When my kids were little, I was a medical resident. I did my residency at a hospital known fondly as "The Deathstar". It was, and still is, one of the best hospitals in the world, but when they keep you up for days in a row and don't provide any parking (I singlehandedly supported The City with my parking ticket fines for 3 years), you get a little dark in your outlook. Once, when my husband dropped me at work, my boy, then 2 or so, pointed at said Deathstar and said "Look! There is Mommy's house!" Oh, how my childrens' therapists will thank me for funding their own children's' college costs. You are welcome, Freud, et al.
When my kids were little, they did not think men could be doctors. They also knew every single playground in The City intimately, as they have the most incredible father on the face of the Earth. The playgrounds bore names like "The Gopher Playground" or "The Boat Playground." They still talk about the time a thug seagull ate a baby bird on one of their outings, while their Dad threw graham crackers to try to save the little guy. One of their preschools required going through a metal detector. And one day kindergarten was cancelled because of a far away yet so close to home horrific act of terror. I will never forget our Chinese neighbor leaning out the window yelling "No school today!" as I was holding my daughter's hand walking down our quiet sidewalk. "We are under attack!"
My children have had an idyllic childhood, really, but the world in which we live is frightening. I have not seen so much heroin use in my patients since my days at General Hospital in The City. People seem meaner and less open to helping those in need. If Obama's healthcare plan is overturned, as it seems it probably will be, my youngest child will likely be uninsurable. War seems just kind of our normal thing now. Racism is clearly still a big problem ("birthers" are only missing white sheets and burning crosses, in my opinion). The Haves and The Have-Nots have an ever-growing divide between them. And the road to success in our country seems bizarre. A 4.0 GPA no longer guarantees entry into a great school. Maybe a 4.6 might squeak you into UC Berkeley. But only if you've published 12 novels and can run a sub 4 minute mile, on your hands, while singing the Queen of the Night aria from Mozart's Magic Flute.
Speaking of running, I have once again signed myself up for a marathon. It is like an obsession, truly a strange and awful event. And apparently its distance of 26.2 miles came at a decree from the royal family who wished a better view of the olympic race. This from a recent article in the New York Times:
"It was about 26 miles from Windsor Castle to the Olympic Stadium in West London at Shepherd’s Bush. The original plan had the runners coming into the stadium at the royal entrance and running about 585 yards, circling the track counterclockwise and finishing in front of the royal box, Davis said. But the royal entrance was deemed unsuitable; instead the runners entered at the opposite end of the stadium and, to enhance the view for the Queen and others, ran clockwise for 385 yards to the royal box.
The final yards made for a gripping and contentious result. Entering the stadium first on that hot and humid July day was an Italian pastry chef named Dorando Pietri. But he was exhausted, delirious. He turned the wrong way on the track, reversed course and began stumbling. According to news accounts, Pietri fell five times in that final quarter-mile.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, covered the race for The Daily Mail of London and wrote, “I caught a glimpse of the haggard, yellow face, the glazed, expressionless eyes, the long, black hair streaked across the brow.”
By assisting Pietri to his feet, race officials knew they were jeopardizing his gold medal. But as the official Olympic report said, “It was impossible to leave him there, for it looked as if he might die in the very presence of the Queen.” "
It is not something I do for glory, because even in my small town there are dozens of better runners than I. It is not something I do for health, because as a physician and scientist of sorts, I can see the illogic of 26 miles somehow being better than, say, 5 miles. But I do do it. Because:
1) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once covered the race for The London Daily Mail.
2) Running is the only time I get entirely to myself. Mothers (and fathers) of young children, doctors and people who work retail will totally understand this.
3) I really love to run.
July 29, Marathon, here I come. Hopefully I will not require admission to The Deathstar.