Zen and the Art of Constitution Maintenance

And speaking of famous Oak Parkers, Peter Sagal, host of the popular NPR current events show, Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me, is also an avid long-distance runner who also writes a running column (“Roads Scholar”) for Runner’s World magazine. In his April 16 column, he talks about running his slowest marathon ever.

“I was … happier with this marathon — my slowest — then any other I’ve ever run.”

His finished in 4 hours and 4 minutes, right alongside William Greer, a blind runner completing his first Boston Marathon. Sagal was his guide for the race. Five minutes later, two bombs ripped through the crowd at the finish line. By then, they were out of harm’s way, fortunately, but it was a very close call. In fact, if Greer hadn’t been so gutsy, Sagal writes, things might have turned out very differently.

Greer was struggling and doing a lot of walking by mile 24. He was really hurting by the end, suffering from leg cramps, stomach cramps and fatigue. Sagal told him, “William, it’s your race, and it’s your day, and it’s your first Boston, so just crossing the finish line alive is a win. But I want you to try to run that last mile. The last mile of Boston is a great thing, and you don’t want to be walking it.”

Near the end, Sagal relates, “As we approached the right turn onto Hereford Street, he said, ‘When we get to that turn, I’ll need to walk again.’ But he didn’t. We turned onto Hereford and William didn’t stop. He danced around a traffic cone like a man sighted and took the left turn onto Boylston like a man reborn, and as we ran that famous interminable canyon to the finish I kept urging him on as I waved my arms to whoop up the crowd, shouting, ‘A quarter mile! Three hundred yards! Two hundred! Can you see it yet, William?’

“‘Yes!’ he yelled, and we crossed the line in 4:04, and I was as proud of him as I’ve been of anyone I’ve ever known.

“The bomb went off as the clock read 4:09. Five minutes later. Which might well have been the five minutes that William would have needed to walk that last miserable mile, had he given in to the urgings of his hip, gut, and mind. But he ran the bravest and toughest mile of his life, not even able to see clearly what he was doing, just because he wanted to be able to say he did it, and by doing so, he crossed the line alive.”

Meanwhile, Sagal gets around on a Harley during his new PBS series, Constitution USA With Peter Sagal, a four-part series whose first episode was last night.

In a recent N.Y. Times profile, Sagal said, “This year, 2013, has already turned into a very interesting year in my life.” Mr. Sagal said, noting that he is in the process of a divorce, “I started it as a married radio host, and I’ll end it as a single PBS documentary host who survived a terror attack, and we’re only in April.”

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