The Marathon is a heartwarming story about a group of elderlies having to adapt in the face of fast pace technological changes happening in their small town. The underlying message is that we exist through the stories we tell, they are the footprints we leave in people’s lives and the global consciousness that is Internet.
Full Text Below.
Harry lives in the small town that is known for its good cheer and genuine courtesy. Everybody knows everybody in the locality. Annual events like sports day celebration foster a sense of community, offering families the opportunity to come together and enjoy one another’s company.
Every day, Harry enjoys taking a stroll across town, stopping for a moment to greet people and have a chat with them. He is an ex-head-teacher, now in his 70’s, and has always had a trusting demeanor. His soothing voice and the wisdom of his words leave everyone a little better off. He has seen the town develop and change over the years, seen the buildings get taller, the transport facilities get faster and the people get busier…
At the end of his daily walk, Harry reaches a building and climbs up the stairs to a common room. This is where he meets a group of retired elderlies like himself. They form part of a social club that offers them a quiet and reflective space where they can play board games, share jokes and enjoy a chit chat, and in so doing, feel like they still exist and matter.
The club has existed for 100 years and the building that houses it is the oldest in the area. Its main attraction is a library that offers books to borrow, and free access to magazines, newspapers and to computers, even if none of them are proficient in using computers and don’t really make much use of it.
Ed is the leader of the gang.
He was previously a mechanic with a thriving business but, like so many, had to close his company when he couldn’t adapt to technological change offered by his competitors. Now, like his friends, he tries to keep himself useful by doing some menial jobs here and there. When Ed arrives, he usually moves around to say hello to everyone.
Today, Ed seems concerned and calls the others for a brief meeting. He has bad news. The local government advised that they will stop sponsoring the club, meaning that the members will have to vacate the community hall. The building will then be pulled down for a commercial space to be built in its stead. Everyone is saddened by the news. The elderlies will lose their hangout, the place in which they all have so many memories.
After the meeting, Harry leaves the building and goes to meet a group of children. He started coaching after retirement, with a view to pass on some values that he feels are essential and also to make himself some money, now that he is no longer working. He reads them a story from a book and is happy by their show of enthusiasm. He finally closes the book and tells them he will continue the following day.
Harry goes to sleep that night with a lot on his mind.
The following day, Harry meets his friends for a walk in the community park. The small group wander about the winding paths bordered with varieties of trees and plants as they discuss the issues with the community hall. They eventually sit on one of the benches to relax and while discussing, they come to the conclusion that they need to meet the Mayor.
Later, at the Mayor’s place who agreed begrudgingly to meet them, they discuss the importance of the community hall in keeping the elderly happy. They stress that the library further constitutes the memory and legacy of the town. The Mayor sarcastically tells them that the younger generation doesn’t read books and newspapers anymore, and that everything is available online. He adds that, at their age, there is no need for them to be anywhere but at home playing with their grandchildren.
Harry picks up a pamphlet from the Mayor’s table that encourages participants to enroll for the yearly marathon race to be held the following month. The Mayor jokingly tells him: “Maybe if you could win this race, you would get enough money to pay for the rent yourself and we will not have to pull it down.”
The guys leave the office and part in sadness.
Harry later goes to meet his batch of students who are waiting for him to complete reading the book. While walking around in the class, Harry sees a colony of ants on the wall and goes to take out a magnifying glass to show it to the kids and explain to them the value of teamwork. As he does so, suddenly he gets an idea.
The following day at the community hall, everyone is still sad and a depressing mood hangs over their chats. But then Harry interjects: “And what if we do as the Mayor says?”
“Meaning we vacate the hall? ” the others ask.
“No, meaning we participate in the marathon….”
All his friends are in shock at this suggestion.
“You are crazy! None of us can run this distance, let alone wear a tracksuit.”
“I know how we can win it.”
Harry finally explains his idea. “I read the conditions well. It says that the winner is the one who completes the marathon. It’s not said that the “one” means a person. It could mean a team of people. One of us could start and another complete the race.”
“So you mean, we can cheat and still get the winning prize.”
“No, what I mean is that even if none of us can run the full marathon, we should be able to collectively win it. For example, if each one of us runs 10 meters as fast as he can, together we complete the marathon faster than the others.”
The elders are excited by the idea. None of them saw it that way. Suddenly everyone starts buzzing.
One guy had remained quiet the whole time. He finally intervenes. “Harry, your idea is unorthodox. But there is an issue. How many participants will you need?”
Another person intervenes: “We can train. We still have one month.”
“Yes but I just had a heart transplant, I can’t train or run. Many of us are sick. Many have undergone an operation or have health issues.”
“The real question is how many participants do we need?”
“We can get at most 100 people in the club. We will need 42 hundred people.”
“Yea, that seems like a lot.”
That night when Harry reaches home, his son tells him that he heard that their community hall will be demolished. Harry tells him he has found a way to save it but for that one of his friends will need to win the marathon. He then tells him about his idea and his worry that they might not have enough participants.
He goes to sleep feeling a little down.
The following morning, he is surprised to see one of his students has come to meet him. He is very excited. The small boy shows him a post he published online.
“I told your story online. I told them about how my teacher is trying to save his social club. See the response: from all over the world elderlies are proposing to join in the race. There is even a sports personality who is proposing to help train you and your friends. A lot of them want to come and stay in our town to assist in the marathon.”
“Wow! This is going to be really big.”
“They are all impressed by your idea. How did you think of that?”
“Remember the colony of ants? Where they get the job done with everyone helping everyone out?”
Harry brings the good news to his fellow friends and they start planning everything. They realize that they need funds to buy sports shoes and sports drinks to help them with the preparation. They organize themselves and use word of mouth to provide their services to everybody who needs help in town.
Soon the small town is taken over by elderlies working and getting things done.
With the help of his students, Harry learns to use the computer and sees the benefits of the web as a global human consciousness and attention machine. He is able to contact people quickly to get each of them to coordinate their activities.
The sports personality helps them with getting their story out and further provides other tips and tricks. They upload photos and videos of their progress. They document their journey. Eventually TV channels across the world get hold of the news and propose to come to town for the marathon.
The elderly are indeed able to complete their race and come out first, with a lot of help and encouragement from everyone.
However, the race organizers now have a decision to take.
After much deliberation, they decide that the team of elderlies has not played by the rules and decide, in a spirit of fairness, to grant the first prize to the individual that started and completed the race.
They give a symbolic prize to the team of elderlies for their effort.
There is mixed feelings among the guys: they are proud of what they have achieved and still sad that they are not able to save the community hall that has so much emotional value for them. However, the attention generated by the race takes the Internet by storm and a wealthy donor comes forward and proposes to help buy the community hall and turn it over to the benefit of the social club.
They get many other sponsors that propose to give the whole place an uplift. The small town finally sees the contribution that the elderlies can make to a community and hail them as role models. Their legacy lives on in the heart of those they touched and stays in the global consciousness that is the Internet for many years to come.
First posted in X-Team Ventures.