Goodbye My Friend

We are saying goodbye to Mannie today.

Mannie, my friend.

Mannie, whose loved ones weep today.

Manny, one sole man, who ran and ran.

Mannie whose race is finally run.

Mannie’s roots lie in Greece.

Mannie was true to his roots.

Those roots brought forth shoots who live and grow and bear fruit. The shoots are the children of Mannie and Demitra. When the young couple named their shoots they were visited by the muses: they named their children not Lucy but Alithea; not Robert but Panayioti; not Susan but Leni. The names carry meaning, love of course, and destiny.

Mannie did not give his children easy names, Aussie names, names to hide behind. He gave them what he received – a culture, a tradition, a history of beauty and pride.

Everyone knows of the feats of Manuel Karageorgiou, Mannie, who ran the first Melbourne Marathon and the second and the third and …

Manny was one of the eight. Eight glorious souls who had lived and toiled and wrought in every Melbourne Marathon from the first to the latest. Forty consecutive marathons. Foolish.

I want to suggest to the non-runner reader what Mannie’s folly entailed. Physiologists have identified an end point of energy. And adult human can run about 32 kilometres, then energy reserves are exhausted. After that the runner faces a wall. The runner digs into a core of belief and runs a further step. There remain ten kilometres, ten thousand steps. The runner digs further, drawing on pride, on mystic need, on love, on some truth in the soul. And the runner runs on, runs through a wrecked body. The runner now is pure spirit.

And then there are the final, agonising, ecstatic one hundred and eighty steps. The runner crosses the line and then the race is run.

A few paragraphs ago I began listing Mannie’s Melbourne Marathons. I stopped after three. Were I merely to list the forty your eyes would glaze, your mind would wilt, you’d leave the track that Mannie and the Eight would not leave.

My Greek friend always dreamed of running the Athens Marathon, a homecoming profound beyond imagining. But Mannie never allowed himself to run Athens because it clashed with Melbourne. And Mannie owed the event his presence, his being. Mannie would not desert his friends of the Eight.

I’d like you to visit www.howardgoldenberg.com and look up posts that tell of three of Mannie’s marathons. You’ll find them dated October 2014, 2015, 2016. And then read https://howardgoldenberg.com/2017/10/23/its-not-how-long-youve-got-its-what-you-do-with-it/ from October 2017.

I’ll reveal here some of Mannie’s medical history, normally a forbidden act. But Mannie as we know was not a normal man:

While on an early morning training run before the Melbourne Marathon a few years ago I sensed a solid bulk of human flesh approaching in the gloom. The flesh developed a face and the face shot a me smile through the mist. Mannie recognised me first.

Here he was, I knew, fresh from his bone marrow transplant. Preposterous – Mannie understood – to run a marathon with that illness, outrageous, with those therapies. He’d visited me the previous week to talk about running again. ‘The specialist says I shouldn’t run. Howard, is he right?’

‘I suppose he must be Mannie. One fall and your bones can break, so easily.’

It was a broken rib, cancerous, we both recalled, that uncovered Mannie’s diagnosis.

Mannie looked at me. Mannie knew I was no cancer expert, just a runner. His look was a plea; he wanted a reprieve.

I said I could tell him what was the safest course. But then I told him about my mother:’Late in Mum’s life her health was shattered by strokes, but the spirit of the wanderer that had taken her to the bright and the dark ends of the globe, burned still. My sister and I were going to fly to Uluru. Mum wanted to come. She said, “If I stay at home I’ll die one day anyhow. I’d sooner go and see and find and know; and if I die doing it, I’ll have seen the rock. That would still be a good deal for me.” Mannie thanked me and left.  You know what Mannie decided.

I referred before to Mannie’s folly. I’ve seen marathons. I’ve seen and felt the interest and the indifference of spectators. I’ve seen the fellowship of running. I’ve felt the loneliness of the Malta plains. I’ve seen the splendour and I’ve seen the blackness: both were present that day in Boston. I thought I had seen it all, until I ran a marathon with Mannie. An entourage ambushed him – a son, a brother, a younger leviathan figure, a clutch of attractive young women (I wondered who they were. I learned they were girlfriends of nephews of Mannie.) This phalanx of nonrunners surrounded Mannie, they spread widely across the road. Mannie was one runner among thousands, but he alone moved in this stream of flesh aching with love. They ran and ran alongside their hero – the older man, the fat man, the glamorous girls. They tasted fatigue but they would not leave him, not until he reached the next plank in Mannie’s platform of love; and this, of course, was Demitra. ‘DEM!’, he cried, and they kissed. And Demitra held their grandbaby. Mannie stopped. He held that chubby child close and inhaled her. And then he ran on.

I have written of a human, a person. I have written of him chiefly as the operator of a pair of legs. A person is more than that. More than a disease, more than his diagnosis. But in Mannie the runner I see the human and his fate. This man faced Nemesis and outran him for year after year. And when at last – five kilometres into the fortieth marathon, after Mannie stumbled and fell, then arose bloodied – it was Demitra who stepped from the footpath, who took his hand and led him away.

“..Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;

Death closes all: but something ere the end,

Some work of noble note, may yet be done…”

Farewell, Mannie. We will not see your like again.

