In 2021, as in years before, The Michigan Daily Arts writers are stretching out their hammys to participate in a grueling challenge of mental fortitude and physical fitness: the Probility Ann Arbor Marathon. A little pretentious, a little weird, The Daily team is a mix of seasoned athletes and … less seasoned athletes. For the sake of journalism and prestige, The Daily’s tenacious review-writing gremlins are closing their laptops, tying up their Brooks and hitting the AA pavement. Read our content and join the race happening Oct. 24. University of Michigan students can join the marathon with the discount code “Goblue25.”
I was seven when I first watched “Chariots of Fire.” I remember that night as though it were yesterday.
My father to my right, elbows on his knees and hands on his chin, teary-eyed; my grandfather had been an accomplished runner, and Dad would always tell us stories about the races he had run and the medals he had won. My sister Petra, to my right, sitting on the edge of the couch, magnetized by the TV, which drew her in closer as the movie went by. And me, curled up in a blanket that smelled awfully humid from being closed up in the winter chest for months, decade after decade. I hugged myself, allowing the fervor that I felt run through my body and become a fireball, so as to put off the occasional goosebumps I got.
It’s almost as if, after that day, there has been a nerve in my body, a cumule of atoms, that retained how the movie made me feel. Whenever I needed the stamina, I would just have to gently scratch that part of my memory, and I would be right on track.
The movie tells the story of two British athletes in the 1924 Olympics: Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson, “Gandhi”), a devout Scottish Christian, and Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross, “Chicago”), a determined Jewish Brit. It’s their journey toward glory, dignity and pride. It deals with religion, post-WWI class division and sportsmanship, and it also has a pretty damn good soundtrack. Each and every scene is curated with utmost care — every line and every gaze holds a lesson to be learned. It’s nostalgic in its familiarity; one can find camaraderie among the characters, no matter how unfamiliar their profiles seem to you.
Whether running for one’s patria, for God or for love, it didn’t matter unless you believed wholeheartedly that you could do it. It taught me that nothing is given, that nothing is unattainable or too fantastical, that running is a dance with yourself and if you misstep the music stops, but only in your ears. Everyone else keeps moving.
I have always been athletic — I played field hockey, ran track and managed, somehow, to get to brown belt in Taekwondo. It was never easy, but years went by, and the flame that watching “Chariots of Fire” had ignited never blew out.
Two years ago, the war I had going on in my head became my worst enemy. And it defeated me. It did. Getting back on track hasn’t been easy, and I am still taking on different paths in hopes of reaching again that track I had been following triumphantly for a decade and a half. In a way, I joined the Ann Arbor Marathon to see if I could feel it again. Maybe crossing the finish line will awaken the little girl who 13 years ago sat wide-eyed, creating dreams of glory and gold.
I suppose that what I want to get out of this is a rush of blood to my head. And to my legs. And to my heart. An ignition of something that has been dormant for a while and I so dearly miss.
When I was younger and needed to be reminded of my worth, I just replayed an image in my head: Liddell crossing the finish line, the slow-motion making his features become surreal, melting like a Dalí painting. He had won, even after falling, even after being told he couldn’t do it, even with the discouraging voices in his head. And so when my breaths were too syncopated to be tamed or when fatigue blurred the end line, I would stay poised, play “Chariots of Fire” and close my eyes.
Because even now, 13 years after I first heard Vangelis’s theme, my heart races to the tempo of a Roman legion’s march. Measured, vibrant, fervent. The slow buildup, the triumphant trumpet sounds, the piano motif.
I will be playing it before the race, and I will be replaying it as I run alongside my fellow Arts writers. This time, if I misstep, the music will stop for them, too. So I’d better keep dancing.
Daily Arts Writer Cecilia Duran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.