The Chicago marathon, a world-renowned running event, takes place Sunday. Interested in runners' trivia? Here are 10 things to jog your imagination:
1 The verb "run" has 645 meanings, more than any other word in the Oxford English Dictionary. In addition to putting one foot in front of the other rapidly, there's "running an idea up the flagpole," "the days running into weeks," "running the numbers," "running a fever," "running with the wrong crowd" and "running your mouth." When early 20th century Australians said they were "running the rabbit," that meant they were bringing home liquor.
3 Dr. Gabe Mirkin, author of "The Sports Medicine Book," asked more than 100 elite runners if they would be willing to take a magic pill that would make them an Olympic champion but would kill them within a year. More than half said yes.
4 The Chicago marathon was called the Mayor Daley Marathon in its first two years. Its first running in 1977 got off to a rocky start: Three people were sent to the hospital with powder burns when the starter's cannon misfired.
5 "Freak races" were a favorite form of entertainment in 17th and 18th century England. In one race witnessed by the king, two runners were evenly matched: Each had a wooden leg. In another race, a man on stilts faced off against an accomplished runner on foot. In yet another contest, a man was given an hour to run seven miles while carrying 56 pounds of fish on his head.
6 Haitian runner Dieudonne Lamothe was 78th — the final finisher — in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics marathon. And it's a good thing for Lamothe that he finished. He later revealed that dictator "Baby Doc" Duvalier's henchman had threatened to kill him if he did not complete the race.
7 Until 1950, a major league baseball player who was on base could be replaced by a "courtesy runner" without having to leave the lineup. In modern times, a pinch runner is allowed, but the player being replaced is out of the game for good. Perhaps the most unusual pinch runner was Oakland's Herb Washington, who played in 105 games over two seasons in the 1970s and never came to bat or played the field. A track star, Washington was strictly a pinch-runner.
8 Two great American runners overcame potentially crippling illnesses. Sprinter Gail Devers suffered from Graves' disease, and doctors were close to amputating her feet before her condition improved and she went on to win Olympic gold in 1992. Decades earlier, sprinter Wilma Rudolph became the first American woman to win three track-and-field gold medals in a single Olympics — a glorious fate for a woman who was sickly as a child and wore a leg brace. "My doctor told me I would never walk again. My mother told me I would," said Rudolph. "I believed my mother."
9 University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman was trying to develop a new athletic shoe, and one day in 1971 he used the family's waffle iron to meld urethane into a wafflelike tread pattern. The idea caught on for the company he started with Phil Knight. First known as Blue Ribbon Sports, it was renamed Nike. Today, a life-size statue of Bowerman at the university stands on a base of waffle irons.
10 GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul likes to run. He has run for political office for most of the last 37 years, and as a high school junior in Pennsylvania, he raced to a state title in the 220-yard dash.
Mark Jacob is a deputy metro editor at the Tribune; Stephan Benzkofer is the newspaper's weekend editor.
Sources: "Cassell's Dictionary of Slang" by Jonathon Green; "Running Through the Ages" by Edward Seldon Sears; "The Olympic Odyssey" by Phil Cousineau; "The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics" by David Wallechinsky; "The Dickson Baseball Dictionary" by Paul Dickson; "African-American Sports Greats" by David L. Porter; "Only in Oregon" by Christine Barnes; Oxford English Dictionary; baseball-reference.com; espn.go.com; nike.com; npr.org; The Oregonian; The New York Times; Christian Science Monitor