals and another 250 were treated at the site.

The 88-degree heat and sweltering humidity were so draining that organizers shut down the second half of the course four hours after the start.
Yesterday, a runner died in the Chicago Marathon. That's what the Romanian waitress told me as I enjoyed the humid, hot Indian Summer at the start of this strange October.

A runner died in 490 BCE as well. An Athenian herald, Pheidippides, entrusted with the news of Persia's defeat, ran the 26+ miles to assure his nervous countrymen of victory at Marathon. He arrives, spews out the news between gulping breaths, his heart burts ... and he dies.

We live in a society titillated by RealityTV where amateur survivors cheerfully volunteer to be detained in bamboo cages 3/4s suspended in stagnant water like so many US POWs during Viet Nam. So it really should be no surprise that we forget that running 26+ miles, whatever the temperature, no matter the high-tech nutrition supplements, could easily kill you.

The Spartans, never as sentimental as the softer, more excitable neighbors across the Aegean, never forgot. Their women; mothers, sisters, and wives, acknowledged it in every war. To their sons, brothers, and husbands, they always bid farewell (grim-faced & without surprise):
Come back on your shields,
Or on them.

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