Concentrate on the Chrysanthemums

The marathon is never a bed of roses, but in Japan the contemplation of floral displays wonderfully calms the jitters. To soothe your feet, try vodka
May 07, 1972

We came to the island of Kyushu at twilight, gliding above black offshore rocks, lumpy hills, refineries. It was a jarring landing. The road from the airport was lined with palms in dubious health. Leafless persimmon trees still bore their orange fruit. In hundreds of tiny drained rice fields, stacks of straw shook in the cold wind.

As our taxi approached the city we saw bundled peasant women tending smoky fires on street corners.

"I'm excited," said Frank Shorter. "Partly at being in a strange country, but it's more than that." Frank is given to analyses of his mental states.

"This is the first time I've started a trip knowing I couldn't be any better prepared," he said. "I've done more long runs than ever, I'm effective over shorter distances [he had won the national AAU cross-country championship in San Diego the day before] and my weight is right. I'm not torn down by too much racing like I was last summer."

He paused a moment, flinching as the cab cut off a cement truck. "Of course, it's frightening to feel like this. I've followed the program perfectly. If I run lousy, there's something wrong with the program."

This was last November and Frank and I were in Fukuoka, Japan to test our programs in what amounts to the world marathon championship. Since 1966 the Japanese have invited the cream of the year's marathoners to have at it over a flat course in traditionally cool, fast weather. Derek Clayton of Australia became the first man to run the 26 miles, 385 yards under two hours and 10 minutes (2:09:36.4) in 1967 in Fukuoka. The slowest winning time since was 2:11:12.8 by Jerome Drayton of Canada in the rain in 1969. Six of the eight fastest marathoners of all time have run their best races through the streets of Fukuoka, although Clayton improved his world best—there is no world record in the marathon because of varying terrain—to 2:08:33.6 in Belgium in 1969.

I had been invited on the strength of finishing second in 1970 with 2:11:35.8 and for winning the 1971 national AAU marathon championship. Frank had been second in our nationals with 2:17:44.6 in his first marathon and had won both the 10,000 meters and the marathon in the Pan-American Games.

At the hotel we met Eiichi Shibuya, the official in charge of our arrangements, and handed over two bottles of Johnnie Walker. He bowed. We bowed. His smile was reminiscent of Teddy Roosevelt's while standing over the lion.

"Mr. Kenneth Moore [my name was pronounced, as it was all week, "Moo-ah"] remembers the Japanese custom of high import taxes on our favorite whiskey."

While our steaks slowly incinerated upon their heated iron platters, we met the runners from Australia and New Zealand. John Farrington, 29, an administrative officer at Sydney's Macquarie University and fifth here last year, shook hands and looked dourly out the window.

"Look at those flags," he said. "Standing straight out from the poles. Bloody awful conditions."

Jack Foster, 39, a clerk in Rotorua, New Zealand, sought to calm Farrington. "We've got five more days, John. It must stop."

Foster was fourth last year. His large eyes and wrinkled forehead give him an appearance of shyness and uncertainty. In September he had run 80 laps on a track in 1:39:14.4, the world record for 20 miles.

Jack introduced two of his New Zealand teammates, John Robinson and Terry Manners, both 32.

"Not as fancy a field as it might be," said Jack. "Clayton says he's not racing again until Munich. Too much chance of injury. Ron Hill [of England, the only other man ever to crack 2:10] is only doing cross-country this winter. Bill Adcocks [also of England, winner at Fukuoka in 1968 with 2:10:47.8] is injured. Karel Lismont of Belgium [the European champion] didn't answer his invitation, and the Japanese are sworn never to invite Drayton again."

"Why not?"

"Last year, after agreeing to run, he wired that he was injured. And in '69, when he won, he left his trophy. Apparently, the Japanese feel they lost face."

"Things are beginning to fall into place for me," said Frank. "Politics and face and duty-free Scotch."

"Well, it never hurts to make oneself welcome," I said.

"Certainly not," said Jack.

"In any case," said Robinson, "there will be a few men out there Sunday who can run a bit."

Akio Usami, Japan's defending champion and national record holder (2:10:37.8), was at another hotel. A graduate student at Tokyo's Nihon University, he had won marathons in Athens in April and at Munich in September.

