Running is creative. The runner does not know how or why he runs He only knows that he must run, and in doing so he expresses himself as he can in no other way. He creates out of instability and conflict something that gives pleasure to himself and others, because it releases feelings of beauty and power latent within us all. Roger Bannister, The Four Minute Mile
Roger Bannister was the first to break the mystical four minute mile barrier and for him running was a critical way of breaking down some personal walls. A physician who approached the sport with a scientific eye, he understood running was as much about the mental as the physical. And while he never ran a marathon, he understood well the lure of running and the unique value it brings to each runner. This past weekend was “marathon” weekend and Tallahassee folks competed in marathons all over the country. For two events, the Chicago and Twin Cities Marathons, record high temperatures ruled the day and almost six hundred runners required medical care. One died in the Chicago Marathon where race directors actually started diverting runners off the course because of the heat. Twin Cities organizers reported that they were a degree and half away from stopping their event when cloud cover rolled in and saved the day. Despite these conditions, over 24,000 runners finished the Chicago Marathon and more than 7200 finished the Twin Cities race. The “why” question has been heard a lot in the aftermath of these heat waves, but to find the answer you must discover each runner’s own story. Three Tallahassee runners had special stories.
Lt. Colonel, Fred Johnson, just returned from a fifteen month tour in Iraq, got a small reward for his extraordinary service in the desert and in the cities of Baghdad with one of the few cool marathons in Portland. Fred’s time in Iraq, served with distinction and honor, was as difficult as you would expect. Running has been a key bridge back from a war torn country to home. He used the first half of the Portland Marathon to warm up to the idea and then blazed home a winner with a faster second half. Most importantly to family and friends it meant he was home safe. Ron Christen shattered bones in his legs into so many pieces when he fell off a roof that he was told him he should just be happy to learn to walk and forget running. I guess he adequately explained that was not an acceptable goal when he climbed the Summit Street hills in the oppressive heat of St. Paul and then finished the Twin Cities Marathon a winner.
The story closest to home began several Decembers ago when Mary Jean Yon’s run at the Ten Mile Challenge ended in the local emergency room where she felt the sensation of hovering over her own body looking down at the doctors working on her in the emergency room as her heart beat approached 300 beats per minute. She recalls thinking, “Well I could just let go and be done. But no, it is not time for that.” We learned all about the heart’s electrical circuits, electro physiological studies, ventricular tachycardia and ablations. Ablations, a surgical procedure that sometimes offers a magical cure, just didn’t work for Mary Jean, despite attempts at Emory and the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio by two of the top physicians in the field. The doctor at Emery decided a Medtronic’s implantable cardiac defibrillator was necessary to prevent the heart racing out of control again. None of it though could conquer the desire to get back on the trails and roads and what better way to validate that fighter’s spirit than with a comeback at the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon.
I am not sure any of these runners can really answer “why,” but I am certain they each found some of the beauty and power inside us all with their efforts.
Tallahassee weekend competitors