Planning a (Two) Grand Celebration
This week, the Olympic Games return to the USA, in Atlanta Georgia, as you undoubtedly know . In this new age of multimedia, coverage of the Olympiad will blanket the world of sports and beyond for 17 days From Friday into early August. We marathoners had our 100th anniversary celebration in Boston last month. Now the Olympic Games will turn 100, celebrating the anniversary of the first modern Games in Athens, 1896. It's still early, but here are few questions that are begging answers as we look down the road to hot 'lanta - and I mean hot.
Posted Friday, 31 December, 1999
"Time is God's way of keeping everything from happening at once." - Anonymous
So what are your plans for New Year's Eve 1999 and New Year's Day 2000? While others are busy stocking up on cash, water and shotguns, some runners will be planning to spend the end of the year and the beginning of the next pursuing their favorite sport.
Why not? After all, this is not just another run of the mill year's end. According to general populi, it is the end of the century, the end of the millennium, even. Hey, one of these only comes along every 1,000 years. For those sticklers out there who insist that the new century and new millennium will not truly begin until January 1, 2001-yes, that is technically true. The reality however, is that 99 percent of those who follow the Christian calendar will recognize January 1, 2000 as the new millennium. Hey, the Pope is planing to open the doors of the Vatican on that date, something done only once every 1,000 years. Who am I to argue with the Pope's logic?
Runners tend to be into numerology, so this milestone is made to order. Many of us don't have the chance to be first very often, but the new millennium offers a rare opportunity to do that. Want to be the first person on your block to run 5 miles, or 26.2 miles in the new millenium? You can probably do that if you so choose.
How about running in the first road race, the first marathon on the 21st century? As you might expect, that concept has been well thought-out and developed already. The Millenium Marathon in New Zealand purports to be just that-the first marathon. How so? Well, as it happens, the new century will arrive first in that part of the world (although the folks in Greenwich, England might not agree). By the time the millenium arrives in Boston, it will be nearly January 2 in New Zealand.
Race director Andy Galloway, who expects up to 5,000 runners for the event, says "At this point there are entries from 32 different countries and more entries from around the world arrive every day. Our plan to have a different ethnic group look after each drink station is all go. The Irish group are wanting to serve Guinness." Sounds good to me.
Another huge marathon is appropriately planned in Rome, "The Eternal City." This one has the blessing of the Pope, who really seems to be into this new millenium. "His Holiness the Pope, who is a great lover of sport and of athletes, has paid us the singular honor of giving his full approval of this initiative," said Primo Nebiolo, head of the IAAF. "Marathon runners are very special. They understand the need to plan carefully, to train hard and have to endure a lot to triumph. In a way, they are the ascetics of our sport. This is also why I am convinced that the marathon is the sporting event which can best be associated with an event which has the spiritual and ecumenical importance of this Jubilee."
Of course, one interesting twist to any race-related travel around the new year involves potential Y2K problems. Some experts are warning against traveling to a foreign country, since no one really knows how well prepared the airlines or other countries will be for the potential computer glitch. Since you will (hopefully) not be in the air on December 31, the worst that can happen is that you'll be stuck in New Zealand or Italy for the rest of your life. Hey-there could be worse fates!
You will not have to go across the globe to find a race in which to ring in the new millennium, however. Many traditional events that are conducted on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day will go on as scheduled, such as the Midnight Run 5 Km in New York's Central Park. You can shoot over to Times Square afterwards to see what the millions are up to.
In addition, other new races have sprung up in the USA. One of the bigger ones is the Last Chance/First Chance Marathon (and half marathon) in Daytona Beach, Florida. Race director Frank Diego says: "The New Year's time frame in central Florida is ideal because anyone training for a marathon in Florida is typically shooting for those mid-winter months. The overflow from Disney should also help to increase the size of our event. We are anticipating somewhere between 4,000 to 5,000 runners. This race is being planned for the long term and with the 'wow appeal' in mind."
For some, even a marathon will not be far enough. In Prescott Arizona., the "Run Across the Years" event will feature a 24-hour, 48-hour, and even a six-day race. These are true ultra events, held every year. Ultrarunners just like to run, so that is what they will do. In Canada, Keith Wakelin will attempt to run 2,000 laps of a 400-meter track as a "millennium project" for the Arthritis Society, starting at the stroke of midnight on December 31, 1999, and continuing for the first four days of the year 2000. "The plan is to run at an easy, steady pace for 50 minutes per hour, with 10 minutes rest, for 20 hours per day," the 40-year-old runner says. "At two minutes per lap, 25 laps can be covered per hour, or 500 laps per day. The pace equates to eight minutes per mile, which is 75 seconds per mile slower than my training pace. Easier said than done, Keith!
Of course, there will be plenty of non-running events held as well. The most outrageous has to be "Cycle 2000." This event will consist of a bike ride around the world, starting on January 1 in Los Angeles and ending back in L.A. on January 1, 2001. The ride will traverse dozens of countries in its year-long sojourn. Not only will you need plenty of free time for this one, you'll need a few extra dollars lying around too, as the "entry fee" is $36,000. I hope you get a T-shirt for that kind of dough!
If cycling is a bit too strenuous and you don't have a year to spare, the "Millennium Around the World" tour group may have just the answer. An 18-day 'round the world tour is planned, visiting several continents and major cities, including Honolulu, Sydney, Honk Kong (where the millennium will be celebrated), Dehli, and Masai Mara in Kenya, where you will be accommodated in "luxury private tents." Not only will you stay at the world's ritziest hotels (and tents), you will be whisked to and from each destination via Concorde. It will set you back 75 grand, but like I said, this only happens once every 1,000 years!
The folks in Greenwich, England feel that the new year, century, and millennium will not truly begin until the atomic clock strikes 12 in their fair city. According to an international convention in 1884, Greenwich was named as the Prime Meridian at zero longitude, where all time zones begin. So even though the new day (i.e. the first sunrise) actually will begin 12 hours earlier at the International Date Line, the official time of the new millennium will not begin until midnight in Greenwich. Maybe so, maybe not, whatever! But they feel strongly enough that they have erected a "Millenium Dome," which you can visit as the clock turns, for a much more modest fee than the bike ride or Concorde excursions.
I'm getting a little far afield from running here, so to get our feet back on the ground, let's mention that you can run the Winner's Circle 10 Km next New Years for 10 bucks. So there.
Needless to say, very few people were concerned with which race to run or where to go when the clock turned over 1,000 years ago, or even 100 years ago. In the year 999, the major concern for earthly beings was that the world might be coming to and end. Those fears were so real that Monks stopped transcribing the scriptures in the days leading up to the new millennium. As we know, the world did not end. In fact, the year 1,000 was ushered in very quietly.
A century ago in 1899, the New York Post proclaimed that it "The most extraordinary time" in the history of the earth, saying, "We have sanitation, surgery, indoor plumbing-every possible product of science and every accessory of luxury." I guess they were not worried about waffle soles, polypro, heart rate monitors and GU back then, as we seem to be now.
So, there you have it. For many, December 31, 1999 will be just another day, as will January 1, 2000. But as you can see, for others it will be special, a time to be remembered. If you choose to mark the time by running, there will be plenty of opportunities for you. As of now, I have no plans just yet, so am still open to any ideas if you would like to drop me a note. What were the details on the Concorde trip again?.....