Monday, August 23, 2004


I've just finished watching the Olympic women's marathon. I meant to pop down and watch it for a few minutes at a time throughout the race, but it was too dramatic to leave once it had started.

Marathons always fascinate me. I did cross-country running at school for a short time, and loved it, but the sheer determination it took to stay at a level where it remained enjoyable was beyond me. Plus of course there were all sorts of restrictions on my time (caused by the silly sect I grew up in) which made it impossible anyway. But I remember getting that runner's high, just once, where suddenly all the pain and strain disappears, and you feel as though you could run forever, weightless, effortless. I won a school race on my one runner's high, floating effortlessly ahead of everybody with my teacher cruising alongside in a car and urging me on. I talked with him as I was running. I told him how I felt, and he told me what it was called. It was a revelation to me.

These days I can barely run around the block, but I love watching the marathoners. I went out with a guy who ran marathons for a while when I was in my early 20s, and I could understand why he did it. I could also understand why, even though he wasn't built to be a runner and knew he would never win a race, he still wanted to run. Just finishing a marathon was enough for him.

I feel like that when I watch the marathon. After the winner comes in, I want to be there, cheering on the others as well. They finished that run. They deserve to be cheered on. The ones that drop out deserve a cuddle, too, for all the effort they put in.

Today's race was exciting for Japan because there were three Japanese runners in the race, and all three stayed in the top ten all the way. They came in at first, fifth and seventh, out of a field of 82, although perhaps this is less extraordinary when you consider how big marathon running is in Japan. It's a national obsession. Every Sunday morning, it seems, there is some marathon being shown on TV.

Noguchi, the winner, is 150 cm tall and weighs 40 kg. For you Americans out there that is 4 foot nine, and 88 pounds. Her BMI is 17.8, which makes her underweight. I guess that must be good for running marathons. You don't want to carry any extra weight for all that distance.

She did carry a little extra weight, though. She had a talisman stuck to the side of her shorts, probably especially blessed for her by a Shinto priest. Maybe the extra weight held her back a little, but maybe the blessing carried her forward. Who knows.

Today's race was also remarkable because of the number of runners who threw up on camera. I've never seen that before. Two woman threw up during the race, after drinking. One of these had just drunk some luridly coloured special sports drink. Her technicolor yawn made me think for a moment that she had some exotic disease.

The winner threw up, too, after passing the finish line, and was hurried away by a doctor. It was very sudden. She looked radiant, then threw up. I hope she is all right.

I regret the Japanese-centric coverage of this race. Although I can understand why they focused on Noguchi, especially after she pulled ahead, I wish they'd shown the American runner who came in third. I didn't get to see her at all except at the end, and she must have had an amazing race. She was never in the top group when they were showing it, and the next group was a long way back so she must have made an astonishing breakaway run at some point. I'd love to have seen that. I would have been cheering her on like mad. SatoriSam thinks I never cheer on Americans, but he's wrong.

Sometimes I do.


Anonymous said...

Hello, Badaunt. This is Lindy from tblogland. This blog is yummy. I ran cross country in high school, pride and Joy of General H.H. Arnold High in Wiesbaden, Germany. It came naturally to hit that point where I could just keep going. And funny enough, I had all this natural talent and no real inclination to be a runner. I enjoyed competing, the adrenaline rush was great, liked winning all those awards and getting my name in the paper, but it was just as easy to go find other things to do. This perplexed many in my local world of sports, from coaches to fellow runners. I never ran a marathon and can't even fathom trying now, but I still feel very close to the subject of running. It was the first glory I ever tasted, plus it forced all the jocks to be nice to a freaky punk chick because she was "one of them"... enjoyed this post.

Badaunt said...

You obviously took it a lot further (and had a lot more talent) than I did - I stopped running when I was about 14! But I've never forgotten the feeling. It must have been great to run in big races and actually win awards. I envy you.

Did you see the race today? Did you see the American runner? How the hell did she get up there so fast? She must have been WONDERFUL to watch. I'm so annoyed that they didn't show her.

ŦoяяyĠĩяL said...

They throw up? That's kind of strange...i'm sure that it all makes sense, given how far they push themselves, but it would still be a horrible thing to watch. And it would take a lot of the glory out of winning. It's hard to look victorious with your head in the toilet.

Badaunt said...

I hadn't seen that before, either. I guess it was the heat.

There were no toilets, unfortunately. They threw up beside the road, except for the winner, who threw up on the track, trying to hide from the cameras.

It's humiliating enough to throw up in front of people. Imagine how it felt to throw up in front of millions of people?

Pkchukiss said...

I was hoping to run at least a full marathon (42 km) once in my short lifetime, at least before I return to my inflated size after my national service...

Oh well, I guess I've better perfect some throwing up techniques. Who knows? I might get the "Most elegant finisher" award?

Badaunt said...

To Pkchukiss:

If you want to finish elegantly by throwing up, you'll need an elegantly coloured sports drink. I recommend royal purple.