Opinion Column

Those marathoners are a special lot

By Jim Foster

I went for a walk one morning, listening to Eric Clapton on a Walkman or whatever you call those little Coby things with earplugs. They are captivating devices because, after a few moments, you forget where you are, where you are going or what you are supposed to be doing; you just listen as the music goes on and on.

Without thinking, I began to walk, skip, waltz and lumber to the music and, without realizing it, had logged several miles. I started on the trail behind the old Huronia Regional Centre and, before I knew it, I was just south of Newmarket on the 404, being questioned by the York Regional Police. Oh, I wasn’t doing anything wrong, but somewhere along Davis Drive, Eric broke into a medley from the Swan Lake ballet. I guess I was doing a pas de deux all by myself and plied into the lane of northbound traffic. That’s when the officer thought it might be a good time for me to blow into a tube while his partner slipped the cuffs on me. Fortunately, they were called away to a meeting at a nearby Hortons and let me go with a warning — something to do with pirouetting on a major highway without a permit. Thank God I wasn’t listening to the William Tell Overture or I would be in Trump-land now and there would be no way to save me.

But what I started out to tell you before I started rambling was, on the way back, I ended up in the middle of the Ontario Law Enforcement Torch Run Guardians half-marathon. At first, I thought it was just some guy in shorts out for a jog on a Sunday morning with another chasing him. Then, down the path came the rest of them. If you should happen to look over your shoulder some day and see an army of half-naked people bearing down on you, your first thought won’t be, “Oh, isn’t that nice? A whole whack of sweaty folks are coming to join me on my walk.” It will be, “Holy jumping (insert the name of a deity of your choice), I’m going to get mugged.”

I thought about falling to my knees and asking for divine intervention or a downpour of toads to distract them, but, unfortunately, I am some 27 years behind on my tithing; hence my only hope was to play dead. Strangely enough, most of them ignored me.

I am amazed by marathoners. They always have smiles on their faces, not unlike yours the time your dentist said, “I’m out of that freezing stuff, so I’m going to give you this musket ball to bite on.” I actually considered running for a brief second after my first bypass operation, but the anesthetic wore off. I mentioned it to my doctor at the time and he suggested I had rocks in my head. Of course, he was the same man who bought me two beers one Saturday night after a Legion Concert Group show, then told me Monday afternoon I was drinking too much.

I guess it’s a healthy-enough pastime (running, not drinking beer) as long as you keep it under 25 or 30 yards, but any farther and I would want to have a cardiologist in a cart beside me. I’ve read some people run well into their 80s, but I suspect they are actually in their early 30s; they just look that old.

Now, I don’t want to alarm anyone, but the original runner was the Greek warrior Pheidippides, who ran from the Battle of Marathon to Athens (26 miles and a bit) to shout “Nenikikamen — Rejoice we conquer.” What nobody seems to mention is he immediately croaked. I wouldn’t have taken the chance. I would have emailed the news or even sent it by Canada Post. It would have arrived in two or three days, maybe — unless Athens had group mailboxes and only checked it every other week.

Jim Foster is a columnist for the Packet & Times. He can be contacted at fosterjames@rogers.com.

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