Abe Vigoda’s Bloody Nipples 29May09

Photo by TravISU courtesy of Flickr.

If you’ve run a road marathon, you’ve probably heard an encouraging word from a volunteer or spectator. These folk mean well. Full of enthusiasm and wholeheartedly devoted to your cause, they shout, “You’re almost there!” and “It’s right around the corner!” If you’re seriously lucky, they’ll boldly proclaim, “You look great!”

These are all lies.

You’re not almost there. The finish line is not right around the corner, and you look far, far from great.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate lusty support. But what if marathon fans couldn’t use standard catchphrases? What if they were restricted to the raw, brutal truth? If so, somewhere around mile 22, unsuspecting runners would find themselves absolutely blitzed by excessive honesty. Imagine the wide-ranging, rather bizarre cheers:

“You can keep that vomit down for another mile, I know it!”

“You have no chance of catching the senior citizen in front of you.”

“You’re the only runner in sight. I offer half-hearted, token applause.”

“Your bloody nipple shirt offends us, sir.”

“Hey look, it’s Abe Vigoda!”

“Can you hurry things up a bit? The police need to pick up these traffic cones.”

How are you still upright?

“All this effort for a cheesy, cotton T-shirt?”

“You appear to be running dangerously low on hope.”

“The Salt Vampire from the original Star Trek has nothing on you!”

“You know, I really just don’t see the point.”

“Hey sweatipotimus! Five dollars says you get a class-A dehydration cramp before the next aid station.”

“From the comfort of my curbside lawn chair, it’s exceedingly easy for me to tell you to run faster.”

“We need an ambulance at mile 22, STAT!”

“The winner finished like, two hours ago.”

Now then Intrepid runner, wouldn’t you prefer lies? Who wants the truth when you’ve got four or five oppressive miles to go?

At least fans care enough to show support. Goodness knows they’ve probably got more constructive things to do. Most just don’t know any better. If they truly understood the unending, quasi-hallucinogenic misery of the last few miles of the marathon, they’d add subtle nuance to their spin doctoring. They’d avoid exaggeration altogether.

But, I don’t want that.

Fans, you keep right on telling me I look great. I know it’s a lie. You know it’s a lie. It will be our little secret, the proverbial elephant on the course. We’ll be as comfortable together as politicians and voters.

Beyond turning a deaf ear to alluring half truths, I have a practical solution. Fans, position yourselves after the 25-mile mark. Then you’ll be free to say whatever you please about distance. At that point, even the most morose, pessimistic runners will concede they’re “almost done.” Fans aren’t censored. Runners are too buoyant to care. Everyone wins.

Better yet, cheer during the final .2-mile stretch run. There, you’ll have carte blanche to say damn near anything to me. Nothing can offend when I can see the finish line. Call me Abe Vigoda. Insult my beatific grandmother. Heck, announce to the crowd that I heartily enjoy kicking puppies. Knock yourselves out.

But before this remember, I look fabulous.

– Dean