Two Finns, two Russians, a West German and another New Zealander were expected.

"They invited four Kiwis?" I said.

"Oh, no," said Robinson. "They only paid for Jack. Terry and I had to put down $1,400 apiece, air fare and expenses, to race here."

"My God," said Frank. "Why?"

When Robinson spoke, all the blue showed in his eyes. "New Zealand can afford to send only 80 competitors to the Munich Olympics. How many will the U.S. send?"

"About 450."

"There. Our athletes are selected on the basis of their world rankings, which is the only way to choose between a swimmer and a rower, for example. We marathoners have to go under 2:16 simply to be considered. That time will put a man in the top 20 in the world unless a dozen do it here [in 1970 10th place at Fukuoka was 2:16]. We can't hope to produce those times in New Zealand because all our courses run over mountains. But if we're any kind of runners we ought to do it here."

"So you paid that kind of money to try," said Frank. "What do you do for a living?"

"I'm a phys ed teacher. Terry is a house painter."

Later, as Frank and I walked to our rooms, he said, "I couldn't do that. Not unless I was positive I'd make it." He thought a moment. "Maybe he's ready."

We tried to run twice a day. I went out before breakfast. Nearby was a park and shrine. Crossing the gentle curve of a bridge I could look east and see canals reflecting red sunrise, silhouetting other bridges. A blue-roofed pagoda rose out of twisted, rope-wound pines. A bronze statue of an ancient Buddhist priest 60 feet high sheltered pigeons. Returning, the growing light revealed the foulness of the canals, shallow slime over broken glass and ordure.

Afternoons we were driven to more distant Obori Park. A lake was spanned by a series of islands connected by more bridges. Willows grew over a cinder path. We ran with schoolboys, soccer teams and karate groups. We were photographed incessantly and on following days our pictures were brought back to be autographed.

Frank, at 5'10" and 130 pounds, looks fragile (Marty Liquori has called him "a vertical hyphen"), yet he always braved the traffic and ran back to the hotel. Shibuya-san, an occasional jogger himself, was impressed.

"Mr. Shorter has much energy."

"Yes."

"Why do you think it is so?"

"He credits it to his drinking."

"He drinks?"

"Oh, yes. Lots of beer and gin-and-tonic."

"I drink wine. And beer and gin. But no tonic."

"So close, and yet so far."

We had no commitments, yet we were always occupied. Perhaps we are slow, or have lengthy attention spans. We certainly lingered over our meals, in conversation or, in Frank's case, in attempting to eat.

"I'm really up for this race," he said early in the week. "I have no appetite at all." For lunch he usually could get down a chocolate sundae and a gin-and-coke.

I asked if he had any objection to my publicizing his fondness for gin.

"Well, it's me," he said. "I sip it to relax and I've always done it. But if I bombed out in the race, a lot of rednecks would say, 'See how the lush drank himself out of contention.' It wouldn't be true, but I'd hate to give them the ammunition."

Later in the day the Russians arrived and passed out little bottles of vodka.

The previous year the Russians had been archetype proletariat. One, Yuri Volkov, who finished eighth with a Soviet record 2:14:28, is a metalworker and has a scar, of unstated origin, from jaw to hairline. He made noise when he ran, stamping on the pavement as if killing bugs. We all nodded knowingly the morning after the race when he could not walk, so damaged was one Achilles' tendon.

This year's Russians were smooth. Both were 28, phys ed graduate students and, on five words of English, urbane. Their names: Vassily Shalomilov and Yuri Maurin.

They had brought a manager, a robust, gray-haired man who burst, when least expected, into songs about Volga boatmen. He spoke no English and continually pressed us for autographs. If you happened to have a ballpoint pen in hand, it wound up in his. He did know one English word: "souvenir."

In his room, Frank discussed his feelings toward Russians.

"It is a culturally indoctrinated suspicion. I find myself wondering, 'What are they really thinking?' It's hard to articulate, harder to explain. I have to fight it."

I said, "I lost that in Leningrad." Frank and I had run there in the U.S. vs. U.S.S.R. meet the year before.

"Yeah," Frank said. "When Mikitenko gave us those little wood carvings from his children."

