Sunday, February 28, 2010

Looking good! But why?

The Closing Ceremonies in Vancouver are tonight and the flame will be extinguished. I’m really going to miss the games. As a runner training for the New York City Marathon, there have been many lessons to learn from the past two weeks.

There were the heaven-sent moments of courage and inspiration, when athletes dug deeper and reached higher than anyone knew a person could. I took notes.

But the most important epiphany I gleaned from the Games is that as an athlete, you gotta look good. Really good.

I picked up this little gem in NBC’s sidebar feature on the American team’s headquarters, an impressive “home away from home” in the Olympic Village. The reporter skipped the dining hall and workout facilities I HOPE were there and zeroed in on a fully staffed hair and makeup studio the size of Madison Square Garden, occupied not by figure skaters and ice dancers whose sparkle is their signature, but by … others.

Say it ain’t so!

I always thought that a runner (or any athlete) was never more beautiful than when he or she had just finished getting the job done. Hair hanging like a Rastafarian in a monsoon. Singlet splattered with Gatorade and other fluids we don’t even want to know about. Drippage. Face red. Eyes hollow. Completely spent. Possibly nauseous. Totally gorgeous.

But after Vancouver, I know I was dead wrong. At the end of events, athletes gotta look red-carpet-good as though the effort of sport exacts no cost, takes no toll, leaves no trace. Is this even possible without the vast talent of NBC? And if it is possible, why would we think the illusion is important or care?

(Note to self: Buy waterproof mascara and spray-on bronzer. Add Glamour magazine to subscription to Runner’s World. Marathon training is becoming freaking overwhelming.)

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