My Sunday Run: A Greek Tragedy

In the days of summer in the great city of Atlanta, the goddess Athena favored a youth named James and gifted him with the ability to finish a 5K without looking like a damn fool. James raced in the great 5K games of the Atlanta Beltline, winning minor glory as the 443rd person to finish the race.

James was emboldened by his victory (i.e. not collapsing before running 3.1 miles). Athena, disguised as a portly, middle aged 5K announcer who looked like Guy Fieri, congratulated him.

“You just finished your first official 5K. Zeus be praised – we didn’t treat Odysseus nearly this well. Behold, I bestow you a gift forged by the hands of Hephaestus himself,” said Athena as she downloaded the MapMyRun app onto James’s smartphone. “Now be sure to get some rest so your body can recover and rebuild. You are no Hercules.”

But it was too late. James had grown proud, and he had his eyes on the Olympics.

“I could totally have done an 8K,” said the confident but doomed young runner. Looking down from Mt. Olympus, Athena shook her damn head.

The following Sunday afternoon, when Apollo’s chariot neared the ending of its course, the proud James determined that he would one-up his roommate (also a runner) by finishing a circuit of nearly six miles. He ignored the wisdom of the gods.

James properly hydrated (a little tip of the hat to Poseidon). James put on his gym shorts (a tip of the hat to whoever is the god or goddess of athletic swag). But James failed to make the proper sacrifices to Hermes, who (naturally) in this day and age is also the god of the smartphone. In other words, James’s phone needed a charge like Achilles needed heel insurance.

Once again, the proud James ignored the warnings of the gods. He fired up the MapMyRun app and hit the road running.

At first, the fates favored James’s ill-advised run. James went further and longer than he had hoped. He started to enjoy himself. He nodded knowingly to other runners. He high-fived one of them. He felt pretty cool. And before too long, his circult had taken him through the park and back toward home.

James began to feel the weight of his limbs and the slowing of his body, but still Athena’s favor carried him through the last mile of his run. James wondered in this last mile whether his race for glory was acceptable to the gods. But he carried on, intent on his doom.

Six miles.

James had reached the goal of all his ambition. But as many mortals have found, the summit makes you an easy target for the Olympian pantheon. High ground is a crap place to be.

James began to unlock and check his phone after more than an hour of running. Visions of bragging rights danced in his head, and he wanted to save MapMyRun’s record of his run before his phone died.

It was here at the height of James’s hubris, that Hermes, the god of smartphone technology, looked down from Olympus. A reckoning was due to this foolish mortal. And Hermes was feeling bored today.

So James’s smartphone died.

James walked the rest of the way home.


Greek tragedies often center upon a flawed, or tragic, hero whose hubris ultimately brings about his own demise. This was my own poor attempt at a mimicry of one. Watch out, Aeschylus.

P.S. Thank goodness for the cloud – upon restart of my phone, I found that the MapMyRun app still had the record of my run in the end. My hubris will really strike me another day now, and (I’m sure) in a much worse way.

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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