The Toronto Star recently published an article entitled “Any schmo can run a marathon”. Coach potatoes of the world listen up, you are built to run! I submit that if Homer Simpson can do it, you can too. Homer, like many, was inspired by watching the TV special Great Moments in Olympic History. One such moment, in 1984 when Portugal’s Carlos Lopez becomes the oldest Olympic marathon runner ever at age 38, struck a chord with Homer. “38!? That’s roughly my age! Marge, after a lot of thought [very quick pause] I’ve decided to run the Springfield Marathon!”. Marge uncharacteristically shows more mocking than support, retorting “oh, puh-lease, you get exhausted watching the Twilight Zone marathon”. Little Lisa is the lone voice of encouragement, wisely observing that “running is good exercise, it adds years to your life”. Homer to Lisa: Stay out of this Lisa. I would have pegged Homer more as a drunken bar bet marathoner than a roused by the Olympics runner.
The Springfield Marathon is a storied event. It commemorates the time Jebediah Springfield (founder of Springfield) ran across six states to avoid his creditors. Although a novice runner, lucky Homer has a coach with a checklist. Lisa: You got all your equipment dad? Homer: Let’s see. Sweatbands check, anti-chafing nipple tape check, check, and check. No number 11 for Homer (or 111, in his unique case). It’s not a thorough checklist, but it’s something. At the start Homer takes his place right where he belongs, upfront with the elites. Springfield boasts a surprising number of race entrants (based on visible bib numbers it seems over 600 marathoners participated in the 97th running), everyone from Dr. Hibbard, to Carl and Lenny, to Comic Book Guy dressed as The Flash. “No one can outrun the Flash [falls into a manhole]! Curses! One of my super-foes has set a trap for me!”
The beauty of the marathon is that anything can happen. Over 42.2K there will be highs and lows, and higher highs and lower lows. It’s a comedy, drama, romance, and horror movie all rolled into 42.2 mini acts. Homer experiences all this and more in the first act, erm, mile. “I can’t believe it! I’m actually running a marathon”. Cut to Homer clutching his chest. “Argh, I hit the wall! This is so painful!” Moments later the pain subsides. “Hey, I got my second wind!” Oh, no, he clutches his chest again. “Oww, another wall, I can’t …”. Pain subsides. “Woo hoo! Third wind!”. Ever dedicated, his adoring fans (i.e. the other Simpsons) cheer him on. Marge: Hey! Grampa’s running! Lisa: That’s not Grampa, dad’s just dehydrated! Homer needs a FuelBelt.
As in most marathons, the running mortals battle their own demons while up ahead the elites battle each other for a win. The 97th Springfield Marathon race was a showdown between runners from Australia and Djibouti, the latter is comment worthy for his conspicuous lack of shoes. Kent Brockman, race announcer, paints a telling portrait: Two weary warriors now burning with pain and exhaustion. But only one will win the grand prize, a walking tour of Springfield. Suddenly a third contender comes up from behind, “running on sheer pluck, moxy, and grit, all of which he’ll be tested for after the race”. This Italian dark horse wins the prize, perhaps not surprising given that he is trained in the highly successful Rosie Ruiz Method. Who is this mysterious winner and why are the townspeople calling for a rerace? Watch (just the first 4 minutes) and see:
Reference: The Simpsons, Season 12, Episode 14 “New Kids on the Blecch”, original airdate 25 February 2001.