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Concentrate on the Chrysanthemums
Kenny Moore
May 08, 1972
The marathon is never a bed of roses, but in Japan the contemplation of floral displays wonderfully calms the jitters. To soothe your feet, try vodka
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May 08, 1972

Concentrate On The Chrysanthemums

The marathon is never a bed of roses, but in Japan the contemplation of floral displays wonderfully calms the jitters. To soothe your feet, try vodka

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They had brought a manager, a robust, gray-haired man who burst, when least expected, into songs about Volga boatmen. He spoke no English and continually pressed us for autographs. If you happened to have a ballpoint pen in hand, it wound up in his. He did know one English word: "souvenir."

In his room, Frank discussed his feelings toward Russians.

"It is a culturally indoctrinated suspicion. I find myself wondering, 'What are they really thinking?' It's hard to articulate, harder to explain. I have to fight it."

I said, "I lost that in Leningrad." Frank and I had run there in the U.S. vs. U.S.S.R. meet the year before.

"Yeah," Frank said. "When Mikitenko gave us those little wood carvings from his children."

Between meals and workouts we were entertained by the press. The marathon was sponsored by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper chain, whose Fukuoka offices took up the first seven floors of the hotel building. Our pictures appeared daily and some of the interviews attained a depth seldom reached in this country. Having run second the year before, I drew a lot of fire. When my undergraduate major was exposed, I was pegged "the philosopher-marathoner" and asked such questions as "What is-there about you which longs for the suffering of the race?" or "In what way is your soul satisfied by the marathon?"

It was a heady atmosphere and I succumbed. "After every experience," I said, "it's natural to reflect that you might have done better. Only after a marathon can I say I have given everything. Because of the enormity of the attempt, the cleansing of the pain, I can sit, even stiff and blistered, and know a kind of peace."

Farrington added, "Marathoning is like cutting yourself unexpectedly. You dip into the pain so gradually that the damage is done before you're aware of it. Unfortunately, when awareness comes, it is excruciating."

"That's why you have to forget your last marathon before you can run another," said Frank. "Your mind can't know what's coming."

We were distracted from these musings by the arrival of the Finns. Seppo Nikkari, 23, and Pentti Rummakko, 28, spoke nothing but Finnish. The Japanese were unable to unearth an interpreter. Nikkari, tall and gawky, with a feathery, blond mustache, did not seem perturbed. Disdaining the dinner menu, he barged into the kitchen and pointed at what he wanted. When people in front of him did not make way fast enough when the elevator reached his floor, he cheerfully propelled them into the wall.

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