In 1502 Leonardo da Vinci designed a bridge at the behest of Sultan Beyazıd II, a bridge intended to span the Golden Horn. In 2006, Turkey's prime minister and İstanbul's mayor decided between them that Leonardo's bridge should be put into the world, transported from the virtual into the real. A good idea, because the bridge is beautiful. But then again, it's hard to conceive of a bridge with no beauty - “bridge” itself being one of the truly great concept-metaphors, rather like “window” (especially in the computer age) … which brings me around to my topic-cluster: bridges, computer science, and (of course) distance running.
Have you ever noticed how many celebrated distance-running events have a bridge as their key feature? New York Marathon (Brooklyn Bridge), London Marathon (Tower Bridge), Avrasya Marathon (Bosphorus Bridge) - and the list goes on. On the morning of Sunday, April 25, as I ran the Golden Horn Half Marathon in 1 hour, 50 minutes, 15 seconds (yahoo!), I did not pass over any bridges, but I enjoyed a good view of a few, including my favorite, Galata Bridge - peacefully aglow in the mid-morning light and bristling as always with fishing poles.
Bridges connect pieces of the world that would otherwise remain distanced, separate. And so I think “bridge” when I recall being approached, just before the start of the race at the Horn, by a smiling, pleasant-looking man who wanted to know if I was in fact the person that I am. He'd seen my photo in the Bilkent News, and - whoop-dee-doo! - he'd actually read my article! He is Ali Selçuk, computer science prof, Bilkent U. I also met his research colleague and friend, Orhun Kara, a mathematician, graduated from Bilkent U. Now, as a scholar of literature I very seldom get a chance to observe such creatures in their offices or labs, and very, very, very seldom do I encounter them in the wild. So I looked them over well. And here I am now, thinking about distance running and bridging distance and connecting bits of the world that otherwise remain separate.
But Ali and Orhun are not my only distance-running bridge-connections, nor even my first. About a week earlier, I'd been contacted by Joseph Addison. - !!! - Heaven preserve us! Don, are you suggesting that you were contacted from the Great Beyond by the spirit of Joseph Addison, celebrated eighteenth-century English man of letters and humoristic advocate of the pleasures of tobacco? No, no, it's better than that. I'm stating that I was contacted, by email, by Joseph Addison, a young American working in BUSEL, a fellow literary scholar, presumably a non-smoker, AND - Bilkent's current champion Roadrunner (meep! meep!) or if you prefer, Speedy Gonzales (iba! iba! andele!), whose dust all the rest of us were eating during October's Republic Run. It seems Mr. Addison will defend his title at the upcoming Spring Run, on Saturday, May 8 - start time: 11 a.m. And it just so happens that the Spring Run is my next event. The thing is, I'm much faster now than I was in October, so Mr. Addison had better watch his back.
Assoc. Prof. Don Randall