The Olympics have claimed people's attention around the world over the last couple of weeks. Not mine. I'm really not a big Olympics buff, although, of course, I am tangentially aware of the Games and I honor the efforts of the winners, as well as the also-rans. They are amazing people, representing some of the best that the human race can achieve in the realm of physical feats.
Musing on the Olympics started me thinking about athletics and athletes in general and about the greatest athlete and the greatest athletic feat I ever saw. Since I am a big baseball fan - really my only sport - you might think it was a particular game, maybe a particular pitcher, but no. It was this.
Secretariat had that race wrapped up early on. He could have let up a little, relaxed a bit, saved a little effort, but he didn't. He ran as if all the furies of hell were chasing him. He ran because that's what he was born to do and this was the race he was born to run. It was a magnificent performance, one that did what great athletes can do; i.e., it gave wings to our hearts, made us aware of what it is possible to achieve when you give it all you've got and don't look back. Thirty-nine years later, it still brings tears to my eyes and chills to my spine when I watch it.
Parenthetically, Secretariat has held the record all these 39 years for the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes, but just recently, the Maryland Racing Commission reviewed the tapes of the Preakness and determined that, in fact, he had set the record in that race as well. The timekeeper at the time made an error which denied the great horse the record at the time of the race, but finally, technology has caught up and retiming the race in 2012 proved that he had run the fastest Preakness ever. It is still the fastest Preakness, and the fastest Kentucky Derby, and, most amazingly, the fastest Belmont. No other horse has come close.