Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Look

The day after Easter this year was Patriot's Day, and we had school off. I ended up going into Boston for the 110th Boston Marathon. My friends and I got to the finish line about half an hour before the elites were supposed to finish, and it was the most crowded place I'd ever been in this side of a mosh pit. While we were walking Boylston Avenue to get to the finish line, we had to press through people who were packed shoulder to shoulder, vendors hawking free samples, bands, watch out for little kids...It was a nightmare.

I'm glad that we got there, though. We ended up camping out in front of a chocolate store (I think it was Lindt's), right across the street from the Jumbotron that was broadcasting the entire race. The wheelchair competitors had already started to finish while we made our way down, and we only ended up waiting for ten minutes or so to see Robert Cheruyiot of Kenya break the tape. It was amazing to watch; not only was it a course record (by one second!), but, by nature, the finish of a marathon is a dramatic event.

Time seemed to stand still as Cheruyiot crossed the line. He didn't collapse or exult, but just jogged out of his race pace and began walking. The picture on the Jumbotron zoomed in on his face, waiting for the look of happiness, the shock of joy that came with victory, but it did not immediately flash across his face. I was mesmerized by what I did see, however. Upon Cheruyiot's face was a look of pure determination. There was nothing in his eyes except the desire to cross the line ahead of every other competitor. Such intense single-mindedness was moving, especially amidst what must have been one of the greatest moments of his life.

Only later, once I had time to think about it, did I realize where I had seen that look before. It was on the faces and in the eyes of my boatmates as we rowed to the stakeboats at the start of a race. No more joking, no more nervous high-fives, no more time to get that last sip of water in. Just one thought in our heads: to cross the finish line ahead of all others.

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