Endurance Through The Ages

by Mackenzie Armstrong

Two and a half millenniums ago, an impossible war was won and one man ran further than most men ever should.
Greece was one defeat away from becoming an afterthought. The Persian Empire had a killer instinct and, with an army of epic proportion, that instinct was something to seriously worry about. But, ultimately, what the Greeks lacked in numbers they made up for with the size of their hearts.
The luckiest of the Persians were sent home bloodied, while most were sent into the afterlife. Following the unlikely triumph, a Greek messenger by the name of Philippides ran 25 miles unstopping from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens, where his people waited for news in baited breath. “Νενικήκαμεν!” (We are victorious!) was his final message before he dropped dead, from exhaustion, onto the city streets.
This last, historic run of Philippides inspired the modern marathon; a namesake and tribute to the battlefield on which the Greeks spilt Persian blood to save their own. Since the Summer Olympics of 1908, many of humankind’s most tenacious have endured the 26.2 mile run, accomplishing what killed a Greek messenger and what I’d kill myself before doing.
Few find marathons easier than they find small talk, and even fewer have crossed the finish line feeling as fresh as a just-picked peach. The marathon once represented our toughest test, the root canal of long-distance running, the SAT of athletics. But, as home run records are made to be broken and as presidents and prime ministers all must eventually be replaced, the marathon has relinquished its crown as the crusher – its successor: the Ironman. 
Imagine someone taking a vacuum to your airways, a sledge hammer to your feet, placing your stomach in a blender, giving a swift kick to your calf muscles and then throwing you tumbling down a rocky mountainside. You now know what it feels like to have finished an Ironman. And that’s if you’re in shape.
My 26-year-old cousin, Hannah, had trained for more than a year before recently enlisting in the Lake Placid Ironman so she did not suffer any worse but after four kilometers in the water, 180 kilometers by bike and a complete marathon, by golly, she should have.
If someone hadn’t told me any different, I would believe I’m destined to become the next King of Pop before I’d presume the same blood that runs through her veins runs through my own. The closest I have ever come to the Ironman is the annual 10 kilometer Terry Fox Run – or in my case, the Terry Fox Walk.
She brought back with her several stories of pain, exhaustion and accomplishment but my favorite was one of friendship. One competitor, a middle-aged man, failed to qualify for a medal of participation by a mere five minutes the previous year and three weeks ago, with several kilometers of the marathon left to go, he was on pace for further disappointment. But, alas, a few friends left the sidelines to join him, running the remaining distance and encouraging him every excruciating step. After miraculously arriving one minute before the deadline, he had a medal around his neck but, more importantly, the Ironman had his best friends by his side.
From the fallen Greek messenger to my cousin to the man with the miracle medal, the art endurance has fittingly endured the test of time.
Maybe it is my turn to join this evolution… then again, maybe not.

MacKenzie Armstrong

[Mackenzie Armstrong] [Admitted Introvert] [And May Humanity Improve!] [Drink Because It's Bad For You] [Endurance Through The Ages] [Life, Death & Everything Else] [Of A Hobbit & Your Dreams] [Punch His Face] [Strand By Strand] [The Politics Of Saving Lives] [War Should Not Be Natural] [You And I At The Zoo] [The Large Life In A Small Cement Building] [One world and its infinite number of others]