Tag: Bobbi Gibb

BERLIN 2018 PREVIEW – DANGEROUS DISTANCE

Even in modern times, there are those of us who remember when people used to think running the marathon wasn’t just a challenge, but a risk.

Bobbi Gibb, Boston Marathon 1966

Bobbi Gibb, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1966, had a father who thought the event was downright dangerous, and was angry at his daughter for even thinking about running it – “he thought I was mentally ill, but he didn’t know I had been training.”

Who could blame Bobbi’s dad in 1966?  After all, the entire mythology of the event was based on the Greek messenger Pheidippides running himself into his grave bringing word of victory in a battle against Persians 2500 years ago.

With a debut like that, it’s no wonder it took 2400 years before somebody attempted the distance again. But once it got going and they stripped away that ‘maybe you’re going to die doing it’ element, the marathon boomed because it came to represent the ultimate test of athletic endurance in an increasingly sedentary world. 

That’s the thing about consensus beliefs, tasks readily accepted today were once deemed unattainable. Such is the  scientific method and the manner of progress.  Observation and experimentation lead to the formulation and the testing of hypotheses, and thus does evidence accumulate and knowledge expand. 

Of course, there are always science deniers, the proudly lunkheadish, but people generally accept what the data indicates.

It wasn’t that long ago that there was a school of thought that believed trying to run the mile in under four minutes was as physically dangerous as trying to break the sound barrier in flight, another thought-to-be-impossible human endeavor. In fact, the frisson of danger was a big part of why people were intrigued by such monumental undertakings. 

Tragedy, after all, could happen, and you could be witness to it. There was a perverse car-crash appeal to such danger. “Playing at the edge” was the mindset for what a long, hard running effort might bring about.  (more…)

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DANGEROUS DISTANCE

As we enter Boston Marathon week 2018, let us remember that people once used to believe that running a marathon wasn’t just a challenge, but a risk.

Bobbi Gibb, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1966, had a father who thought the event was downright dangerous and was angry at his daughter for even thinking about running it – “he thought I was mentally ill, but he didn’t know I had been training.”

Bobbi Gibb, Boston Marathon 1966

When Gibb hid in the bushes near the start line in Hopkinton, Massachusetts in April 1966 (because women weren’t allowed to run the marathon back then), her sole aim was to run the distance because that is what she had trained to do. And since she had already run as far as 30 miles on training, it never dawned on her that the marathon was beyond her capability. Only male officials were of that opinion. 52 years later women’s competitions in major Marathons stand on par, and at times higher, than the men’s race. That is certainly the case in these next two weeks in Boston and London.

But let’s also recall that it wasn’t all that long ago when there was a school of thought that believed that trying to run the mile in under four minutes was as physically dangerous as trying to break the sound barrier in flight, another thought-to-be-impossible endeavor. That frisson of danger was a big part of why people were intrigued by long distance racing. Tragedy, after all, could happen, and you could be witness to it. (more…)

ON ANY GIVEN SUNDAY

Community of Spirit

The trilling of birds fills the Sunday morning air, a gentle reminder that we once lived in a society scaled more for pause and reflection, rather than one constantly driven by the passing billow and grind of work-a-day commerce.

On any such Sunday morning across the country we seekers and sufferers alike gather by the tens of thousands, congregants all, and embark on a journey of spiritual awakening, discovery and self-fulfillment. We represent every race and religious denomination, every creed and every faith, and by our simple garb make it impossible to distinguish between the wealthy and the poor among us.  We, then, are America’s runners, observers who enter no church as such, rather attend what amount to services at speed at marathons and road races nationwide.

Ours is a movement now firmly within the American mainstream, though we only began in earnest in the 1970s. Then, a combination of age and cynicism began to erode once dewy ideals which were bent toward altering a society of convention waging an immoral war in a foreign land.  Back then, a few iconoclasts sought refuge from the collective entanglement, and began to run on a path of self-discovery and personal well-being.

Today, our discipline transcends all boundaries and conventions, and has swollen into the millions across the globe. But even as our new collective has clogged city streets  – and in doing so filled charity coffers – we have met resistance.  Resistance not for what we believe, i.e. the restorative and redemptive power of a distance run, for that is a universal set tied to men like Thoreau and Emerson.  Instead, the resistance has come due to that which we require to fulfill our quests.  For in our need for open roads on which to celebrate fitness and health, we have called upon the graces of other, more traditional congregants whose path to their own places of worship have been blocked in the process.

The scheduling of marathons on Sunday mornings has thus become a thorny issue throughout the country. It cropped up a few years ago in Los Angeles, California after the city’s 21st annual marathon in 2006.  The old L.A. course, like so many major marathons, wound through the city’s neighborhoods blocking streets, and at times disrupting church services, in L.A.’s case as many as 500 churches.   But in thinking about the churches / marathon dilemma it struck me how narrowly us-versus-them that argument had become.  (more…)