Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My experience with the heat at the 2012 Boston Marathon

I returned to Boston to run the 116th running of the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 16, 2012. Record high temperatures were reached on race day. In addition to some social and political comments I received about my post on 2010 Boston Marathon titled "Persian for Peace," someone asked me about my experience dealing with the heat at the 2012 Race. Here is the summary of my warm memories.
It was so hot that ... 4000 people dropped out of the race.
It was so hot that ... 2100 ended up in medical centers.
It was so hot that ... my goal for a PR turned to RP (rest periodically).
It was so hot that . residents on the course offered runners ice and a dip in their pool.
It was so hot that ... some thought that Heartbreak was actually a hill
It was so hot that ...global warming deniers blamed Al Gore for their slow pace.
It was so hot that ... I became delirious.
It was so hot that ... I told someone I was from Iceland (not Tucson).
It was so hot that ... I thought Tucson's Rillito Dry River Path was in Alaska.
It was so hot that ... I thought Arizona's Old Pueblo 50-miler was a 5K race.
It was so hot that ... Wellesley Girls offered two kisses to this year's runners.
It was so hot that . BAA changed the rule to allow runners to do the course in reverse.
It was so hot that ... runners ran twice past Wellesley College.
It was so hot that ... some runners ran backward in search of shade.
It was so hot that ... they decided to move BAA to Houston and call it BAAH.
It was so hot that ... this year's monetary award included cash for a portable AC unit.
It was so hot that ... the Kenyan winners had home advantage.
It was so hot that ... my warm memories will satisfy me for the next ten years.
By Kamran Talattof

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Cell Phone Use and Texting While Driving Banned in Tehran

Here is an interesting piece of positive news from Tehran. According to ISNA News Agency (April 20, 2012), drivers who talk on the cell phone or text message while driving will receive tickets. This includes hand free communication as well. The penalty is heftier for higher speeds.
Announcing the new policy, the chief of the traffic police also said "the chances of getting into an accident are always high when drivers are talking on the phone, particularly if they are disputing and arguing with someone on the other end." Would this help ease the traffic jam in the big city? 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Persian for Peace: "Lord knows where we would be if the Athenians hadn't pulled the upset against the Persians." Huh?

It is that time of the year again. On April 16, more than 25000 people run the Boston Marathon and nearly half a million people cheer them on along the 26.2 mile course; a true display of amity, order, and elegance. I am returning to enjoy the unique experience. However, I am not as excited as I was in 2010. In fact, there is a weight on my heart.
Usually, we runners work hard and train long in order to qualify to run the race. And then after the qualification, we train hard and long to put up a good show not only for the crowd there but for all the curious eyes of our family, friends, and fellow runners in our communities. Last time I went prepared for the race.
What I was not prepared for was the expression of a sort of racism in the official race publication of the Boston Athletic Association that organizes the race.
Usually on the night before a marathon or an ultra-marathon race, we eat early and try to go to bed early. To relax and ease ourselves into asleep, we often read something inspiring or the information materials given to us at the race expo to make sure we have all the necessary information.

The night before the 2010 race, I was doing just that. In the middle of the official publication of the Boston Marathon Association, the "114th Boston Marathon Official Program" I came across an article that woke me up completely, and indeed distressed me.
The program dated April 19, 2010 featured an article entitled "Battle of Marathon" (page123-126) that I found highly inaccurate and disturbingly racist and truly in violation of the spirit of the sport which Boston Athletic Association has championed over so many productive years.
A large blurb in blue fonts reads "Lord knows where we would be if the Athenians hadn't pulled the upset against the Persians. We might be living in a world without voting booths or 26.2-mile races" (Page 23).
As a professor of Near Eastern Studies, I found the article inaccurate in many respects but even if such a run by a brave soldier occurred and even if Greek democracy was saved by not losing that battle (notwithstanding that the entire war was eventually won by the Persians), we cannot conclude that current western democracy is the result of that victory. After the fall of ancient Greece and Rome, Europe went through a lengthy period of retarded growth and backward thinking (the Dark Ages) and the Inquisition to name just a couple of “the West’s” less glorious historical events. Meanwhile, to the benefit of all later advanced civilization, ancient Greek heritage was in fact preserved in the languages of Persian and Arabic and put into active use in the Middle Eastern Golden Age. European copies were often literally burned by illiterates as firewood and would have otherwise been lost forever. Later translations of those materials back into Latin and other European languages helped set the stage for the rise of both the renaissance and the enlightenment which were the real catalysts of the current dominance of democracy in the West.
To be sure, back in that era, two civilizations covered most of what constituted the world. The Greeks were powerful to the north of the Mediterranean Sea and the Persians were powerful to the east. These two great powerhouses had numerous wars and each war included countless battles often extending over many years. Greek historians have penned countless statements about the quality and talent of their Persian foes. Later the Bible provided a testimony to the prowess of Cyrus the Great, ruler of Persia. Persians too wrote respectfully about their rival. Neither of these powers was necessarily or thoroughly evil. In more recent times France, England, Germany, Poland, and Russian have fought their neighbors and rivals in Europe. We do not judge the entirety of any of those countries as evil because of these historic skirmishes.
The article cites faulty, non-scholarly, or highly populist authors and documentaries to make its arguments. It even refers to the racist movie 300 to make several points. The movie was created based on a comic book. No mention is made about the fact that some scholars argue that the story behind the runner delivering the news of victory in the battle was fictionalized in Rome six centuries later.
The Persians, in any event, never held grudges against the Greeks or against Alexander who burned their capital (the ruins of Persepolis is a tourist destination today), libraries, and artifacts. In fact, during the reign of the second Pahlavi king, Iran and Greece enjoyed the friendliest of relations. Even under today’s Islamic Republic [which many Persians view as advocating a foreign religious ideology], Greece has maintained close relations with Iran.
Finally, as a frequent marathon and ultra-marathon runner I am perplexed about the entire intention behind the publication of the article. I disagree with the author's conclusion (another ill-conceived blurb) that "If you're a marathoner, it's natural to wonder whether the proliferation of 26.2-mile races would have happened without the Battle of Marathon" (Page 126). First, none of the many runners I know are remotely aware of the story or attach too much importance to it. Finally, many races and competitions have proliferated without any momentous stories behind them.
I came back home and wrote to the staff at BAA but they did not answer me. Then I found the email addressed of the director and every member of the board of the directors and wrote to all of them expressing my distress and concerns. None every answered.
And then I faced another essential question: could I and should I run the Boston Marathon again? It took me a long time to come to a conclusion. Yes, I will run it and this time I will write the following words somewhere on my bib number: Persian for Peace. But please, even if this were all true, the battle occurred more than 2500 years ago, time to move forward.

*This was written prior to the 2012 race day (which turned out to be brutally hot) and published first at http://www.iranian.com/main/2012/apr/persian-peace