Friday, January 1, 1999

The Seventeen Mile Theory

by Dr. Timothy J. Maggs, © 1999

"Live that you wouldn't be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip." - Will Rogers

Running is the ultimate metaphor. Our few victories and many defeats in life (or at least that's the way it feels) are more easily understood when compared with some aspect of running.
More training equals better racing.
Simple, but forgotten in the real world when we're not willing to pay our dues.
Once we cross the finish line, that was "Last Race", regardless of how good or bad we did.
This is a version of "Don't cry over spilled milk", of which all of us need continual reminding.
Snowy and icy conditions (Problems) add to the exhilaration of a run, once completed.
This is unheard of in real life. Problems equate to stress, not exhilaration.

Running creates philosophers and mileage produces theories. Thus, my "Seventeen Mile Theory".

It was a beautiful Spring Sunday morning for the Troy Marathon in New York. Troy is a great representation of upstate New York as it has significant history and tradition associated with it. Like a true warrior, Troy has survived the economic difficulties of the great Northeast. A marathon in Troy was only appropriate.

So it was until we reached the 16 and a half mile mark. I felt reasonably good to this point. Keep in mind my "feeling good" had nothing to do with a state record or race victory. My only stress was to finish. No more, no less. That was enough challenge for me as I'd hate the thought of having to "race" a marathon. As I approached the 17 mile mark, stress #2 became more and more obvious. Typically, the 4 times I go to the bathroom before a marathon covers any interruptions that might occur during a race. Not so today.

By 17 miles, there were no options. Go or die. The decision was quick. Go, and don't look back. Unfortunately, the "go" happened to be on the steps of city hall in the heart of downtown. Stop, quick, over. Simple.

Until later.

How on earth could I have made a decision to defecate on the steps of city hall on a Sunday morning, and think nothing of it? It seemed so right at the time, but after the race, I felt like going to confession or doing community service or something. I just couldn't imagine....

In looking back, the perceived gravity of the situation became enough for me to create another of my many theories. I learned about the act of judging others and drawing conclusions based on minimal information. If I were to judge "me" in the court of law that was prosecuting me for indecent exposure and defecating on the steps of City Hall on a beautiful Sunday morning, I'd probably be the first to say, "Hang him!". But, it was me. I was the defendant. Most wouldn't understand. I had to go. There were no options. There must be some clause in the law to protect public defecation. I would have exploded and never finished the race. And I had to finish the race.

Years after the incident, it's all but forgotten. But, the reality remains. I committed the "crime" and could have been doomed for life by the jury (the 80% of society who have opinions on everything). Everyday in the paper, someone new is taken down by the media for some skeleton in their closet. I shudder with the thought that some newspaper reporter happened to be there catching me on film. My claim to fame in the public eye for evermore would have been that I had a bowel movement on the steps of City Hall in Troy, New York. On a Sunday morning, no less. That's how people identify you for years and years. If it's in the paper or on the news, it's real and becomes you. Forget all the other good you've done."Hey, there's Tim Maggs, the public defecator!" Ouch.

This type of story becomes coffee break material from coast to coast. As long as it's someone else's head in the guillotine, they talk about it all day. Even though all the facts are unclear or not available, they still judge and talk as though they know because that makes their life seem a little less crummy I guess.

My ultimate "philosophy" is nothing more than a feeble attempt to encourage all of us to not judge. If you don't know the facts, don't give an opinion. If you weren't there, leave it for the higher sources. As all of us hate to have someone talk about us unknowingly, we too should avoid such pitfalls. And most really don't care what your opinion is anyway. They want you to hear theirs, as if they have some higher source of wisdom.

I recently spent time doing a tour on grand jury. The top assistant D.A. was asked if he felt O.J. was guilty. More than most of us, he should have had a legitimate legal opinion being that he understood the law better than most. "I didn't hear all of the testimony, so I don't have an opinion." God bless him.

Keep running and creating your own theories and leave the judgment to those wiser than us. I'm not quite sure, but somehow this relates to sportsmedicine.

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