Monday, March 10, 2014

4 Famous Stories Made Better with Running

Your life story has probably been changed because you’re a runner. If there was a novel about my life, for instance, there would be a whole section in the middle titled “Running.”

There would also be a section titled "Grain Alcohol." Most of the pages would be blacked out, though.
As a hobby, running affects so much of who we are and what we do. So I wondered: how could it have affected other stories throughout history? How would some of the world’s most famous stories be changed if certain characters were runners?

1. Hector is a better runner, thus irrevocably altering the course of world history

I imagine most of you are familiar with the story of the Iliad. For those of you who haven't read it, let me set the stage:

Helen is stolen away to Troy.

Everyone in Greece attacks Troy. A bit of an overreaction, sure, but this was an era without internet, so I imagine most people were just looking for something to do.

Achilles, the best soldier, doesn't fight for the Greeks because of angst. Instead, he stays in his tent and has ludicrous amounts of sex with Patroclus, his lover.

The 2004 adaptation left out this detail. It was still full of homo eroticism, mind you, but mainly as subtext.
Eventually, though, Patroclus dies and Achilles decided to leave his tent and get revenge on the man who killed him: Hector.

So: they fight, Hector dies, and Troy burns. Here's where it get crazy: some Trojans flee the city, travel the world in a hilarious road-trip movie called Aeneid, and eventually land in Italy and FOUND ROME.

Yup, that Rome. Eventually, that city conquers everything and spreads its art, culture, and government to all corners of the known world. Every nation on earth still lives under the shadow of its amazing success.

The Roman Empire: clearly compensating for something
But let's rewind. Clearly, the fight between Hector and Achilles changed all of world history. Let's take a closer look at how running could have changed the outcome.

When Hector first sees Achilles coming from him, he acquits himself like any great epic hero: he runs away.

" did Achilles make straight for Hector with all his might, while Hector fled under the Trojan wall as fast as his limbs could take him." (via

They circle the city three times before the gods get bored, tell them to fight, and Hector dies.

But what if Hector was a runner? What if, instead of putting on heavy steel armor that morning, he had put on some running shoes, shorts, and a light, but breathable, T-shirt? What if he had been running consistently for the months, improving his pace and form, and participating in races like the Helen Sure is Pretty 10k

He would have easily outstripped Achilles, and when the great warrior was tired, jogged over and taken him out before finishing his morning run.

Troy would have remained un-burnt, Rome wouldn't have been created, world history would be unrecognizable, and, most importantly, we wouldn't have Gladiator.

I seriously love this movie, guys.

Shakespeare makes one character a runner, rewrites one of his most famous plays
We all know who Shakespeare was, right? Right. Let's get to the good stuff.

He wrote a play called The Winter's Tale. In this play, the king thinks his wife is unfaithful. She isn't. She has a daughter, the king wants the baby dead, and orders a noble called Antigonus to kill her. This noble takes her to a desolate coast and prepares to murder her. Meanwhile, the queen and her young son die just before the king realizes his mistake.

Pictured: one of Shakespeare's COMEDIES
Antigonus can't bring himself to kill this infant (imagine that!) and is about to take pity on her when we get one of the most famous stage directions in all of Shakespeare's work:

Exit pursued by a bear"

Yup, you read that right. Antigonus gets chased off by a bear.

Pictured: the Elizabethan Michael Bay

First off: really, bear? You're going to try and catch a fully grown man instead of snacking on the little baby laying right there? Think it through, dude. Second: because Antigonus gets chased off, no one knows who the baby is, mistaken identity happens all over the place, and eventually everyone gets married. It's Shakespeare, guys, this is how it usually goes.

But what if Antigonus was a runner? What if, instead of pulling on overwrought tights and a puffy shirt that morning, he had worn running shoes, stylish shorts, and a modestly-colored sweatband? What if he had just recently participated in his king's Infanticide 5k? He could have easily led the bear a safe distance away before circling back to pick up the child. Then, he could have brought her back to her grieving father and they could have lived happily ever after. Or, as happy as Shakespeare's comedies usually are.

Jack Dawson becomes a runner, misses Titanic, lives to ice fish again

Titanic is a movie about a boat sinking. Other stuff happens too. It's a great examination of class discrimination, 19th and 20th century industrial hubris, and human frailty.

Mostly, though, it's remembered for a lady being drawn naked.

Let's rewind. They tell the ship's story through the eyes of Jack and Rose, two star-crossed lovers. In the end, they both float in the freezing Atlantic waters, Jack dies, and Rose lives. Then in the future, old Rose throws a priceless diamond necklace into the middle of the ocean.

Or you could sell it and give the money to charity that helps poor people, Rose. Ever think Jack might want that, too?
Overall, not a great trip for Jack. In fact, part of the story's irony is that he wasn't even supposed to be on the ship. He wins the tickets last-minute in a poker game, and races to the docks to catch his ride.

But what if Jack was a runner? What if, before playing poker that morning, he had participated in the Ironically Named Luxury Cruise Liners Marathon? He would be WAY too tired and sore to get to the ship in time to make it on board. He would hobble to the docks just in time to see the ship on its way, curse his luck, and return to Paris to continue drawing French prostitutes. Later, after hearing about the ship sinking, he would consider how lucky he is to be alive and decide to turn his life around. He would become a wealthy businessman abroad before returning to America, maybe even New York, and...

Yup, this is definitely a parallel timeline

      Forrest Gump runs, avoids depression, meets son

Forrest Gump is the story of a mentally disabled baby boomer who participates in, and is sometimes a key part of, vital 20th century events. It is a very popular movie among baby boomers, which I find confusing since the premise seems a little insulting to their generation's accomplishments.

Pictured: one of the greatest achievers of the 20th century
At one point in the movie, Forrest is dumped, once again, by the love of his life. He wallows in self-pity and depression for the rest of his days, finally drinking himself to death in his decrepit Alabama home.

But what if Forrest was a runner? What if, instead of become depressed, he strapped on some running shoes and took off to circle the country by foot...

Oh, wait. Never mind.

1 comment:

  1. My generations greatest accomplishment is that there are lots of us and we were not even responsible for that.