Between meals and workouts we were entertained by the press. The marathon was sponsored by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper chain, whose Fukuoka offices took up the first seven floors of the hotel building. Our pictures appeared daily and some of the interviews attained a depth seldom reached in this country. Having run second the year before, I drew a lot of fire. When my undergraduate major was exposed, I was pegged "the philosopher-marathoner" and asked such questions as "What is-there about you which longs for the suffering of the race?" or "In what way is your soul satisfied by the marathon?"

It was a heady atmosphere and I succumbed. "After every experience," I said, "it's natural to reflect that you might have done better. Only after a marathon can I say I have given everything. Because of the enormity of the attempt, the cleansing of the pain, I can sit, even stiff and blistered, and know a kind of peace."

Farrington added, "Marathoning is like cutting yourself unexpectedly. You dip into the pain so gradually that the damage is done before you're aware of it. Unfortunately, when awareness comes, it is excruciating."

"That's why you have to forget your last marathon before you can run another," said Frank. "Your mind can't know what's coming."

We were distracted from these musings by the arrival of the Finns. Seppo Nikkari, 23, and Pentti Rummakko, 28, spoke nothing but Finnish. The Japanese were unable to unearth an interpreter. Nikkari, tall and gawky, with a feathery, blond mustache, did not seem perturbed. Disdaining the dinner menu, he barged into the kitchen and pointed at what he wanted. When people in front of him did not make way fast enough when the elevator reached his floor, he cheerfully propelled them into the wall.

"He does not seem to have perfectly adapted to civilization," said Farrington.

Rummakko was slender and silent, with eyes in great dark hollows and gaps between his teeth. Fourth in the 1970 Boston Marathon with 2:14:59, he has raced internationally for years.

"It's unnerving," said Robinson. "You get the idea these fellows don't live for anything but running."

Nikkari seemed to develop an affection for Farrington, jumping in his taxi to the park, pounding on his back at unpredictable intervals when they ran.

"I don't really detest the bloody ox, you know," said John. "I mean I haven't struck him between his blinking eyes. I will, however, take pleasure in thrashing him by a few minutes."

Shorter discerned a plan. "The kid's got Farrington's number," he said. "You have to put so much effort into this race that you can't afford to dislike your opponents. It's a waste of energy."

One afternoon the phone woke me from a nap.

"This is cork."

"Who? From Ireland?"

"No. Cork, on ninth froor robby."

Tentatively: "Clerk?"

"Hai. You are Mr. Moo-ah?"

"Yes."

"You have visitor. Prease come down."

It was the man from Tiger. Mr. Yoshihiko Hikita provided us all with leather bags stuffed with his company's racing and training shoes. Not more than 25 and rigid within his black blazer, Hikita-san seemed awed by us.

"Just say, 'This shoe rubs a bit,' " Farrington whispered to us, "and in two minutes he's back with another pair. Meanwhile, you've tucked away the first. That goes on and on. I brought practically no luggage."

"A bloke could get really spoiled over here," said Robinson, clutching half a dozen shoe bags to his chest. By the end of the week he had filled a packing case with shoes, track suits and camera equipment.

Hikita-san was proud of his new "Ohbori" model, named, roughly, for the park where we trained. He had sent a pair to Foster and me earlier and we had promised to race in them. Foster pointed out the shoe's ventilation.

"People at home asked me what all the little holes were for. I told them that's for the blood to run out."

Frank tried on a pair.

"Mr. Frank Shorter," said Hikita, "in your real opinions these are best shoes?"

"Yeah, they're great. But a little too wide."

"Ah so. But it is not possible to make narrower so soon before the race."

"I think they'll do."

That afternoon Frank ran a hard hour through the park in his regular, non-Tiger training shoes. After dinner Hikita-san was waiting for us in the lobby. He gave Frank a searching look.

"Why," he asked in a low voice, "did you wear Adidas shoes today?"

Frank gently reassured him that he would race in Tigers. He had simply preferred not to run 10 miles in brand-new shoes. He mentioned again that his feet were very narrow.

Hikita withdrew and returned shortly with pieces of string and rice paper. He carefully traced the outline of Frank's foot and measured its circumference at the ball and around the arch, marking the string with red ink. Then he retreated, saying, "We will try."

