One foot in front of the other

They're running the Portland Marathon today, for the 51st time. I was in it a couple of years – once when that number was in the single digits, and another time when there were fewer than 500 runners. It's quite the ordeal, but there's a certain satisfaction that comes when you finish the thing and are still breathing. The original marathon runner, Pheidippides, fell dead at the finish line.

My knees are past the marathon age; even my hips start to talk to me if I try to run these days. But I distinctly remember several old geezers running the full 26.2 miles back when I was out there. Real characters, they were. The one guy was in his 70's. And they were faster and stronger than 20-something me. I don't know how they did it.

Along about mile 19 or 20 – that'll be down in the Morelands today, it used to be up by the University of Portland – you started to see who the real runners were. Then there were the rest of us, hitting the proverbial wall and pushing on despite the screams of our bodies. "When it really hurts, try to concentrate on keeping good form." Easier said than done. To finish is to win.

As I recall, the best time I could run it in was around 3 hours and 15 minutes; I'd have to look it up. That was my last marathon, roughly 30 minutes faster than my first. I learned that there was no sense saving myself for the end. By the end, I was going to be quite delirious. Better to get it over with as quickly as possible.

Hats off to everyone out there getting it done this morning. If you see them over the next few days, congratulate them. They'll be the skinny people from out of town, limping and descending the stairs ever so slowly.


  1. I never understood why someone would want to willingly run 26 miles. Sounds like hell to me. I have always been somewhat athletic, but running was not something that I would ever consider for exercise or recreation. Unless I had a gun to my head. I did used to do a lot of those Double Century bike rides. That is 200 miles in one or two days.

    I did the STP once and the layover was somewhere in WA. I had a B&B thing reserved for me and some family members. It was literally five miles from the halfway stop, up a very steep grade, up into the mountains. And the “accommodations” were like 1950 rural West Virginia. Nice people though. I gave up on killing myself for exercise after that.

  2. Well said. ~Chester


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