The story of Marathon Matthau

I loved the Seabiscuit nickname while it lasted. But, unfortunately, Seabiscuit was replaced.

Born of an ill-timed picture, hunger, and exhaustion, this week, friends, I give you the story of Marathon Matthau.

For those of you who don’t know who Walter Matthau is, this is he:

Walter Matthau

And now that you can all put a face to the name, I’ll begin.

A year and a half (and no lost pounds) after I began running and cycling, my friend suggested we try a 10KM race. Initially, I hesitated. But because of her nagging enthusiasm and the promise of free pizza at the finish line, I agreed.

I convinced my husband to join us. He, while in great shape, doesn’t enjoy running. He prefers playing sports, lifting weights, and cycling to jogging long distances. So, although he committed to running the race, it was mostly to support me, not to achieve a personal best or a fitness goal.

I, however, was in it to win it. I set a goal time for myself. It was stupid ambitious, but I trained for it.

Not going down

The day of the race, it was pouring rain. And, although it was June, it was a cold rain. To summarize, my first race experience went like this:

“I’m cold and hungry.”

“I hope the free pizza doesn’t get wet.”

“Do squishy shoes make you run faster?”

“Whoa, I just passed an old man with a really long beard!”

“At least the rain hides my tears.”

“Whoa, I just passed a child!”

“I am so hungry.”

“My legs hurt and I’m hungry.”

“The child just passed me.”

“The old man just passed me.”

“Was that actually my stomach?”

When I rounded the last bend and saw the finish line, I looked up at the clock. I was within seconds of my goal time, but my legs wouldn’t move any faster. The cold rain and hunger had taken their toll. I finished 10 seconds slower than my goal time. Hmph.

Exhausted, I took my medal and went to find the free pizza while I waited for my friend and my husband.

10 minutes later, I saw my husband round the bend. I finished my first slice, and ran over to cheer him on. He glanced my way and smiled as he crossed the finish line.

3 minutes after that, my friend came round the bend. As she approached the finish line, she broke into an all-out sprint.

What I thought we looked like when we finished.

What I thought we looked like when we finished.


A few days later, the race organizers posted pictures from the race. My friend’s picture was great. She looked like The Flash. She was just a blur as she passed the finish line.


My husband was smiling at me in his picture. The rain had stopped just as he’d approached the finish line, and a brief ray of sunlight made his muscles gleam. Basically, he looked like Didier Drogba.

didier drogba


And my picture? Well…

The camera caught me as I was looking up at the clock, mouth open, mid-exhale. I did not look like The Flash. I did not look like a footballer. The bags under my eyes were huge. My cheeks were enormous. My left leg swung precariously out to the side.

I looked miserable.

I looked like a grumpy old man.

I looked like Walter Matthau.

Marathon Matthau

The birth of Marathon Matthau


At first, I fought the Marathon Matthau name, but it was here to stay. Eventually, even I embraced it. After all, I’d (nearly) met my goal, and I’d finished the race ahead of everyone I knew (except Gazella).

So what if I looked terrible.

I was Marathon Matthau, and this grumpy old man would race again.


What we really looked like when we finished.

What we really looked like when we finished.







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9 thoughts on “The story of Marathon Matthau

  1. Pingback: Almost Kenyan: A celebration of mediocrity | See Fleck Run

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