Frank, his bare foot propped on a coffee table, said softly, "I wish I hadn't worn Adidas today."

"Why? I've seen you play Adidas against Puma without mercy."

"They didn't take it like that man."

Runners are usually perpetual convalescents, leading a life of rich, vigorous afternoons, nodding evenings and stiff, groggy mornings. Easing training before a race sometimes humanizes us, but we are incomplete tourists. Our sense of mission makes us unwilling to tire ourselves in search of culture or Christmas presents.

One morning Shibuya-san told us we were scheduled to go to a Shinto shrine to be purified for the race.

"It makes no difference whether or not we are believers?" inquired Frank.

"No difference. It is automatic."

"That sort of thinking might have saved us a few million in crusaders, heretics and Northern Irish," Frank said.

We were greeted by a tiny, energetic man in beige and dark brown robes. Nobusada Nishitakatsuji explained in rapid, precise English that his family had served as priests at Dazaifu Shrine for 38 generations.

Detecting an accent, Frank asked if he had ever been in the U.S.

"Harvard Divinity School," he said.

He led us through high stone gates and gilded arches to an inner courtyard. Under a sacred plum tree we were given a sip of ceremonial sake from a three-tiered golden bowl. Small printed fortunes were selected for us according to the animal of the year of our birth.

Shibuya-san translated my fortune.

"If you desire something a long time, you will get it. Beware of serious illness. Don't sell your house."

The priest excused himself and hurried off.

"Where is he going?" asked Frank.

"I believe he has a Rotary meeting," said Shibuya.

I had not been feeling well. The combination of the San Diego race, in which I finished sixth, the long flight and the seven-hour time change had subdued me. Three days before the race I awoke feeling honestly sick. At breakfast Fanington said, "I tell everyone they're coming apart at the seams, but you really do look pale."

I reported to Shibuya, who took me to a clinic. My temperature was 101°, the diagnosis virus. I received a shot of antibiotic, some orange pills and signed half a dozen autographs for a row of giggling nurses.

I was ordered to my room. Shibuya looked in every couple of hours. I got him to sit on the bed and talk about the Japanese attachment to the marathon.

"We made marathon important because it is one event in which a man needs not to be tall to be great," he said. "In marathon and gymnastics we can do well against the world."

"There is great pressure upon runners to do well?"

"Yes," he said. "Sometimes there is too much."

"Will you tell me about Kokichi Tsuburaya?"

He sighed. "Yes, there were many pressures on Tsuburaya. He came from a small town in the north, Sukagawa City in Fukushima Prefecture. There is only a cigarette factory there. The city had nothing to be proud of except Tsuburaya. There were signs on the buildings that said TSUBURAYA is OUR PRIDE. When he won the bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics, there was a great celebration. Everyone said, 'In Mexico, the gold.'

"Tsuburaya was in the Japan Self-Defense Forces. He was in the department of training, a leader with responsibilities. In our tradition, the leader is always the best. The JSDF is very strict and insists on training hard, hard, hard. There is no limit. My own sister trained with other women to challenge U.S. guns with bamboo poles.

"This tradition has been carried on by the JSDF and influenced Tsuburaya. He trained so hard that he injured his Achilles' tendon. His commanders wanted the honor he would win, so he was not permitted to rest. For a year he ran poorly.

"In 1967 he committed suicide by slashing his wrists. He left a simple note to his mother. It said, 'I can't run any farther.' "

I asked how his death affected the Japanese.

"We were sorry."

"Were people sympathetic, or did they think he was crazy?"

"He was not insane. We could understand. We were just sorry he had no friend or leader who could guide him. He had a heavy burden. We criticized his JSDF captain. We said, 'Why didn't you help Tsuburaya?' He said only, 'We never let up." "

When Shibuya had gone, I slept. In a dream I found myself at the start of the Olympic 5,000-meter final. I had trained in secret for years, preparing for this single race. I tore through the first mile in four minutes even, pulling to a huge lead. In the second mile, despite the pain, I surged harder, responding to the astounded, howling crowd, and ran it in 3:58. Over the last few laps, when I should have dropped, I began to sprint, lapping the earth's best runners, lowering the three-mile world record by a minute. In the stretch, amid the torture of the effort and the screams of the multitude, I delivered the limit of my energy and all my body's chemical bonds burst. Only a wisp of vapor crossed the finish line, leaving my nylon shirt folded across the tape.

