What is it about marathons that make me so darned emotion? I am not even a fan of running (watching or doing it myself). Yet everytime I watch the men and women’s marathon during the Olympics I get all teary eyed.
I was doing fine with the men’s marathon until the last few minutes when the runner who was vying for first started to slip back. Soon he was lost out of sight. I wanted to help him keep up.
When Samuel Wansiri entered the stadium I felt so happy for him. He was the first Kenyan to win the marathon. Then Jaouad Gharib of Morocco ran across the line. Another first, I believe.
But I really got emotional when Merga Deriba of Ethiopia entered the stadium, clearly out of steam. His teammate, Tsegay Kebede was gaining ground. Deriba was getting slower and slower, then Kebede passed him. Tears streamed down my face. What heartbreak to come so far and then end up out of medal contention in the last 10 seconds. I don’t even know who Deriba is.
So, what is it about the marathon that brings me to tears? Does it happen to you too? I think it must be that we all know what it’s like to work towards something, to struggle, to triumph, and to have it fall from our grasp just as it seems it’s ours.
To me the marathoners exemplify the Olympic spirit. There are only so many who will win. Yet, many show up at the starting line and many cross the finish line in 10th or 20th place. They do it to show themselves they can. They compete against themselves for their own personal best times. That is enough. Knowing they came to the Olympics, they competed, and they did the best they could is enough for the runners who know they will never medal.
Seeing the Kenyan, Moroccan, and Ethiopian on the medal podium was a proud moment. Of course, I am happy when Americans win, but Americans will always win something. These three may be the only athletes from their countries to take home medals. They will be cheered and admired. Because their successes are so rare, they become more special.