The 42.195 meter stare, after repeated stampedes of your arrogance by joyful 70 year olds.

November 9, 2010

I read that doing something you hate yields more potential for satisfaction if followed to completion. Timed running was enforced by authoritative figures in the past making it an absolutely unsatisfactory ordeal. I despised running in school and loathed it in the army. The exact turning point is not clear but after i removed the elements of screaming orders, sprinting and confinement it actually started becoming more enjoyable. You always have to drag your body for the first kilometers, but after the muscles warm up you just run like a fine tuned machine. Summer night runs along the river eluding fishermen, electric scooters and backward walkers while you get drenched in ridiculous amounts of sweat. Autumn and suddenly you run alone breaking the tranquility of couples in parked cars. Marathon comes somewhere in the process like a distant goal, uncharted territory of body and mental limits. Plans, runs and destruction of cheap imported shoes that takes a toll on knees. Trying to find a no. 46 pair of running shoes proves to be harder than anticipated, solution comes from taobao (Chinese e-bay) and a fine pair of fake Nikes with rough stitching arrives shortly after. The anticipated time arrives and i found myself squeezing inside a bus at 6:00 A.M. heading for Yellow Dragon stadium in a fine Sunday morning. The empty streets / full bus paradox ends when i start spotting red running bags on the shoulders of every passenger. The stadium is in full fledge party mode when we arrive, sponsors, music and a sea of people, i got the familiar giggling and wide eyed staring although there are a few more laowai participants. I gulp down a banana which later will stubbornly try to ascend into daylight for at least an hour through the race. It is then that a repeating squeaky sound emerges from the front of my right shoe (photo).

What a better way to start the race, cursing cheap fake shoes i squeak my way through the start line making barefoot plans if the sole detaches without warning. Few minutes before the beginning, the race announcer is a crowd pleaser, he bursts through the mic: “Weeeeeeeeeeelcome to Hanghzou marathon, OUEEEEEHAAAA (scream).”, “NOOOOWWW MAAAIOUKOULLL JACKSSSSON SONG!”. I don’t hear a gunshot but when the tidal body wave moves you start running, first kilometer you bounce your way through people, a mixture of participants from all the races (marathon, half, small, mini). We reach west lake and people start cheering, 2km, hordes of colourful grandmothers scream JAAAYIOOO (COME ON) in unison. Lake on our right, small tai chi groups practicing with big swords, scenes fly by. In 5th K people have clear distances, the small race participants sprint past us huffing & puffing. 8K we bid them goodbye. Warming up everything goes fairly well despite the crappy shoe and a banana that bounces rhythmically making constant escape attempts. I wonder if i should grand the favor or just digest it. People pass me en masses, quite annoying, but this is just an illusion of looking only forward. Glimpses behind my back reveal a long running line, before i secure that thought an old man zooms past me. I start recognising faces. Cheering from passerbies, Jaaayiooo! Jaaayio! water stations, splashing the cups in your face and throwing them on the street. Volunteers everywhere. 12km and the half marathon twists leaving only the full marathon participants.

We run heading for the river, familiar route, pass tiger spring, first encounter with traffic (it will be present for the next 15km) cutting right on the highway in a beautiful scenery between tea fields. 21k (half marathon distance) in 1:58 and good spirit. People start walking, stopping, getting left behind, 25km and we ‘r back in traffic, fumes and honking. E-bikes zoom around us, people offering bananas and snicker bars. From 27K onwards I battle with a persistent 70 year old man. The first goal is to reach 30k before the 3h30m time limit (after that you get scooped by broom buses and disgracefully dropped back to the stadium). I manage to keep up the 10k/h pace crossing the 30km marker in 3 hours. Suddenly lower body starts complaining, feet resist feeling like 2 oscillating weights on every step. It is the point when you are drained from the stored energy and you just keep going burning whatever is internally available . High spirits, i only have 12 more km and 2 hours to do them, but the more i run the worse it feels, i start walking which is also bad as your feet start pounding. The last 7 km prove to be the most difficult i have to drag myself forward counting the markers 38,39,40,41 finally the stadium appears on sight, a few more meters, the volunteers rave in joy, i barely pass the finish line 5 minutes before the time limit.

(needless to say that these guys finished a long time before me proving that age has nothing to do with youth).


5 Responses to “The 42.195 meter stare, after repeated stampedes of your arrogance by joyful 70 year olds.”

  1. Katerina said


  2. ΓΔΣ said

    Είμαι ένας υπερήφανος πατέρας τόσο γιά τον αγώνα όσο και γιά την περιγραφή

  3. skoupidiaris said


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