When I awoke, my fever was gone.

We had developed a cocoa ritual. Before bed the English-speaking runners gathered in a coffee shop off the lobby to choke down a few more carbohydrates. (The traditional prerace steak has been discredited. Recent marathon records have been set on cream puffs and pecan pie.)

Feeling recovered, I put in an appearance. Farrington was at the window.

"I hope there are a lot of little Japanese down on their knees somewhere praying for the weather," he said.

"Surely you don't have to worry about a fast time?" John was the year's second-fastest runner with 2:12:14.

"It would help my chances for Olympic selection. Our committee has decided to send only 12 men to Munich in track and field. There are 21 events. Once they are selected, no one else can go."

"What if a runner was the best you had in an event, but wasn't selected and offered to pay his own way?"

"The committee would say no. It wouldn't be fair to other unselected athletes who couldn't afford it."

"What if everybody could afford it?"

"They would still say no. It's tough to make the Australian team. It's always been that way."

"Do you think it should stay that way?"

"I will if I make it."

This created a silence. Finally Robinson spoke:

"I say, had a peck in at the massage parlor next door? Fabulous!"

In the morning I jogged a few miles. Outside the hotel I found Robinson changing shoes. He ran 100 yards down an alley, returned, sat down and began changing shoes again.

"Foot problems?"

"Oh, no. It's just that to get these back into New Zealand without paying twice their value in duty, they have to be used."

Upstairs, I met Hikita-san coming from Frank's room. I looked in. Frank looked ludicrous in a flowing yukata and Ohbori shoes. He seemed dazed.

"They're perfect," he said.

"New shoes?"

"Yes. Somehow they made a narrower pair. But he tried to take my Adidas. He said, 'Since you have no further use for these....' and tried to slip them into his bag. Don't they trust me?"

"When they know you better, Frank."

Usami came to the hotel to be photographed with his foreign challengers. We were made to sit in a row and hold up our bare feet for the camera.

Farrington felt Usami's rock-hard thigh.

"Your legs feel very, very tired," Farrington said.

Usami seemed about to explode with suppressed glee.

"Yes," he giggled. "Very tired."

"Well they ought to be," said Farrington. "You ran 50 kilometers before breakfast."

Usami laughed, throwing his head back. "Yes, yes. Exhausted."

I had regained my will to live, but the will to run is a more delicate flower. In hopes of nourishing it, I bought a bottle of Japanese champagne with dinner. It was sweet, but without the fruity quality of good sweet wines.

"Alcoholic cream soda," said Frank.

"It's better than their red wine," put in Farrington. "That tastes like kerosene."

Soon we were telling stories. I talked about red-necks and bleeding feet in the Olympic marathon ("Gawd damn you, git awn up there where a American ought to be!").

Jeff Julian, the fourth New Zealander and a banker, told a Ron Hill story.

"Ron went to the Munich pre-Olympic marathon in September." said Julian, "but he didn't enter. He simply ran over the course the morning of the race. Then, after Usami won. Hill came up and told him—I imagine a finger wagging—'You second next year in Olympics. Second. Me first.' "

Robinson and I frowned. "Ronnie should know better." I said. "Winning is never so sweet that losing can't be sourer if you get your hopes up like that."

"Right." said Robinson. "I was just thinking it's nice they give 10 trophies here. I'll be perfectly happy to take home any of those at all."

The day before the race we tried out our endurance in the opening ceremonies. In a ballroom before banks of flowers and the flags of the represented nations, we heard from the mayor of Fukuoka, the Japanese minister of education, the president of the Japanese Amateur Athletic Federation and the president of Asahi Shimbun. Frank was edgy.

"I have the feeling I got here a day early," he whispered. "I'm ready right now. My stomach is starting to churn."

"Relax. We'll have a drink afterward."

"You know, the winner of this race really will be the favorite in Munich."

"Concentrate on the chrysanthemums and lilies, Frank. Think of the care some tiny, patient gardener...."

"We can do it, you know. I really feel it."

"Think how he watered and pruned and fertilized, creating blossoms that invite quiet contemplation...."

