Breakfast of Champions – Flathead Beacon

Breakfast of Champions - Flathead Beacon

Sneaking into a crowded restaurant stand of champions last Saturday, an earlier version of myself might have looked like an impostor. But over the years, I’ve learned to conquer the stubborn demons of inferiority—or at least lull them into complacency with generous doses of endorphins—and in my post-race afterglow, I’ve accepted that each of us returned from our own individual quests for enlightenment.

Some quests were faster than others, of course, but here, at the end of our travels, each of us just wanted our eggs cooked to order.

I sat next to the male winners of the Whitefish Marathon and Half Marathon and, as steaming plates full of greasy food arrived at our table, we discussed the merits of a run that had, for the second consecutive year, pulled 1,000 participants to the starting line in downtown Whitefish’s Depot Park. This is a roster of top tier runners in a distance event whose pedigree has grown like a bean from the humble seeds planted 15 years ago, an acceleration attributed in part to a course redesign , including certification of the race as a Boston Marathon qualifying event. .

There are other rational explanations for the event’s growth spurt, including behind-the-scenes organizational and marketing mechanisms, but in my state of calorie deprivation, I affected the air of a giddy philosopher king, capturing the intangibles that define a sport like running.

How can a running race attract so many hundreds of moving human bodies on a springtime Saturday morning in Montana? Is pain really the purest physical expression of consciousness, as each participant finds meaning and comfort in the act of enduring the struggle of effort?

Perhaps that intangible quality, “the spirit of the marathon,” was best personified by men’s half marathon winners Drew Coco and Micah Drew, friends and local training partners who crossed the line. arrived hand in hand in record time. , after reaching a gentlemen’s agreement after sharing the pacing duties for 13.1 miles.

Spectators might have preferred a photo-finish, but running has always been more about internal dialogue than spectacle.

Men’s marathon winner Paden Alexander had traveled from his home in Ronan earlier in the morning to run the 26.2-mile distance for the first time, entering the night before and winning easily in 2:45. My Flathead Beacon colleague, Elizabeth Wasserman, who qualified in 2020 for the US Olympic trials, earned her first half marathon finish with a smart pace strategy and laid-back confidence developed through years of disciplined training. .

Having now shared miles and meals with these four top athletes, my theory of running’s mass appeal may not have brought me any closer to casting its fantasy qualities in material form. Indeed, the opposite became true as I accepted the personal value of running my own course and finding deep meaning in my relentless pursuit of the absurd.

Bill Bowerman, the iconic head track coach at the University of Oregon from 1949 to 1972 and co-founder of Nike, said it best when he told his athletes, “Running, could it is said, is basically an absurd hobby to burn out on. But if you can find meaning in the kind of racing you have to do to stay on this team, chances are you can find meaning in another absurd pastime: life.


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