Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Independence Day Thoughts

On Independence Day I ran my first 10K, the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta. The Peachtree lays claim to the title of the world’s largest 10K, with over 55,000 runners. I hadn’t really trained for the race, but I finished with a respectable time of 50:50, about two minutes faster than the only other time I’d run 6.2 miles. A company called MarathonPhoto deploys an army of photographers to a bridge over the road, each of whom takes a continuous staccato-stream of snapshots of exhausted runners crossing the finish line. As the runners leave the race site they are beckoned to the MarathonPhoto area to view their photographs and, it is hoped, purchase a memento of the occasion.

I’ve never been one to display pictures of myself, so I didn't even consider looking at my pictures. So imagine my surprise when I received an email today from MarathonPhoto, inviting me to review my raceday photos. The company managed to not only get three reasonably in-focus shots of me, but within a week were able to use my race number to track me down and send me an email. I have to assume this process is done manually, for each of the 50,000+ runners in the race. The efficiency of their system boggles my mind.

Overall, the race experience was fantastic—there’s no better way to start to this historic day than joining my fellow Atlantans to run down the city’s most famous street. You wake up, run, cook out and relax, then come back together to watch one of several amazing fireworks shows around the city. It’s a universal holiday, enjoyed by young and old, families and couples alike. Even the most jaded among us can appreciate the patriotic colors and songs and take part in the festivities.

My only concern (recently provoked by a coworker) is that referring to the holiday as “the fourth” detracts from the gravity of the day, and contributes to its slow loss of context and meaning. (I’m also concerned that the day will soon become known as “Will Smith Movie Day” due to his annual appearance in a blockbuster film released before the holiday.) I pledge to always refer to it using its appropriate, government-designated name in the future, and I encourage everyone else to do the same.

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