17. I’ve been so many places
by Jay Wiener, 16 x Worldloppet Master –
Leon Russell’s “A Song For You” starts, “I’ve been so many places in my life and time…”
The accumulation of sixteen Worldloppet Masters has, similarly, seen me visiting plentiful places.
After completing my second race — the final Finlandia from Hämeenlinna to Lahti — I met a German participant, while in the Helsinki Airport, who is now among my closest friends: Martin Gerecke asked whether I, as an American, knew of Stuart Stevens, whose film “Marathon Winter” — regularly broadcast on European television — chronicles Stuart’s skiing every Worldloppet marathon in 1984, when only the original ten events existed. I responded, “Not only do I know of him: We grew up together”. Stuart has correctly commented, “Our parents are not the first generation of our families to have been friends”.
Martin, his younger brother Gunther, a third German Konrad Blum, and I have been inseparable since that auspicious beginning.
Martin used to ask what I’ll do when I can no longer ski. I repeatedly replied, “It doesn’t matter: I’ve had one passion. I’ll find another”. I would occasionally add that it might be bridge, if I am elderly, in a retirement home. The point being, having found fulfillment focusing upon a pursuit passionately, I’ll experience another enthusiastically.
A last line of “A Song for You” begins, “And when my life is over…”:
“And when my life is over”, what will be remembered will not be skiing or scenic landscapes, but incomparable people encountered.
I could recall the Saturday January 21, 2012 Dolomitenlauf VIP dinner, seated with race organizers Astrid Trojer-Pirker and Franz Theurl, Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip (Multiple Master [1588 and 3156]), the Estonian Ambassador to Austria, and the Cultural Attaché at the Estonian Embassy in Vienna.
Renowned former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and her husband Peter Davis stayed at the Snow Farm Lodge during the 2019 Merino Muster. I dined with Helen on Friday evening and ate breakfast with Helen and Peter on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
I skied much of the 2005 Vasaloppet with Johns Hopkins Medical School faculty member Peter Agre who, I subsequently learned, was 2003 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry. The only Nobel Laureate to ski the Vasaloppet, Peter’s ski suit and equipment are exhibited in the Nobel Museum in Stockholm.
Yet, in the last analysis, glitterati won’t leave the sweetest aftertaste but, rather, the countless people met in lines at race bib distributions, on buses, in start boxes, during races, and over meals afterwards. I learned lots through innumerable conversations. My world expanded exponentially from serendipitous encounters.
Ecclesiasticus 44 states, in pertinent part,
“Let us now praise famous men…
“And some there be, which have no memorial; who are perished, as though they had never been…
“But these were merciful men, whose righteousness hath not been forgotten.”
The amazing athletes gracing my life are not forgotten. They make Worldloppet marathons worthwhile. “And when my life is over”, kind people with a kind word for fellow cross-country enthusiasts will be the enduring memory.< Back