In his films, Clint Eastwood often explores heroism, which usually is defined via the anti-hero. He's either Mystic River's Jimmy Markham and Dave Boyle, Unforgiven's Bill Munny, or Million Dollar Baby's Frankie Dunn. He takes genres which often travels dictated paths -- the crime movie, the western, the boxing movie -- and turns them inside out. What if there's heart and love in boxing? What if a conscience exists in the Boston underworld? What if cowboys can cry? In a world where emotions run contrary of actions, a mobster unravels like Macbeth, boxing is emotionally wrenching, and you can't tell who's good and who's bad in a town called Big Whiskey.
In Flags of Our Fathers, heroism is explained in terms that are Shakespearan in statute, graceful by nature. It's not the fantastical notion that we take for granted and take advantage of -- that's the complex stuff. It's what we believe in very simple terms, that we usually don't think are good enough for the movies, because they are real -- brotherhood, kinship, friendship, humanity, compassion, truth, and loyalty. Much is said of war heroes -- asking not what the country can do for you, but what you can do for your country, purple hearts, future presidential campaigns. But ask a guy who's never said a word about World War II after raising the flag at Iwo Jima what the battle meant to him, and he says it's the day he and his unit buddies got to splash around in the Pacific during a lull. It's comradeship, and what people will do for you and for others, or just having someone you can look up to, respect, and learn about the finer things in life from.
This morning, Mofo did the marathon. It was her first, and she only ran the first race of her life this April, in the Shamrock Shuffle. Over the last six months, she ran increasingly longer distances in training, and also ran into doubts as her body complained. Last night, she thought that she didn't have a shot at completing this morning.
We were right and she was wrong. She completed the marathon this morning in under six hours, and finished strong -- the first thing she did after asking for her medal was to grab a beer. Everyone who completed the marathon, or hell, even attempted to, was the day's heroes, but there were 150,000 more who stood in the cold cheering, sharing food, keeping spirits high for mostly strangers who performed some heroics of their own, too. Having left at 9am this morning with the intention of running three miles alongside Mofo as one of her several pacers but ending up with 18, I had nothing in my stomach except for the Gatorade along the way. Along Taylor Street in Little Italy someone gave out muffins. On Halsted in University Village, someone gave me a turkey wrap. In the West Loop, someone gave me a pretzel. Earlier along Sheridan in Lakeview, residents at a nursing home stuck up signs in their windows and waved. High school pom pom teams wiggled spirit fingers. Kids wanted you to slap their hands. In Boys Town, drag queens convulsed on platforms. In Pilsen, reggaeton blasted from boomboxes. In Chinatown, lions danced. And Mofo's family hugged her and told her how proud they were of her.
I'm not sure how the ridiculous notion of continuing to run over three times the longest distance I'd ever ran in my life stuck in my head. I was curious to know how far I could go. But the fact is, between Bruce blasting on the iPod, Mofo, Rachel, Jenny B and Nicole next to me, how could I say no? It wasn't about running three-quarters of a marathon I didn't train for, physically or mentally. It was about good friends and good music both superhero-quality attributes. Mofo later said it would have been a different race without us running with her. From a marathon bandit's point of view, I can say the same thing.
Just now I told my parents about how foolish I was today. Dad said, "That is amazing and I'm so glad you did it. It's an accomplishment, why don't you try for the marathon next time?"
Coming from the guy who was the soccer star in his neighbourhood growing up and now one of the top badminton players at the club, who always let me know there was nothing more important than picking up a softball glove or a tennis racquet, the moment was another one for the trophy case.