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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Completed: the world's top 10 marathons

Not by me, I hasten to add, although I was present at each and every one.
No, the achievement was by my partner J, who on Sunday completed his 18th marathon in Chicago, and the last one on his list of the world's top 10.

Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Stockholm, London, Honolulu, Berlin, Paris, Boston, New York, Chicago.

On the way he scored a personal best in his 17th marathon, joined the local running club, the Orion Harriers, which improved his confidence and ability no end, and amassed a huge selection of marathon merchandise in the form of t-shirts and fleeces.
John's own visual account is here.

I secured a fancy digital camera in the process because he couldn't stand the useless photos I was taking, which I indignantly blamed on my apparatus. I took the three photos in this post, but sadly only one decent photo of John actually running in Chicago!

Chicago was very hot and not at all windy. On marathon day, the alert changed during the course of the race from amber to red, an indication of the gruelling weather conditions. J was on course for a PB but sensibly slowed down in the last hour and still finished only 15 minutes slower than his target time.

I think I was more worn out than he was, trudging across the city by public transport with my balloon and cow bell. I managed to see him three times during the race but only one photo was any good (despite the fancy camera!).It's hard work being a spectator as you have to be careful with the fluids (few and far between "facilities") and it's very tiring craning your neck to see your loved one among thousands of runners.

We were in Chicago for a few days and did some of the tourist activities: boat trip, open top bus tour, visit to Navy Pier. Navy Pier was notable mainly for a very fine stained glass museum.

The hotel we stayed in, the Palmer House Hilton, was in its own words somewhat over-the-top with painted ceilings similar to the Venetian in Las Vegas and elements of baroque and art deco confusingly combined. Like most US hotels it was too dark and gloomy for my taste.

I've never been too keen on the skyscraper kind of architecture, but the enthusiasm of the tour guides for what Chicago had to offer was infectious and I found myself admiring the Wrigley building, the interestingly shaped Prudential extension and the blunt and assertive Sears and Hancock towers.

Back in London today I mused on the fact that most of our great buildings are very old: the Tower of London, Houses of Parliament, St Paul's Cathedral. Our modern architecture is poor. We have dozens of ugly cement low-rise blocks but the Swiss RE Tower is the only masterpiece among lacklustre "skyscrapers." I'm with Prince Charles on the quality of London's modern architecture, in the main. Carbuncles. Yet Chicago shows what can be achieved.

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