People will tell you why they run. And the reasons will change from day to day, because it is like peeling an onion. They get down to deeper and deeper reasons but always fail to reach the essence of the running experience.
But now, heading out of Wellesley toward Newton Lower Falls and the beer drinkers at Mary's Bar, I suddenly found what must be the essence of running. I was thinking then of Murphy's golf game. I would, I said to myself, just concentrate on finding the perfect running form. I would find the pace at which I could run forever. Then let my inner body take over.
I ran then, oblivious of the other runners. Only half hearing a 9-year-old philosopher sitting on the curb who shouted, "Smile and it won't hurt as much." Still looking, of course, for every orange slice, every cup of water. Still touching the children's outstretched hands. But in a world of my own where my running became me. I have on occasion become lost in thought, oblivious of my surroundings but oblivious, too, of the running, so that I could not recall how I got to where I was. But this was different. I was entirely occupied with this magic thing I was doing. I was one with what I was doing.
Past Boston College and through Brookline I went, full of running. The course, as Murphy had said, was now running me. Three blocks to go and the crowds were building up to the 10,000 waiting at the Pru Center. Two blocks to go and there were my daughter and her college classmates giving me a reception even Ted Williams would have acknowledged.
It was too much. The day. The run. And now this. Suddenly I had the handkerchief off my head and I was twirling it in the air. I ran laughing past those girls toward the finish line, still twirling the handkerchief like Zorba the Greek, telling those wonderful affectionate Bostonians that in some way I had found what running and the Boston Marathon were all about.
Mort, I'll have the coffee black and no chatter.