Sam Cook: Runners display true driveI stand on Superior Street across from Sir Ben’s, watching the parade of humanity flow past.
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
I stand on Superior Street across from Sir Ben’s, watching the parade of humanity flow past.
It’s cool. It’s drizzling. It’s Grandma’s Marathon and the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon.
Passing me, the runners already have knocked off 10 miles or 23 miles. They come shuffling, bouncing, walking, smiling, chatting, scanning the crowd, looking for the next mile marker.
I suppose it is possible to live in Duluth and ignore race day, but I cannot do it. Not when you’ve run the marathon and the half. Not when you’ve got a houseful of people sleeping every which way on your beds and floors, some here to run, some to watch.
So, we throw a few layers in the pack and take up our position along the route and watch for the faces we know.
The runners come like a river, flowing past us where the road jogs. Some look strong. Some are just hanging on.
They come with all manner of unique gaits. The tippy-toers. The lumber wagons. The hard chargers. The right-leaners. The plodders. The prancers. The hunched-overs. The arm-flailers. All of them getting there.
The East Africans are long gone now. They came flitting by, weightlessly, long ago. You look at them, and you realize: Oh. That is what it means to run. It looks beautiful, flawless, easy, anti-gravitational. They’re cheetahs and gazelles and wildebeests floating across the savannah.
Friends come by. Some are on their way to personal bests on this cool June morning. Some are finding out they didn’t train enough. On the sideline, we do not know how they are doing. We cannot feel their side stitches, the little-toe blisters, the rubber-band hamstrings, the lactic acid, the terrier-bite Achilles tendons, the old hockey knee injuries.
They are happy to see us. We give them a good word. They smile. Some stop for a sweaty hug. We take their pictures. They move on.
It is possible, too, never to see the friend you hoped to see. When the current of the river becomes a flood of faces, there are simply too many faces.
“Where’s Ann?” we wonder.
And finally, we deduce that somehow she has passed unnoticed.
It is nearly impossible, if you stand there long enough, not to well up with emotion over some small moment you witness. For me, it was the leader of the men’s wheelchair race who came by even before the Ethiopians and the Kenyans.
Tucked in his sling of canvas, arms driving his wheels like pistons, he shot by with such astounding speed that I was momentarily choked up. His speed seemed to defy the limits of human performance. And he’d been doing that for 23 miles already.
I had no idea, at that moment, what his life story was, how he lost the use of his legs. But he wasn’t looking back. He was exploring the edge of his potential, living in that rare air where risk and preparation and will come together.
It was difficult to watch him streak by in those fleeting seconds and not ask yourself this question: Am I making the most of my life?