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Posted: Monday August 10, 2009 11:27AM; Updated: Monday August 10, 2009 11:28AM
Tim Layden Tim Layden >

My Bucket List

As Mine That Bird proved in 2009, the Kentucky Derby can be won by any horse on the starting line.
Bill Frakes/SI

1. Boston Marathon

I was once a good runner. Not Olympic/NCAA good, but better-than-most-road racers good. I ran 32:50 for 10K and 50:59 for 15K and several times tried training for a marathon, but on each occasion got injured. This was 25 years ago. Now I have arthritis in one knee and can't run much, so I ride a bike. I have covered many Boston Marathons, but never ran it. I wish I had. I wish I had just sucked it up, qualified, and run it once relatively slowly, even in the years long after my prime.

2. Tour de France

Like I said, I'm "cyclist'' now. I was better as a runner. Still, before I cash out I'd like to get across the pond, rent a bike and attempt some of the climbs in Le Tour. I have no great desire to watch or cover the race. I think many of the top racers still use drugs, and it's a lousy spectator event anywhere but in front of a television screen. But I would love to be in the saddle, grinding my way up Alpe d'Huez.

3. Big waves

I am no surfer. But I love waves. Love to body surf and body board in the wimpy New England shorebreaks. Just the power of those mini-rolls amazes me, the way you can get blown out of your bathing suit. I also love Riding Giants, filmmaker Stacy Peralta's homage to the timeline of big-wave surfing. Someday I would love to sit with somebody's crew at Maverick's (Northern California) or Peahi/Jaws (north shore of Maui) when the surf is monstrous. Just to see it up close.

4. Big mountain climbing

It's too late for me to learn technical climbing, but not too late to climb some tall mountains that can be hiked with equipment (crampons ice, axes). Hood, Rainer, Kilimanjaro. Each is a significant challenge and each would be a huge accomplishment.

5. Augusta National

I've never covered The Masters. Never set foot on the grounds. When I do, I'd love it if the bag over my shoulder contains golf clubs and not a laptop. Although I would be happy to tweet about it when I stiff a six-iron at 16.

My favorite: The Kentucky Derby.

Not only is the Derby an iconic American sporting event, where the wealthy and the poor gather in one place and drink the same whiskey and bet on the same animals, but they also do it on the same grounds where the race was contested just a decade after the Civil War. You think Wrigley Field is historic? Churchill Downs was 41 years old when the Cubs first played a game at Wrigley. War Admiral ran right here.

Then there is the journalism angle: There are 20 "players'' in the Derby. Any one of them can win the race, and the entire thing, start to finish, is over in two minutes. One moment you're standing at the finish, clueless as to what you will soon be writing, two minutes later you're chasing a story. At the Super Bowl, at the Final Four, there are hours to digest the unfolding result. Not at the Derby. It starts, it's over. For those two minutes, your heart pounds as if it's trying to escape your chest, and 160,000 people are in full throat around you. In any year, those are almost always the most nerve-wracking two minutes in sportswriting -- and two of the best.

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Peter King
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