ODE TO THE L.A. MARATHON
Go now to your rest, old distance,
Be unafraid, your time is at hand,
Where for years you held full dominion,
Today, we saw your last stand.
It came in the City of Angels,
Home to the silver screen stars,
Where again you served up your measure,
As a challenge from here to afar:
Lace tight and take up this mantel,
Of running’s mythic-born test,
Not knowing that a man named Geneti,
Had yet to showcase his best.
He’d been spinning his heels on the ovals,
Of European and American tracks,
1500s and 5000s his calling,
And with successes he kept coming back.
’til last year when the times didn’t match up,
With those that he’d run once before,
Thus was the decision arrived at,
The distance, there had to be more.
And so he began training with Gebre,
& Bekana under coach Haji A,
Then on to the marathon in SoCal,
With no race plan in hand ‘cept to say,
“I’ll run the pace of their choosing,
None too fast or even too slow,
I’ve come with one simple purpose,
My aim is to go with the flow.”
Then the date it dawned so dreary,
With storms, even thunder in play,
Only the third time L.A. had seen it,
Such rains on marathon day.
Yet the Kenyans attacked from the air horn,
Releasing the lads to the route,
They were out capture The Challenge,
And take home the $100K loot.
First Maiyo then Kamakya out hungry,
Like big cats chasing after their prey,
The women who’d been given the advantage,
Their own goal, to cash in that pay.
Amy Hastings, the rookie from Mammoth,
Led the Ethiopians in close order flight,
Deba and Dibaba the dangers,
You had a feeling they were playing it just right.
But by the mark of 59 minutes,
Geneti had broken away clean,
Could the rookie with the speed of a miler,
Hold fast and close out this dream?
On TV Reavis said, “No way,
He’s challenging the marathon gods,
They’ll certainly deal with him harshly,
Look at history, that’ll show you the odds.”
Yet onward he rushed in defiance,
Of each and every constituent norm,
Passing the women at twenty,
His surge like a single-cell storm.
He ran as if it were easy,
Like the miles wouldn’t add up to pain,
Though he dialed back a little through Brentwood,
The record remained well in his aim.
2:06:35 at the finish,
Joy, like a warm soothing balm,
Spread over the young man from Addis,
A visage of serenity and calm.
We dream in the nights of our longing,
Of days of such relative ease,
When one foot in front of another,
Is like a tree releasing its leaves.
No effort is needed or called for,
No purpose beyond our intent,
It springs from a well deep within us,
Then, once offered comes easily spent.
Today you saw it in Los Angeles,
Even with winds and rain on your side,
Still a novice took grasp of your chalice,
Where now will your power reside?
It seems that you’ve met your new masters,
Speed merchants from Addis and beyond,
The pride of East Africa’s mothers,
Who seek fame across the wide pond.
They attack as if this were your brethren,
The fifteen or twenty-one K,
Hammering the miles from the onset,
Convinced that this is truly their day.
No longer in fear of breaking,
Or DNF’g as caution once warned,
These days they race at full gallop,
As we look on with wonder, so why mourn?
The fear you engendered is long gone.
How distant those old times must seem,
When once you were the fiercest opponent,
The one held in highest esteem.
Your veil was first torn in Beijing,
Under Wanjiru’s relentless attack,
He broke every rule in your handbook,
Yet took home the gold medal, and that,
Released the flood that rushed after,
As each man came to decide,
I, too, can challenge your distance,
“I am Wanjiru!” they cried.
Oh, Marathon, that once used to humble,
That brought valorous men to their knees,
You’re no longer considered so frightful,
But a modicum of respect, if you please.
For the names of yore like Pheidippides,
Who first paid the ultimate price,
Though his message now isn’t what it once was,
There’s still truth in his historic demise.
Today, there’s a completely new lesson,
A plan for our own current years,
Train as your African brothers,
And you, too, can fend off the fears.
That once leapt from the hearts of our fathers,
As they took up your gallant old task,
Of racing over forty-two kilometers,
From here to their dreamscape and back.