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Seeking the Fountain of Youth Through Marathon
By Don Budzinski

I am a life-long Chicagoan visiting Beirut this year as part of my ongoing quest for unique marathoning experiences. In this age of ever-increasing popularity for marathon running, it seems as if every major city of the world has that event on the calendar. I train every year with the Chicago Area Runners Association marathon program, most of the members of which are preparing for the Chicago Marathon in October. However, quite a few have their sights set on testing their resolve in far-flung locales, myself included. Therefore, after running the Chicago Marathon twice and two other marathons in the USA, I’ve been combining my love of international travel with a passion for long-distance running.

That classic distance of 26.2 miles is carved in stone but the experience of pounding it out can be all over the map. Indeed, what a wide variety of marathon settings I’ve enjoyed. Of course, there’s nothing quite like crossing the finish line in your hometown but beyond that, it’s difficult to decide on a ranking. My lifetime marathon résumé encompasses Columbus, Ohio; Honolulu; Venice; Budapest; Istanbul; Berlin; Dublin; Lausanne, Switzerland; and Kosice, Slovakia. Each of these has its own charm and ambience which really makes it quite futile to choose a so-called ‘favorite’. Running through a torrential rainstorm at the Istanbul Marathon as the Islamic call to prayer resounded amidst the lightning and thunder was an adventure that is embedded in my brain. But is there a valid standard for comparing that to trudging up the sunny steepness of Diamond Head at mile 23 of Honolulu? Soaking in the outdoor thermal hot springs after the Budapest Marathon was a wonderful free benefit but in my mind’s eye, a memorable counterpart was running alongside Lake Geneva with the back-drop of snow-covered Alps at Lausanne. Each marathon I’ve done is firmly committed to long-term memory to the point that I can close my eyes and effortlessly relive those experiences as if watching a videotape.

And now to this multifarious menagerie I will add Beirut, the prospect of which fills me with much anticipation. My recent good fortune as I did research was to discover “For the Love of Lebanon”, an award-winning documentary that chronicles the staging of the 2006 marathon. Multiple viewings of this enchanting film have served an unexpected purpose – the theme song “Running Free” will be the soundtrack going through my head during the entire race (and I will NOT be wearing an iPod).

Every repeat marathoner has aspirations and I am no exception. At Columbus and Lausanne I managed to clock 3:57, a timing that if etched into my gravestone would provide my soul with a blissful eternity. However, if I can repeat a sub-four in three years from now I will attain the pinnacle of achievement for an amateur runner – the exalted B.Q. (Boston-qualifier).  At age 57, I am dedicated to maintaining marathon fitness with the firm belief that it will forestall aging. Is there anything else available that so closely approximates the Fountain of Youth?

Thanks Don for sharing your article.

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