John L. Parker, Jr. is the editor of an entertaining little book about ultramarathons, And Then The Vulture Eats You, published in 1999. It includes eight essays by various authors about some ridiculously long pedestrian expeditions. The book's title comes from John Parker's own hilarious article about the historic clash of cultures between "Track Men", who took their speedwork seriously, and classic marathoners, who in contrast:

... affected facial hair and wire-rimmed glasses ... had Ph.D.s in arcane fields ... reveled in the obscurity of their event ... [and] didn't care if you beat them! They seemed almost proud of the fact that they weren't very fast. Their knowing smiles and ethereal comments implied a mystical wisdom that could only be won in that grandaddy, that king, that ultimate of all long-distance challenges. Oh, we could win our little races and have our fun, but we could never know True Enlightenment until we had personally experienced the Great Big Mystical Unbelievably Impossible Kahuna.

Parker then describes the Ultimate Runner competition, a one-day sequence of races at 100 meters, 400 meters, 1 mile, 10 kilometers, and finally a 26.2 mile marathon. Competitors in each event get points based on how their times compare with the world record in that event. But for your score to count, you have to finish every race.

So, as Parker quotes ultrarunner Don Kardong:

"The marathon is like a vulture sitting on your shoulder during all the other events. And then at the end of the day, the vulture eats you."

TopicLiterature - TopicRunning - TopicHumor - 2004-12-09

(correlates: FeedingFrenzy, FirstYearWorstYear, CardThatPoet, ...)