"Those Russians look fit enough. I wonder if they're as nervous...."

"Pretend you're that patient gardener, taking pleasure and fulfillment from simply watching...."

"When I think of the start, all those frantic Japanese, ready to die.... The way they're going to drive us...."

"Frank. That way lies madness."

"You're right. What were you saying about flowers?"

Race day dawned crystalline and calm. Then at breakfast, in full view of Farrington, clouds scudded up from the southwest and it rained. Frank and I sat by ourselves.

"I don't feel like I have to win this, you know?" said Frank. "I want to, but I'm calm."

We were bused to the stadium, where we would start and finish, and were put in a bare, unheated room under the stands. We slathered Vaseline in our shoes and wherever skin rubs against skin. Remembering the Pan-American marathon in Cali, where he had to seek relief in a cane field, Frank went out to find a toilet.

"It's banjo, isn't it?"

"Benjô"

"Yes. Would be embarrassing to get that mixed up."

Farrington was peering at an infinitesimal blister on Robinson's heel and saying, "Now that's going to be trouble...." when we came under attack. Fireworks exploded somewhere and a crowd of crazed, clucking officials swept us out onto the field.

We jogged a mile to warm up. The Japanese runners were grim except Usami, who smiled at friends in the crowd. The rain had stopped but not the wind. We were assembled on the line.

The starter's gun refused to discharge. We were reassembled and, finally, set off. More skyrockets detonated overhead. Usami jumped for the early lead. He did not get it. Farrington darted out of the inside lane and stayed in front until we were out of the stadium. Foster and Shalomilov kept close. Frank and I were fifth and sixth until Nikkari elbowed through.

Once on the road, the wind was behind us. The route followed the westward curve of the coastline out onto a fiat, sandy peninsula. We were to return over the same road. Usami took the lead and his pace immediately split the field. Farrington and Foster stayed with him. Frank, Nikkari and I surrendered 30 yards.

"What do you think?" I asked.

"It's under 4:50 mile pace."

"World-record pace."

"We can't let them get more than 80 yards."

By two miles we caught them. At 10,000 meters, reached in 29:47, the six of us were together, 100 yards in front. The crowd was immense, six and eight deep, mile after mile, and it roared at us with sustained fury. It possessed thousands of paper Japanese flags and slashed and beat the air with them in a frenzy of exorcism. The evil spirits surrounding Usami were given, at the very least, headaches.

Moving with us was an entourage of official buses and police motorcycles. The camera truck vented oily, black exhaust. When it came too near we would shout and wave it away. Frank, saving his breath, merely spit on it.

A little butterfly of a Japanese kept fluttering up to us and falling back. At eight miles I dropped back with him, in crisis. The symptoms of midweek had returned, weakness and swimming nausea. I deluded myself. World-record pace would kill them all. It was infinitely more wise to run economically, give them their too costly lead and take it back when it counted.

Robinson and Rummakko passed me.

Manners passed me. In spite of slowing I felt no better. I was cooked.

The course turned gradually into the wind. Frank took refuge behind Foster and Nikkari. Farrington ran at his side. They had left all settlement and ran now between white sand dunes and low pines. The crowd vanished and they could hear each other's breathing. The pace slowed.

Farrington watched Nikkari's ungainly shuffle and said, as if insulted, "The bloke's got no bloody calves."

Frank said, "Boy when we go around that turn, all hell is going to break loose."

Farrington shot him a look of panic.

Usami had taken them through the last 5,000 meters in 16:21. Frank ran the next in 15:11. Several hundred yards after turning for home, he met me laboring among the stragglers.

"Put it to them," I said, needlessly. There was blood in his eye and he was running with a light, driving precision.

With nine miles to go Frank had gained 200 yards on Usami and Foster, who were running together. The crowd changed in tone. Applause for Frank was warm, but the resounding encouragement behind him was of a different order. He used it to gauge his lead.

"The race is always between 20 and 26 miles," he said later. "My only doubt was that my mind was ready to put my body through that. When I got into it, I still didn't know. There was the pain, and there was a peculiar frustration. I can run a four-minute mile. It was agonizing for a runner like me to not be able to do anything but crawl."

They ran the last three miles into the teeth of the wind. The gritty, powerful Usami shook off Foster and drove on after Frank.

