To the extent I have any athletic talent at all (a dubious proposition in the first instance), it is that I can continue at a high effort level for a long time. I was a merely mediocre 500-yard freestyle swimmer in high school, and an abysmal 100-yard swimmer, because I could maintain my slow 100 pace for 500 yards. (The less said of my misadventures in the 50 free, the better.)
So perhaps it was inevitable that I would find myself standing in 39-degree weather on the National Mall on Sunday, waiting for my second Marine Corps Marathon 10K to begin. (The paradoxical name comes from the fact that the MCM folks rather cleverly organize a 10K on the last six miles of the marathon route, using roads that are already closed to accommodate people who think that 26.2 miles is a fortnight’s worth of running.) The camaraderie of strangers at a mass start like this is infectious: everybody is somewhat bored, a little anxious, and genuinely hopeful that their “competitors” do well. With the exception of the few who hope to win, this is not a zero-sum game: my success does not necessarily mean another’s failure. By the time the starter’s gun (in this case, a piece of small artillery) went off, I had stretched three times, tired myself out, and been re-energized by adrenaline. In short, I was ready to go.
In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.
– Franklin D. Roosevelt, January 6, 1941
As the news media descended into their typical hyperventilation at the reports that Washington or New York might be the target of an attack on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, I tweeted that I would take a run by several of DC’s monuments on the same day. (This isn’t really a big deal, as my usual running path takes me by most of those buildings, but that’s not really the point.) I would say, like everybody on the NFL pregame shows, that this was a way of showing that I “can’t be intimidated” by a terrorist threat. But I think it was as much a petulant reaction to the media’s overreaction: tell me it’s a bad idea, and I’m that much more likely to do it.
So when I woke up to a sunny, muggy, DC late-summer day, I laced up my sneakers and headed south to the National Mall. Instead of turning right, toward the Washington Monument, I turned left, toward Capitol Hill. Because if you can’t trust a random boast on the Internet, what can you trust?