Running on Tilt

California Dreaming

Boston recap; on to Big Sur

Listen | Time: 3:30 · Format: mp3

It was a race with suspense that built horribly, like Deliverance or the British version of the Wicker Man, starring Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee. These 1970s movies were made before our collective attention spans turned to nil. Though Kara Goucher was in the lead, she never looked comfortable. I saw her at mile 11 of the New York City Marathon last fall, and she looked strong as she chased Paula Radcliffe, but in Boston on Monday, running alongside microscopic women with smooth strides, she appeared strangely out of place, which, of course, she wasn’t—she was entirely in the right place, for much of the race in first place.

Ryan Hall, by comparison, seemed driven not by a heart pumping blood through his veins but by a motor with a precise timing mechanism controlling the machinery that makes his stride at once so smooth and yet so stilted. He looks like a robot when racing, or like T-1000, the terminator in the cop outfit, from Terminator II. When Hall took the lead in Boston he appeared unbeatable, even with the entire continent of Africa seemingly on his shoulder.

Hall always looks strong. Dush, dush, dush. And he is undeniably fast, but perhaps what is lost in the mechanics is quickness. Deriba Merga, the Boston winner, runs with an eager impatience, as if he is obscenely late in getting to the doctor’s office, a sight oddened further by his striking resemblance to Sammy Davis Jr.

Merga, Wanjiru and Gebrselassie, arguably the world’s three best marathoners, are of a certain mold: Merga is 5’6’’, while Wanjiru and Geb are 5’4’’. All weigh between about 112 and 118 pounds. Hall is more of a Paul Tergat stature—both are approximately 5’10’ to six feet, and weigh between 137 and 142 pounds.

Hall and Goucher are gutsy runners. Both took the lead and got American running fans emotionally involved in the outcome of the race far more than they had been before. First place finishes would have brought a media blitz, but the hardcore running community is hardly discouraged—these runners will be back.

The Internet stream of the Boston marathon continued after the winners had been decided, and for fifteen minutes or so the camera showed runners who would finish in the 2:30s or 2:40s—great runners all—looking ordinary only because there were so many of them.

That’s a wrap for now from New York. It’s time, as Mamas & the Papas would say, for California dreaming to become a reality. I don’t know what the race will bring. I’m thankful that I’m still neither injured nor sick, knock on wood, and that for three hours or so on Sunday I’ll be running in what I’ve heard is a spectacularly scenic part of the world. I’m very thankful for the Central Park Running Club for helping me get in pretty good shape, and to the greater running community in general both here in New York and elsewhere on land and in cyberspace. I’m especially thankful to my wife, who despite having not been bitten by the running bug is understanding about my needs to lace up and further to podcast about it, and to my sister who also will be running in Big Sur.