Thought-holograms from the Paris of the 22nd century.
The race begins as a point. Mile zero, time zero.
It is a teeming, trembling point, however: 45,000-strong and electric. Anticipatory, the point smudged out along the line it is about to suggest with its quantity of moving bodies. The point cannot be easily contained, even though it has been corralled. The point is a seething mass.
The point is a constellation of data points, actually, Achilles' heels morphed forward in the foot to the shoelaces and their expressive prosthetic transmitters.
As the gun fires to begin the race, this teeming point of running-bodies instantly dilates. There is a bifurcation of time at the very moment the marathon nominally begins, unique for each of the 45,000 strong. Two times: the "real" lived time of the race clock as the overall event unfolds, and the relative time of each moving body — indexed by radio frequency tag — as it finally crosses the start line to officially enter the event space and "begin" the race. Clock time versus chip time, the latter increasingly falling behind the former as one moves back through the corrals to the open entry gate and its unranked hordes.
Only clock time counts for official race results and ratified world records. Chip time does not serve any purpose in the adjudication of race results — at least in terms of authoritative measurements of the complete extension of the course. It seems it exists solely as an apologia to 99% of the runners that they are not the fastest in the world.
Indeed, the sole juridical function that chip time serves concerns the part-event, with its checkpoints and split times and implied paces segmenting the broader context. As Roberto Madrazo reminds us (in the name of St. Rosie of Bostonia), each checkpoint must be crossed in order, from start to finish. And if there are points of failure in this linear process — points at which chip time is not registered, either due to electronic defect, noise or subversion (ie. skipping a checkpoint) — any subsequently successful measurement cannot have been arrived at "too quickly" to be believed.
Madrazo cheated all too well!!
The race begins as a point but it very soon becomes a line, or more precisely, a curve. The race is the embodied manifestation of the normal distribution curve spreading out over asphault and concrete and steel and rock. From outliers to six-sigmas to outliers, from swift loping strides at the front of the pack to a mixed cacophony of running gaits and styles in the middle to the plodders who bring up the rear: each mile that passes expresses the modulation of kurtosis and skew as thicknesses of running-bodies.
The x-axis of this normal distribution curve, time, finds its striations also embodied in the race proper. Pace rabbits run with the pack holding signs with a desired race completion time on them (eg. 3h:15m, 3h:30m), embodying that given time and helping foster a rhythmic continuity for the overall machine — or perhaps a discontinuity, if understood in terms of an attractor effect. Time has been striated by the body moving within the statistical figure.
But this normal distribution curve is anything but normal. It is rather quite abnormal — not in the sense of deviant, but in terms of the carnivalesque. Costumes and clusters and chatterings identify the runners at the back of the pack, far back beyond even where the slowest pace rabbits will tread. The moving striation of time has become flimsy back here with the plodders, the affective tone of the topology much different than with the other end of outliers chasing down the finish line. An affective, generative tone still exists back here no doubt, and it is this tone that allows for the flimsy to not necessarily disintegrate, that helps as many of those at the back of the pack ultimately complete the asignifying pilgrimage of the race journey.
And in the middle of the pack, and at the front of the pack.
These are not points nor lines we are describing after all. They are certainly not surface-images, either, no matter how hard Spectacle attempts this reduction. They are volumes, actually. Running-bodies are resonating volumes of muscle and bone and nerve, blood and breath and sweat, psychic vibrations of fleshy affect amplified with the in-between energy of 45,000 other runners and the cheers of encouragement from spectators, who share in this radiance-by-exposure while reflecting a certain amount of energy back into the process.
Each of these runners knows a priori that the muscle and bone and nerve cannot sustain their mutual rhythm for the entire Pheidippidean journey. At some point the body wants to fail. And that seems to be the shared understanding of everyone in the race: once I hit that Wall, I just hope the energy of the crowd brings me home. The "energy of the crowd," again, as two-fold: energy from the shared suffering of the other runners constituting one's several-in-passing, and energy from the abstracted Babel of barricaded and cheering spectators.
It is this collected energy that keeps the running-body moving after it has decided it is no longer up to the task. Individual determination emerges from this collected energy to ignore a certain individually-experienced pain and complete the race.
In contrast with the #occupy movements around the world, who teach us contemporary lessons about taking and holding a space, the marathoners, with their smudged point of teeming mass yielding to a distended statistical curve of running-bodies, perhaps teach us contemporary lessons about taking and holding time.
The politics of chip time prove to be a sham. It is the affective politics of a temporary community running beyond one's presumed limits which reveals new understandings of that most Spinozan question: What can a body do? Points, lines and images play tricks with time: the teeming mass of energy dilates to diffuse an effective tremor lasting a couple of hours or until the very last person crosses the finish line. This elasticity of energy is not due so much to the speed at the front but rather the slowness at the back of the pack. There is an exit strategy to these affective politics, measured out at 26.2 miles, however long that takes.
Though almost everyone has some new understanding of what a body can do, not everyone makes it to the finish line. Lactic acid cramps or dizziness literally collapse the running body in a tragic heap of limbs as the final miles unfold. For some the exit strategy came too late, long after a collective affect could make the ultimate difference. Nothing was left in potential.
Desired exit or no, everyone hurts. The sore limbs are still in discord with the warm psychic vibrations of fleshy affect. A mild narcotic euphoria overcomes the body and most of the pain — the intensive stress-related pain, at least — disappears within hours. The rest lingers in the muscles and joints for the next few days, hinted at less and less frequently as other gestures replace the runner's gait. But it is this pain that consolidates the memory of the event, the living archive of the temporary commons woven from physical and psychic trauma.
Pain remembers pain, after all.
[THX 1138 ~ LKL 5908 :: Chi26.2 = woot!]