Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Because We Really Should Say Something About the Marathon....

Yeah, I know -- it's pretty difficult to blog anything about the Boston Marathon. Marathons, by their very nature, are difficult events to follow, because... well, the course is 26 freaking miles long. As a spectator, you get to personally witness about .04% of the event at best, unless you're watching Bob and Alice on Channel 4 desperately trying to pick Lance Armstrong out of a crowd. Here's how the scene plays out if, say, you happen to live along the course in Natick....

(1) 8:30 AM -- Route 135 closed.
(2) 9:30 AM -- Woo! Jets!
(3) 10:15 AM (approx) -- 5-6 guys buzz by in wheelchairs
(4) 10:30 AM (approx) -- Clot of really skinny mostly-white women runs by.
(5) 10:40 AM (approx) -- Flock of African guys runs by.
(6) 10:45 AM (approx) -- First American runs by.
(7) 11:00 AM (approx) -- Dave's cousin An Uber-Pimp Named DaveN runs by.
(7a) 11:01 AM (approx) -- Lance Armstrong runs by, apparently using a Romulan cloaking device (because I sure didn't see him...)
(8) 11:15 AM - 12:45 PM (approx) -- Sea of Humanity
(9) 11:30 AM -- APNDR gets bored and goes home to watch the Sox game.
(10) 3:30 PM -- Route 135 open.

I think alcohol and/or the presence of a lot of booze-filled Wellesley College co-eds probably makes the experience a lot better... but hey, it's a world class athletic event that's only four blocks away from me, so dammit, I'm going to watch it.

But again... kind of hard to blog about it, at least in any interesting way. So I'll just say a couple of words about two finishers -- the first, and (I believe) one of the last:

(1) The Winner -- Robert Cheruiyot

Big surprise -- a Kenyan wins the Marathon. But what a story this guy has to tell. Cheruiyot (pronounced "chariot", in case you didn't watch the news after any of his four victories) was, at one point in his life, a virtual slave. Yes, an honest-to-God indentured servant! When Cheruiyot's family split up -- leaving him and his brother Stephen literally on someone's doorstep, with his dad selling a plot of land he owned and disappearing, he was taken in by a relative who promised to pay his school tuition. Um, sorry Bob -- there's a catch. I do have a full sink of dishes for you to do, and, well, let's just say that you're the "houseboy" now, dig? And if you don't like it -- no school, no house, no nothing, capice? That lasted for eight years, until said relative kicked him out on the street with no money, no job, and no tuition for school. Desperate, he wound up taking a job at a barbershop that paid him about $0.30 a day. Somehow, he wound up in a running camp run by former Boston winner Moses Tanui, and the rest is history. (For more info, read John Powers' great interview/article on Cheruiyot from last year.) As if that weren't enough of a burden to bear in life, the recent political chaos in Kenya has thrown his (reunited) family into disarray, with some of his relatives winding up in refugee camps. There are stories about sports raising someone out of poverty... and then there's Robert Cheruiyot. Yowza.

(2) The Other Winner -- Jason Pisano

Jason Pisano isn't a famous professional marathoner, and you've probably never heard his name before. In fact, I didn't even know his name until I researched it for this post. All I knew was that I had seen a fleeting glimpse on the TV last night of a guy finishing in the dark, with a handful of people around him, pushing himself in a wheelchair -- backwards. That stuck with me (even more than the guy running the race in the pink ballerina outfit), and I had to find out more.

Pisano is a 36-year-old guy from Warwick, RI who has cerebral palsy. He cannot move his arms effectively, and gets by in life mainly by using his left foot for everything. He almost died as a child when, during a rainy recess, his wheelchair tipped over and he fell face-down into a puddle. He is also well on his way to his goal of completing 50 marathons, including yesterday's Boston Marathon. That would be, I believe, his 14th straight Boston Marathon -- i.e. 14 more than I've finished.

Jason runs his marathons by, as noted above, pushing himself backwards in his wheelchair using his one "good" leg. All 26 miles. For over 40 marathons so far. Let that sink in for a second: he pushes himself backwards with one leg for 26 miles.
The next time I'm too bass-ackwards lazy to get off the couch and do half an hour on the treadmill, I'm going to think about Jason Pisano pushing himself through 40+ marathons with one leg. I will still stay on the couch -- because I'm bass-ackwards lazy -- but I will feel approximately 400,000% more like a worthless piece of garbage because of it.

So there you have it -- two guys who redefine "overcoming obstacles to compete." This should at least give you cause to let out a hearty laugh the next time you hear some basketball player complain about the "hardships" he faced at Detroit Country Day when Nike reneged on his shoe contract.

Also, Route 135 is now open.

Photo credits: USA Today; Beloblog.com


GHABB,Y~! said...

You also left out the part where Bob Lobel was drunker than he's EVER been. At one point they were looking for Lance Armstrong in the crowd and he said "he's wearing yellow if that helps."

futuremrsrickankiel said...


Agreed on the above point, incidentally. I'm pretty sure I saw Bob Lobel make a female runner hug him and promise to "text him" after she finished.

A Pimp Named DaveR said...

Funny, Bob didn't seem any less coherent to me than his usual level of incoherence.

It's a good thing Uta Pippig (whom Bob always seemed to have a crush on) didn't run, or we might have seen actual scat porn in the middle of the race.