In 490 B.C., the Athenians defeated an attacking Persian army on the Marathon plain. They were so overjoyed at their success that they sent a messenger to Athens, twenty-five miles away, to relay the news. The messenger ran all the way to Athens, delivered the message and died on the spot. People heard this story and thought to themselves, “Hey, what a great idea! I bet I could run twenty-five miles, too!”
Fenno had never been able to understand this particular leap of logic: man engages Activity A, man dies from Activity A, therefore I should do Activity A. It just didn’t add up, but then again, Fenno had never had Brewer for Contracts, so what did she know about logic. 2500 years later, people were still eager to go out and run themselves to the brink of death, nowhere more so than here in Boston on this most American of holidays, Patriots Day. Fenno wondered when Red Sox Day and Celtics Day would come around. Not like Harvard will give us those off, either, she thought bitterly. It occurred to Fenno that what Massachusetts really needs is a Big Dig Day, where everyone in the state who doesn’t work on the Big Dig could take the day off, and all the people who do work on the Big Dig would actually have to show up.
But this was Marathon Day, and Fenno had a problem. A bout of drunken braggadocio at Charlie’s Kitchen – followed by a failed attempt to chug a quart of Hellman’s mayo – had left Fenno with a sworn promise to complete the Boston Marathon this year. Fenno knew she was in no shape to walk to Harvard Square, much less run a marathon, but the clock was ticking, and she still hadn’t figured out how to wrangle her way out of this one. She was due to meet up with a group of HLS students – fellow runners, they were a bunch of also-rans in their respective student organizations – in five minutes in Pound Hall. They were going to drive out to the starting point together. I’m finished, Fenno thought as she pulled on her tennies. I’ll be dead before we leave Hopkinton.
Walking across the parking lot outside Pound, Fenno was amused to see the same white Range Rover that was always there, parked right under a big sign that said “Tow Zone No Parking.” That sign is missing something, she thought. It should read “No Parking, unless your Dad is a big donor and you have a really ostentatious car.”
Fenno found her group in the strangely dark area beside the hidden post office in Pound Hall. They were jogging in place and slurping PowerGel while recounting stories of how they got into distance running. A disturbingly intense 3L with no hair was describing how he had started running after getting the first ‘B’ of his life during his first year. “I just felt so worthless that I had to punish myself, so I went on a no-fat, no-starch diet and started running ten miles a day. These days I subsist entirely on beef jerky and Diet Coke,” he said, smiling without appearing happy.
“I’m just trying to lose weight,” said a 100-pound waif in blue spandex. “Hey, Fenno, you could stand to drop a few pounds. Want some PowerGel? By the way, does anyone have a Parker outline? I was thinking of doing some reading and highlighting before we hit Heartbreak Hill … ” Fenno started to get that sick-to-the-stomach feeling that she often got when talking to high-achievers. She feigned a sneezing fit and made a hasty retreat out the side door.
She spied a cab waiting in front of the Lewis Center.
“Yo! Hey! Over here!” she yelled as she approached the cabbie, who was waiting outside the car.
“I’m here to pick up an … uhhh … hmmm … Ayn-Air-Ell-Haw-Goo-Eee,” said the obviously puzzled man.
“Yep, that’s me,” said Fenno, “Einer Elhauge. You can put it on my tab. Let’s roll!”
Fenno had the driver drop her off right by the starting line in Hopkinton and told him to wait for her at the Citgo around the corner. Half an hour later, the race started, and Fenno got off to a good start. She stayed with the pack for a solid two hundred yards before starting to fall back from exhaustion, at which point she ducked around a corner and began a brisk walk towards the Citgo.
“Good man!” she shouted triumphantly when she saw the crest of the yellow cab poking out above a dumpster. Fenno slid into the front seat, slapped the driver on the shoulder and instructed him to hesitate no further in seeking out the nearest bar. “Einer’s buying,” she winked at him.
Two hours and a couple of Tequizas later, Fenno and the driver hopped back into the car and headed for Back Bay, where the race would soon be ending. Fenno hopped out near Kenmore Square and ducked back into the race, right behind the leaders with less than a mile to go. I’m still in it, baby! she screamed drunkenly to herself.
But before Fenno could fully appreciate her feat, she spied another interloper, one who intended to outdo even Fenno in her deceit! Less than a hundred yards ahead, Suzanne Richardson stubbed out a Newport menthol on the sole of her Asics trainers and joined the race. Richardson’s fresh legs quickly propelled her out of view as Fenno was left in the dust.
I can’t believe it! She’s going to beat me out! Fenno thought angrily. Fenno had really hoped to finish first among the HLS’ers, but now she had no chance. Richardson was just too good for her. Although Fenno had only a half a mile to go, it took her a good six or seven minutes to cross the finish line. Her official time was 2 hours, 33 minutes. Not bad at all, she thought.
Best of all, she realized she had made it in time to see the first celebrations surrounding the winner. She looked up to see the victorious champion being hoisted into the air by the crowd. What??!! Fenno shrieked as she realized that the 2001 Boston Marathon Champion was none other then Dean Robert C. Clark. Neatly groomed and with not a drop of sweat on him, Clark looked even more decanal than usual in his dark blue banker’s suit and crown of laurel leaves. Apparently, the old fellow had one-upped even Richardson. I bet he didn’t run more than a block, Fenno thought in her jealousy. Still, Fenno had to respect his moxie. I mean, if this guy can sell a fundraising drive as “strategic planning,” there’s no reason he can’t win a marathon riding in a limo.