Yesterday, some 24,000 runners from all 50 states and a score of foreign nations ran the 33rd Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon under ideal conditions – 47F at the Dodger Stadium start near downtown, to just over 50F at the Santa Monica seaside finish. Though the men’s and women’s pro races weren’t the burners one might have expected under such clement conditions, both gender leaders did stage dramatic late-race competitions worthy of a Hollywood script. Behind them came thousands upon thousands of stories of desire, redemption, and the life-affirming embrace of a personal challenge met and overcome.
It has been said, “there is no pain that empowers like that of childbirth.” Perhaps that is so, but under current species regulations, it remains beyond men’s capability to take on that task, and accordingly, we must accept the truth of it from the mouths of our mothers, wives, and daughters.
Beyond passing a kidney stone, then, perhaps the closest we men can come to the experience of childbirth is the pain of the marathon. For it has also been said, “you don’t run a marathon, you give birth to one”.
Unpacking this metaphor suggests that all the training up to and through the first 20 miles of the race equates to the gestation period (though I’m still a little iffy as to an apt metaphor for the insemination). You experience labor in the final 10K, before finally giving birth at the finish line. And just like childbirth, there is a beauty to such a hurts-so-good pain.
It was with this giving-birth metaphor in mind that I chose to name my earliest marathon attempts.
My first was lovely, sweet-natured, and easy to be around. I could not have been more blessed. There was no pain at all, just a little fatigue. I called her Lucy, and she was delivered in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1978. So enamored was I of Lucy that I instantly felt she needed a sibling. And so I embarked on my second marathon with memories of Lucy’s gentle ways leading me on.
I sought a sibling for Lucy in Foxborough, Massachusetts one year later. Unfortunately, my second marathon turned into a breach birth, was troublesome and most painful – for godsakes, don’t go out too fast. In the end, the thing turned on me, and so I gave the ingrate its proper name, Damian, devil-child, the evil seed, thankless tot. And it was Damian who put me off from further expanding my family after that experience in Foxborough.
That’s why I come before you with only two marathons on my resume. One was very easy, the next very hard. Accordingly, I figured I’d defined the parameters of the event. Anything further would’ve just been somewhere in the gray area between. Besides, not only were race officials not going to pay me to do this to myself – I was missing that talent gene – they wanted me to pay them for the privilege! And for what, blisters the size of sink stoppers, bleeding nipples, and chafed thighs that could only Oprah could fully appreciate? Finishing a bad marathon was like being a guest on the Jerry Springer show.
“Now, ladies and gentlemen, let’s welcome a man whose entire body is one big cramp.”
“Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!”
Thanks, just the same. I have been happy to talk about these marathons for many a year, and just completed broadcasting my 33rd in Los Angeles. But I have had zero interest in experiencing that pain ever again on foot. If I get the urge, maybe I’ll just adopt.
That said, congratulations to all those who completed their term yesterday in Santa Monica. Well done. Let the naming begin.