“It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.”
— Barack Obama, Chicago, 4th November 2008.
It’s just three miles and a lifetime’s journey from the South Side of Chicago to Grant Park, and I can remember every step.
How marvellous it was that the US election race this year should find its long-awaited finish line at the same spot as the Chicago Marathon — one of many high points I’ve shared with this incredible country through a relationship that stretches right across my adult life.
I entered the United States late one August night in 1981. Seventeen hours out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, we drove across a bridge and into Maine. Next morning, six hours and a brief stop in Portland later, I stepped wearily off the bus in downtown Boston — completing my journey from England to New England, where the history of this great nation had started.
That visit took me down the east coast to New York and Washington, in an arc via Pittsburgh to Niagara, and then back into Canada for a return flight home.
My memories of America from that trip? Coin-fed TV sets in lonely Greyhound bus stations. The wind on Cape Cod. Looking across the Charles River on a long walk out to Cambridge.
The view from the Empire State Building. The sound of dusk on Broadway. The New Jersey Turnpike. The Smithsonian. The Capitol.
A quote carved into the Washington pavement —
‘One of these days this will be a very great city, if nothing happens to it’ (Henry Adams).
My love affair with America had begun.
Posted in 2008, A1 - the best of roads of stone, Chicago, divided by an ocean, environment, heroes, history, Houston, Iraq, Kenya, life and times, politics, united in a future
… to everyone, especially those of you I met at last year’s party. I’m running the Great South Run in Portsmouth on the same day, and despite the 10 000 runners and claim to be the third largest 10 miler in the world, there’ll still be no soaring skylines, no see-through bridges, and the crowds will politely clap ‘Well done‘ instead of screaming “Go, marathoners !”
A poor substitute, perhaps, but just about the only way to resist cashing in those airmiles on another flight to O’Hare to repeat last year’s fantastic experience.
Have a great run. My feet and I will certainly be thinking about the streets of Chicago this Sunday.
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A marathon is such a huge experience. Afterwards, it is very hard to capture how you felt at the time, but it is so important to try. If someone asked you in a year’s time, you’d say, well it was great, or, it was fine, my knee got sore for a while but I made it.
But there is so much more to it than that, so many more moments which go to make up the marathon tapestry. You don’t want to forget them. Ever.
Chicago (sorry, “Shick-aggo”) has taken a long time to settle down for me. I don’t think it will, finally, for a long time. But in a way, it still continues. More than anything, the thought I share with you is that the marathon is a journey. It’s one I am so glad I made.
We’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got
‘Cause it doesn’t make a difference
If we make it or not
We’ve got each other and that’s a lot
For love – we’ll give it a shot
Whooah, we’re half way there
Livin’ on a prayer
Take my hand and we’ll make it – I swear
Livin’ on a prayer
Bon Jovi – August 1986
“4:18 in London and trying to crack four hours in Chicago – it’ll be tough, but I’m going to have the fun of my life trying !” – so I wrote last month.