Vermont City Marathon

 A marathon is a race that consists of running 26.2 miles as fast as you can, and then swearing that you will never do anything this stupid again. Actually, you don't wait until you finish the race to start making that promise. You usually start somewhere around the 17th or 18th mile. That is the point at which you want someone to put you out of your misery. The correct formula is: "If I finish this damned thing, I will NEVER do anything this stupid again." The procedure is to repeat this over and over under your breath for the last 7 miles of the race.

This picture was taken in 1995, about half an hour after WCD had finished the Vermont City Marathon. His time was 3:26. He is smiling, but his legs are locked into terrible cramps and his whole body hurts and he wants to die. He is smiling because the rule is that when they take your picture after a marathon you've got to smile. It is in the rules.

WCD is holding up the Vermont City Marathon tee shirt that he wore in the race. He is holding it out in front of him because he has switched into a dry tee shirt, and also because the race shirt is soaked in sweat and blood. The race number is in red because WCD races in a special Old Crock division for runners who were alive when Teddy Roosevelt was president.

The other bearded fellow in the picture is John Dowling, WCD's youngest -- and now, alas, only surviving -- brother. John Dowling ran his first "competitive" marathon in a time of 2:22, missing the Olympic marathon trials by only two minutes. He is a road racing legend in New Hampshire. In 1997 he was N.H. Masters Runner of the Year. When this picture was taken he was running 160 miles a week in training. The reason he is smiling is that he feels happy. His legs do not hurt, nor is his tee shirt covered with sweat and blood. This is because he "jogged" this race to keep his older brother company. He had never actually run 26 miles at a pace this slow before. He reported that he found the experience interesting.

The great lady in the middle is Lillian Dowling, the matriarch of the Dowling clan. She was a fountain of wit and energy and good sense, a joy unto the nations. She raised four sons, all of whom grew up to run marathons. Her smile in the picture is the smile of a mother who considers her sons lunatics, but who realizes that they are too old to spank. If there is something merely ceremonial about her smile, it is because this is the one zillionth picture of her between two Dowling sons with their race numbers on.  She passed away early in the year 2000. She is deeply missed by everyone who knew and loved her.

In the background is Burlington, Vermont, one of the most beautiful little cities in the United States. The city looks out over Lake Champlain, over a mighty stretch of waters and a thickly forested shore on the other side -- much as it must have appeared in the days when only the Indians and a few mountain men roamed these woods. Much of the marathon course winds along the shores of Lake Champlain. Then, in the last mile, there is a horrible long uphill that breaks your spirit and takes you  away from the lake and back into the center of Burlington, cursing all lakes and forests and primal beauty and vowing that you will NEVER do this again so long as you live.

Here is WCD running the Columbus Marathon in 1986. He blitzed the last six miles to finish with his second-fastest time ever. He was younger then, and fleet, and strong, and heard the mermaids singing, each to each. They don't tend to sing so much these days, alas.

 


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