Do not look for me today in the Los Angeles Marathon. I have never been athletic, although I am always ready to enter enthusiastically into the post-event festivities. I have a great deal of admiration for the marathon runners simply because they do it. A gentleman who is 82 was interviewed on television Monday on Channel 2 and he loped along at a steady clip, looking like a lean hunting dog who was very sure of his course.
The interesting thing about marathons is the diversification of entrants. There are people like the 82-year-old runner, kids, little fat ladies, yuppies, three-piece-suit types, Gucci wearers, people wearing their kids' sneakers, and people wearing custom-fitted running shoes.
When I was in Houston a few weeks ago, my young friend Ted Erck was in a distance run around his own neighborhood with several hundred people; and his mother and I went to cheer as he went by. He had previously threatened to leave home if we made a peep and we were really quite good. As he went by I just yelled, "Go, baby," in a round, cultured tone that helped a little but not much.
My record as a race watcher is, well, poor. When our son, Timothy, was on the track team in high school, I would stand near the finish line and yell, "Run, everybody."
Tim explained, "Mother, don't do that. Everyone can't win and you just sound silly."
I did it anyway. I thought of all those evenings when Tim had gone to the track alone and run around that killing oval. Then I always thought that all the rest of the boys had probably worked just as hard, which is why I yelled for everybody.
Ted's mother and I had only one misadventure in Houston. After Ted went by, effortlessly loping, we looked down the street and it appeared as if all of Houston were still in the pack and heading our way. We were only two blocks from home so we decided to dash across the street in between runners and head for home. May I tell you that in a serious run, there is no such thing as a break between runners. We reached the middle of the street and were almost caught up in the oncoming cluster. For one wild moment, I thought I'd just join in and run with them, but I was already out of breath and I hadn't even reached the other side of the street. Judgment prevailed and we lurched and zigzagged our way through the runners who were absolutely delighted to have us in their midst. They were just embarrassed to tell us what pleasure it gave them.
Today's marathon was put together by an old friend of mine, a man named Bill Burke. He was administrator of tennis events in the Los Angeles Olympics. Bill played championship tennis in college and when he was in the Air Force, he toured Europe playing exhibition tennis, in addition to his flying duties. Actually, Bill can do just about whatever he puts his mind to. He got his doctorate in education long after he was out of college and the Air Force, simply because he had always wanted to. Actually, I think he did it so I'd have to call him, "Doctor," which I am delighted to do.
He is also an excellent skipper and deep sea fisherman. There is only one odd thing. Bill did not ask me to join the marathon. I could understand that, perhaps. However, he did not invite me to the post-marathon party. I would have been glad to bring something, maybe my renowned turkey soup. I gave the recipe to Bill's wife, Yvonne, when they were first married.
I'm sure they have gone far beyond anything as folksy as turkey soup. Besides, it might have been hard to serve at the end of a race.
Anyway, congratulations, Dr. Burke, on bringing a class marathon to Los Angeles. Boston, indeed.