"It was the hardest I've ever run," said Frank. "Even in the heat of Cali, I felt better. Here, I was so helpless."

He won by 32 seconds in 2:12:50.4.

"I finished and a great feeling of thankfulness swept through me. There was no sense of conquest, none of this baloney about vanquishing anybody."

Across the line, he waved away blankets and fought off officials and reporters to stand at the finish and embrace Usami.

"My only thought was, "Here we are goddamnit! We made it!' This man had suffered as much as I had. We all had."

He stood there and shook hands with every finisher until I came in. I was the 38th person he shook hands with.

In the last hour, I crept. The kilometer times were gibberish, so different were they from what I had expected. I thought about quitting. Ambulances waited every three miles. I remembered being taken from the Pan-American marathon with heat exhasution.

"I never quit!" I shouted aloud. "Never! Never! Never!" I repeated this every 500 yards to the end.

More Japanese passed. My hip stiffened. The West German, Manfred Steffny, a pale, effeminate runner who had arrived only two days before, passed. He asked me what was wrong.

"Fever, sick, blisters, don't give a damn...."

He left me spouting afflictions. I was the last of the foreigners. People called "Moo-ah, Moo-ah," held their children by the shoulders and pointed them at me. I imagined them saying, "See, even the silver-medal winner of last year can be reduced to a stumbling, tortured wreck." I was a wheezing mortal.

In some places the crowd had departed. Paper flags drifted across the street like candy-stripe leaves. A few children waved sticks from which the paper had been torn.

I watched the hills, the pines rising out of courtyards, trying to mask with images the meaningless pain.

Filtering the stadium, I caught a wobbling Japanese. He spurted. I kept close and jumped him in the stretch. Frank was there.

"Are you all right?" he asked.

"Yeah, I never give up."

Foster was third, Nikkari fourth, Manners fifth, Farrington sixth ("The bloody gales. I couldn't move after 20 miles"), Rummakko seventh. The times, because of the wind, were slow. Of the New Zealanders, only Foster cracked 2:16.

The award ceremony was tedious. Frank put up with it somewhat better than I, accepting four trophies and two medals. The top 10 finishers mounted pedestals. Squarely on No. 10 beamed John Robinson.

In the late afternoon, after hot baths, we were escorted to a buffet for congratulations from dignitaries. Oysters cascaded from a Fujiyama carved in ice. The Olympic torch, fashioned out of butter, rose above a track of p√¢té, upon which raced stuffed lobsters.

Frank was brought a beer by a pretty girl in a kimono.

"She is the most expensive bar hostess in all Fukuoka," said Shibuya-san.

"Why?" asked Frank. The girl fled.

We met Colonel Leonard Fisher, commander of the U.S. Air Force units in the area.

"Frank, my boy," he said, "youse ran a great race. We almost got out of the car to cheer."

After dark we were taken across the street to the Fukuoka Famous Strip Show, during which Frank was heard to utter the following:

"There really was a student discount.

"That is the kind of girl the servicemen take pity on and bring home to mother.

"They do make it subtly worse, don't they?

"I'm getting warm.

"She's not going to do that again. She's going to do it again.

"Agnew said it. 'You seen one, you seen 'em all.' "

The Soviet manager sat in front of us. When it was over, he turned, pondered for a long, effortful moment and said, "O.K., yeah?"

"My God," said Frank, "I thought he was going to say 'souvenir.' "

We wound up at a dim French restaurant. The Russians demanded vodka, inspected the label and decided, scornfully, "nyet." Shalomilov then stood and triumphantly drew a huge bottle from beneath his coat.

"Real vodka!" he shouted.

The New Zealanders fell to screaming Maori war chants. Shibuya sang a Spanish ballad in a steady tenor. The Russians crooned Caspian work songs and one of the Finns (Nikkari, since Rummakko refused to open his mouth) produced something characteristically unintelligible.

Robinson soon announced, "That vodka's great stuff. My blisters have gone away already."

Frank and I, under overpowering duress, sang Show Me the Way to Go Home and went home. We fell asleep in the taxi. I remember the last thing he said:

"I get like this after every marathon, so damn tired."

THREE ILLUSTRATIONS
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)