The Maui marathon winds away from Charles Lindbergh's grave. As a fan of endurance Lindbergh was around for the first Maui marathon though I don't know if he made the trip from his A-Frame house that he spent the last years of his life under the tropic starry skies a few miles away from the sea. He was buried close that home at Palapala Ho'omau Church in Kipahulu. His plot is one of the few things that was quiet about his life.
In 1927 at the age of 25 on a late day in May Charles boarded the plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, at Roosevelt Air force base on Long Island and headed east. Two hours later he saw Cape Cod to his right as his plane hovered 150 feet above the water. Seven hours later he passed by the southern edge of Newfoundland. He left the airplane windows open and hoped the cool air would stop him from falling asleep.
He was a man stuck between epochs - a 19th century explorer stuck with 20th century media. In an earlier time John Henry would battle the development of the railroads, but as the first modern hero, Lindbergh embraced engineering. There is a certain kind of faith in machines that defines modern life; we are slaves to our blackberries, our cubicles, and our cars. Airplane travel has changed from a lone pilot's adrenaline from keeping from falling asleep to five dollar drinks to help the passengers make sure that they do. All such epoch need a herald. Some of the greatest changes in civilization come from slightly delirious 25 year olds.
As tired as he was over the Atlantic, I believe that must have been his favorite moment. I think if he could he would have spent the rest of his days alone and aloft. The Greeks were wrong about Icarus. The hardest part about trying to reach for the stars isn't about flying too high. It is the part when you have to return to the ground.
The world worshipped his journey. He won the Pulitzer Prize, the Boy Scout Silver Buffalo, the French Legion of Honor, and the silver cross of the German Eagle. Tall and of Swedish descent, he was one of the most photogenic people of his time. Three years after his flight he had his first child, Charles Augustus Lindbergh III.
Shortly before his son turned two he was kidnapped and 10 weeks later he was found dead a few miles away from his home. The trial for the murder was even larger than O.J's, and in the end after the execution the Lindbergh's headed to Europe to be away from the frenzy of the media.
It was, however, not a quiet time on the old continent. Lindbergh, ever a tinkerer, worked with the French surgeon, Alexis Carrel, to create a glass perfusion pump that allowed major progress in heart surgery, but the Germans had a different use for engineers and were developing a war machine. The German aviators so loved Lindbergh that he was invited to fly some of their new planes. He reported his results back to the United States, but this did little to sway the American public from being upset that Lindbergh did not return German Medal of Honor given to him by Hermann Göring.
The best that can be said for Lindbergh he that he picked the wrong war to be an isolationist. Though against Nazi Germany's treatment of the Jews, he at times sounded like Mel Gibson when blaming them for getting the US into the war. (Unlike Mel, this was before the holocaust). President Roosevelt openly questioned his loyalty and refused to let him return to the Army Air Corps. Lindbergh had no sense of politics and was lost in the battle between countries.
The world must have made far more sense during his plane flight when the rules were simpler. Stay awake or die. Keep a straight course or die. Have faith in the machine.
Lindbergh was a pioneer at human endurance. But he was lousy at the calms.
For ourselves the calm period after the last long run is called the taper. It is an in-between time with the main goal is to let the body heal. We also want to keep fresh so we need to do a few runs before the big event. Relax during this time. It is one of the few times in your life that the best way to get better is cut down on your exercise. (Don't eliminate it entirely though). You can't make yourself faster between now and race. Take it easy. And as much as I think it is important to have new adventures, this period is not a great time to pick up a new sport like say aerobatics.
And like the Maui Marathon veering away from Lindbergh's grave, approach the taper the opposite way than Charles did life before the war. You can't be neither an isolationist removed from exercising entirely nor a tinkerer trying to figure out how to improve things. You have done the training; you are good to go. Enjoy the quiet time.
Charles must have loved Maui, the tropical island halfway across the pacific where the villagers left him alone. It is a beautiful place where you can watch the sunrise on Haleakala and watch it set behind Lanai. The south is ever dry and sunny while the winds on the north side are legendary for the surf. It is a compromise between the convenience of Oahu and the beauty of Kaui. I am sneaking there this weekend for a swim and plan to scout a bit of the course and a few of the mai tais.
Lindbergh became a spokesperson for wildlife preservation. He campaigned to protect endangered species like humpback and blue whales, and he supported the establishment of a national park. He died 34 years ago on August 26th from Lymphatic cancer. His gravesite quotes Psalm 139: "If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea..."