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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Sunday, October 23, 2005

a woman's marathon

I worked today...early...for a photographer documenting a women's marathon in San Francisco.

I've worked sporting events before, met atheletes I admired, even stood in awe in the presence of a few legends that I never thought I'd see up close. (May I mention the elusive, remarkable...Bill Russell?)

But today was different. In the dark, in the pre-dawn, 15,000 women descended on Union Square in San Francisco. Some were there for charity. Some were there for each other. Yet each of these women, was, on some level, fundamentally there for herself.

There was something powerful about that. Purposeful. Intentional. Under the radar. Driven. It was almost like a protest, but it wasn't. It was a sponsered event, a benefit, a race.

These were all types and shapes of women...though marathoners are most often well-to-do. They came from all over...with all sorts of different styles and ways of going about things. I overheard one group of women talking about where they could attend church later. Joan Benoit Samuelson, first winner of the Olympic women's marathon, ran the race today but without much fanfare or self-promotion.

What struck me was that this sea of women taking off into the dark fog of downtown was just so immense. And that starting swell, with so few men around, when viewed in its particulars was simply thousands of individual women being very much themselves...no bullshit involved. They were choosing to run this race for their own reasons.

Women haven't officially run marathons for all that long. People said women's bodies couldn't take long distance running. That's not what I saw today.

In fact, as we stood at the finish line and the runners strode and jogged and walked in....the half-marathoners finishing at the same time and same place as their full-distance sisters...something became apparent.

For all the hype and the marketing...marketing I must confess that I play a part in...each woman really did have some kind of meaning that she carried across the finish line. Some were in tears. Some smiled in joy. Some set their jaws, grimaced and checked their wrist watches. One forty-something mother and her late-teens daughter powered through the finish with a kick, both with times that would qualify them for the Boston Marathon...then they high-fived and embraced and turned quickly to their cool down.

I found this matter-of-factness quite moving and powerful. Especially as the minutes wore on. And thousands and thousands of women claimed the finish each in her own way.

I found myself thinking...pay attention...something is happening here...or has been happening, and I've neglected it.

I don't doubt that on some level what I saw today at the women's marathon has a bearing on our national culture and politics.

There are many finish lines.



  • I love your writing Kid. Eloquent, poignant, insightful - no matter what the topic. As someone who grew up in the Bay Area I especially look forward to your posts about local events so that I can live vicariously. I'll be back there one day.

    So as of today's posts I'm replacing my bookmark to Steve Gillards blog with one to yours. I encourage other women in the blogosphere to do the same.

    By Anonymous Valkyrie, at 2:31 PM  

  • wow, what imagery.

    and without photos.

    By Blogger Pyrrho, at 2:59 PM  

  • KO - you are one of the few male writers I see who truly likes women.

    Until I started reading you, I never realized how rare that is. or how special.

    Thank you.

    By Blogger Kathleen, at 7:14 PM  

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