Running Through History With an Unlikely Athlete

(Rodale Books; 2007)


“Everyone is an athlete. The only difference is that some of us are in training and some are not.”
—Dr. George Sheehan
From the Book

Chapter 1

The Fat Man In Green Pajamas

“Expect Poison From Standing Water.”—William Blake

Pheidippides is said to have run the first marathon. That was in September of 490 BC. He brought news that the Persians had been defeated. Athens was saved. Civilization was saved. “Rejoice!” He said, “We conquer!”

Like wine through clay,

Joy in his blood bursting his heart,

He died—the bliss!”

This bliss is what I’m after.

Although mortality is part of it. I was moving in a pack of runners 20-odd years ago on a sidewalk in White Plains, New York, after a half-marathon. Spotting others in singlets and with the distinctive post-exertion matted hair, we’d wave our bony fists. “Good race!” we’d shout.

“Good race!” they’d shout right back.

A funeral cortege appeared suddenly on the street beside us. The contrast between this ominous procession and our own towering spirits silenced the pack and made us—for an instant—ashamed. Then one of the runners waved his fist at the hearse. “Good race!” he shouted.

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