Geekly Walking

There was Bruce in 1966 and then there’s Bruce in 2016.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed attending golf tournaments.  I love standing behind the tee and watching the top pros hit the ball high and far.  Sometimes it feels like it will never come down.  Then, as the golfers head down the fairway, I motor down the rough, either pausing where their balls stopped or stepping up the pace towards the green to watch the approach shots.

Back in 1966, I’d walk 36 holes every day, following one group in the morning and another in the afternoon.  Feeling my oats.  In 2016, however, my feet are saying no to such heroics.  I saw 27 holes on Thursday, about 23 on Friday, and 18 yesterday.  But so what?  I was out there seeing Brooke Henderson hit the ball.  My feet were really sore at the end of the day.  But my soul was singing.

I love the journey of golf.  I’m not the type to plunk myself down by a green and watch 50 golfers parade through.  There are the agonies and ecstasies of 18 holes, and I want to see them.  A well placed cushioning pad on my left foot diminished the pain and allowed me to be there to see Brooke fall and rise.

I developed blood clots a few years ago in my left leg.  They’re now dissolved, thanks to the medication I’ll be taking for the rest of my life.  But the leg really swells up on long car trips or lengthy ambles over the green grass … if left unattended.  Attention means wearing compression stockings – long black fellows that come almost to the knee.  In winter, I don’t give a hoot, but warm weather produces a t-shirt and shorts on my bod, so my stockings are in full view.  There have been times in the last two years when I’ve been too embarrassed to wear them, and I’ve paid the price.  This week, my black legs are on display.  People stare a bit.  Maybe it doesn’t make sense to them to see an “old” fellow boogieing down the rough in search of golf shots.  Oh well.  It makes great sense to me.

There will come a time when I won’t be able to walk near Brooke for a full round.  I’ll be sitting beside that green holding a cold one.  But that time is not now.  In two hours, I’ll be standing near the first tee as she hits her initial shot of the day.  I’ll be all decked out in designer black, ready to ramble.  It makes me happy.

 

Beyond

Since getting home in December from my long retreat, I’ve started lifting weights.  I want to be strong.  My hours of meditation in Massachusetts were often sublime, often other-worldly peaceful.  But doing the chest press at World Gym is bringing something else out of me.

Marcin, my personal trainer, tells me that I need to “explode” on the push and then go slow on the release.  I tried exploding but it was more like a little sparkler catching fire.  Until a few days ago.  Something inside me ramped up.  My lips set tight.  I almost growled.  “I’m doing this!”  And today I did it some more, with a fierceness that I didn’t recognize.  Talk about the yin and the yang … meditation and determination, both lighting up the present moment.

Way back in my brain cells, I remembered a woman staggering to the finish in an Olympic marathon.  The awe from long ago seeped into today.  So I Googled, and here’s what I found:

Gabriela Andersen-Schiess is a former Swiss long-distance runner who participated in the first women’s Olympic marathon at the 1984 Summer Olympics.  Though living in Idaho and working as a ski instructor at the time, Andersen-Schiess represented Switzerland in the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Fourteen minutes into the 1984 Olympic marathon, Joan Benoit began to pull away from the rest of the pack.  She went on to win in a time of 2 hours, 24 minutes, and 52 seconds.  Twenty minutes after Benoit finished, then 39-year-old Andersen-Schiess entered the stadium.

The crowd gasped in horror as she staggered onto the track, her torso twisted, her left arm limp, her right leg mostly seized.  She waved away medical personnel who rushed to help her, knowing that, if they touched her, she would be disqualified.  The L.A. Coliseum crowd applauded and cheered as she limped around the track in the race’s final 400 meters, occasionally stopping and holding her head.

While the effects of her heat exhaustion were plainly evident, trackside medics saw that she was perspiring, which meant that her body still had some disposable fluids, and let her continue her march to the finish line.  At the completion of this final lap—which took Andersen-Schiess five minutes and 44 seconds—she fell across the finish line.  She finished 37th, ahead of seven other runners.

Oh my.  You can see Gabriela on several YouTube videos.  Infinitely beyond the chest press but really they both have the same incredible intensity.  I think we humans need to express some of that.  And we need to be moved to tears sometimes when others stretch themselves, as thousands of folks were in that California stadium 32 years ago.