Three Things

During the summer of 2009 I discovered I could only devote my time to three things at once. I spent the entirety of that summer working as an intern at my old law firm, training for the Chicago marathon, and watching The Wire. I used to joke with people that it was a good thing Robert was living in another city, because I definitely didn’t have time to spend on a boyfriend. I vaguely recall doing other things — going out with friends, reading a handful of books, driving an hour each way to the Northern suburbs for church, and seeing Robert every few weekends — but most of the hours in any given day went to working, running, and watching TV.

This is my explanation for why I’ve been sort of lazy about writing in the midst of my month of writing. I recently started training for this year’s Chicago marathon. So, with work and Robert, I’ve maxed out the number of things that I can do well. Also, in addition to being exhausting, running seems to have a deleterious effect on blog content. I can watch the news or go to church or spend the day at the office and get all worked up over some sexist something or other, and instead of coming home and pounding out a blog post, I hit the pavement, and when I’m back an hour later, I’ve got nothing to say. I’m just happy, hungry for dinner, and ready to cuddle my cute dog. I guess there’s a reason for those “cheaper than therapy*” shirts and bumper stickers.

I don’t know how much I’ll talk about training here. It’s pretty all-consuming, but I know most people aren’t interested. Also, as I’ve mentioned several times, I hate when people yammer on about exercise because it makes me feel lazy and inadequate. On the other hand, I love reading about people doing awesome things, because it’s inspiring** and interesting. For me, marathon training is less like exercise and more like getting ready to do something awesome. For one thing, it’s practically impossible to lose weight because you have to eat a ton of food to be able to run that many miles when your body isn’t used to it. For another thing, if I wanted exercise, I could run three miles three times a week and call it good. Running dozens of miles a week for six months is something else entirely.

On the off-chance that maybe one of you is a runner or is thinking of becoming a runner, I want to leave a few words of encouragement. When I registered for this race back in February, I posted this update on my Facebook wall:

i have not run a race since 2009. i have not run more than six miles in over a year. i have been running exactly once (3 miles) in the last three months. but i totally just registered for the chicago marathon in 2012.

Someone left a snarky comment saying, “Wow. I’m impressed by your optimism.” Maybe it wasn’t meant to be snarky, but it read that way. And I want you to know that I wasn’t acting on optimism. I was acting on the knowledge that people can do amazing things, with preparation and training.

When I was a kid, I watched my mom run a marathon. She’d been a proper runner a long time before, but when she signed up to run her 26.2 miles, she was at ground zero. Her training plan started with a one mile run. Later, she injured herself and couldn’t run at all in the weeks leading up to the race. But she ran anyway, and crossed the finish line intact, and knew that she never needed to run that far again, because she’d proven that she could do it. I knew all this when I signed up for Chicago in 2009, and so it didn’t matter that I hadn’t been a proper runner for years, that I hadn’t run a race since high school, or that I could barely make it more than three miles at a time. I gave myself enough time to train and set a goal to finish the race and that’s what I did, except that I crossed the finish line knowing I couldn’t wait to do it again.

All this leaves me with no doubt that I will finish again in October, barring unforeseen injury or illness or other bad luck. It also leaves me with no doubt that you can do your big thing, whether it’s running a marathon or writing a book or raising a bunch of money for charity or some other thing that other people do. Just do it, and then write about it, because I want to hear about you tackling big scary monster goals, even if I’m not particularly interested in the details of the thing you’re doing. I hope that you will extend me the same leniency if I talk about running, and view it less as talk about exercise than as talk about my own big scary monster goal.

*I do not actually think that exercise is an adequate substitute for therapy, if you need it. I do think that exercise has a positive effect on mental health.

**I wish the word “inspire” could be banned from the blogger lexicon. It is so overused that it’s become meaningless. How in the heck is a picture of an all-white kitchen inspiring? That said, I am legitimately inspired when people take on awesome challenges and write about them on their blogs. In fact, I should acknowledge that my good friend Ruth, who has been running and writing about if for years (and who just ran the Boston Marathon), is the one that motivated me to get moving and sign up for that first 26.2 miles back in 2009.

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