Mannie’s family have let it be known they don’t want floral tributes to mannie. They’d prefer us to donate to the Myeloma Foundation in his memory. And of course, in his honour.

High Achievers

My Principal, a man of immense self-discipline, said to me in an unexpected aside; ‘I think the fruits of that man’s loins consume too great a share of this world’s goods.’ By this my Principal meant me to understand he somehow felt such liberal procreation as an affront to his Protestant ethic. Greedy, appetitive. I thought the policeman was just a Catholic who, after a long day of fining speedsters and charging car purloiners, liked to come home and enjoy a conjugal root.
 

 

I received a letter today from a doctor whom I have not met. The doctor wrote to inform me of the specialist obstetric practice he has set up. The description made my mouth water, if that is not an incorrect metaphor to apply to a birthing service. The doctor offers every thoughtful amenity for babies and mothers and extends a warm collegial hand to all referring general practitioners. How exemplary, I thought. Impressive too was the doctor’s post-graduate training at the Mayo Clinic and Harvard.

 

 

At the foot of the doctor’s well-crafted letter was a lengthy postscript. It was a list of her – his? – qualifications. Let me list them for you:

MBBS, B Med Sci (Hons), LLB, LLM, PDLP, FACLM, FFLM,(RCP, Lon), MHSM, FRANZCOG, FFCFM, (RCPA), MAICD

 

 

Golly, I thought. If each post-graduate qualification required only one year of study – and I do know that MBBS takes six years; and FRANZCOG takes another six or so, and the two degrees in Law would take another handful of years – this doctor must be starting private practice after twenty years of study. I marvelled at the doctor’s scholarship and academic thirst.

 

 

Some study, some copulate. As one who has trod only the shallows of learning and of reproducing, I am in awe of their stamina

 

Marathon Thoughts, 13.10.13

Today I was to run the Melbourne Marathon, my 15th(?) Melbourne and my 43rd marathon altogether. Last year I injured a calf (leg, not poddy) and had to pull out at seven kilometres. I had never failed to finish before. It was a painful moral injury; the calf recovered but the moral wound did not. Today was to be my chance at redemption.

Forty three is a lot of marathons. Enough to learn quite a lot. I’ll list what I know for you. You never know when you might used them.

Running a marathon is hard. There are 42.195 kilometres to complete, equating to about forty two thousand steps. My car gets tired after 42.195 kilometres. The tough news is that every one of the 42,000 steps needs to be run.

Double knot your running shoes. Then they won’t come undone.

Apply Vaseline to toes, groins, armpits, scrota and nipples. Especially nipples. (Runner’s Nipple is one of the more dramatic running injuries. The nipples haemorrhage spectacularly. Why? Well, the nipple is an erectile little gadget. As you run, your skin heats up. Sweating follows, then evaporation of the sweat. Evaporation cools the skin, the nipple leaps to instant and enduring attention and the salty residue of the sweat on the nipple rubs against fabric. Forty two thousand wobbles of a breast result in a nasty dermatitis. Bleeding follows. Pain attends.)

Apply a curved line of Vaseline across your forehead, thus creating an eave, along which sweat can run to your temples. This spares your eyes hours of sweat sting.

Don’t run a marathon.

Having disregarded the last piece of advice, you’ll understand its compelling good sense. Corollary: if you run more than one marathon you are a person who persists non-sensible behaviour. Spouses and families will point this out to you.

Running a marathon damages your body. Within days or a week or two, your body will usually recover (The exception is the case where you die running the marathon, as happened to Pheidipides of old.) Do not imagine you are doing this for your health.

Running a marathon requires a lot of training. Racing a marathon – quite distinct from merely running to complete the event – requires a shit load (that is the technical expression) of training. Spouses (see above) do not generally like this. Sometimes you come back from a marathon to find the spouse has gone.

Running a marathon requires courage.

The marathon humbles everyone who attempts it.

The marathon runner discovers something about herhimself every time shehe runs it.

The marathon is an extreme test. Its extremity evokes extremes of feeling. Tears can flow.

The marathon runner who is forced to pull out due to injury within a few kms from the Finish is a tragic sight. In horse racing a steed that is injured can be shot on the track. A quick gunshot is an expedient that would be welcomed by both the injured party and those runners who witness that colossal grief.

(Death by gunshot is readily available in the USA.)

Plan to have a poo before you run. The runner has consumed megabites of carbs the previous day and all things come to pass. The alternative to evacuation prior to the run is to do so during. This wastes valued time. Unless, like the woman winner at Boston about twelve years ago, and like De Castella at Rotterdam three decades ago, you don’t stop when it starts and you go with the flow. In the case of the brave German girl, diarrhoea and untimely menstruation coincided. Unlike the runner herself, it was not pretty.

Although it must occur to about one in five females on a given race day I have no advice to offer regarding prudent management of marathon menstruation.

Trim your toenails a week before the event. Otherwise the nail might leave your toe somewhere between Start and Finish.

That is the totality of the wisdom I have to impart.

I did run today, I did finish – in brutal conditions – and I am requited. A little bit proud, self-amazed, a bit sore (I’ll be at my sorest the day after tomorrow), weary and happy. And very, very thankful.