On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Irrational fears: I have them.

I went skiing this past weekend. It reminded me of swimming.

No, not in that the sports have any similarity. (I'm not quite that unskilled at skiing so as to risk drowning.) The similarities came in my response to each sport.

When I was in kindergarten, my dutiful suburban parents signed me up for swim lessons at the local YMCA. I took lessons for years. I only once made it out of tadpole into guppy level, and I do believe that may very well have been social promotion.

As a guppy, I functionally couldn't swim. I did learn some skills: I could float on my back for hours and I could tread water until I got too bored to keep it up (maybe it was my extra buoyancy as a chubby kid). But I couldn't put my face underwater without holding my nose, and as such I couldn't do more than a crude dog paddle.

Over time, I began to avoid the water. I made jokes about not being able to swim. I never went to the beach. I didn't own a swimsuit through high school. I chose a college based in part on the fact that they had no swim test. Finally, my senior year of college, I got a stress fracture and turned to swimming for exercise. This meant swim lessons, so I manned up and did it. It wasn't easy and I wasn't good, but I kept at it. Along the way I developed a perfectly acceptable stroke - and discovered that I hate/am terrified of the water.

Part of it is physical, in that I feel intensely uncomfortable when my head is underwater and I get motion sick if I try to swim laps back and forth.

But most of it is mental. My swimming lessons experiment came to an end after about a year, during another set of lessons. With my one-length-long command of the stroke, I was put into a intermediate class with two women who were training for an Ironman. Early on, the instructor tried to teach us to start our swim by diving into the pool. I crouched on the ledge, looked down at 10' of water shimmering below me, and every fiber of my being said "no." I left the pool hysterically upset and never went back to the lessons.

In theory, I think of myself as an active person. I run. I've hiked. I've kayaked. I played ice hockey for two seasons. I've been on a sailboat - twice! In reality, I jog. I did play ice hockey, albeit badly. The first time I was on a boat, I sat in white-knuckled terror the entire time. I once had the opportunity to go into the subterranean chambers of the Great Pyramid at Giza, but I declined when I saw how narrow the entry passageway was.

I don't ever, ever want to pass up another opportunity like that. I have few regrets in life but that is one.
See? I'm active. I climbed the Sears Tower and then stood on the glass ledge with my brother. Reality: I crawled out there, terrified.
I snorkeled! For a few minutes. Until I confessed that I didn't love it and sat in the boat reading a magazine.
I liked kayaking. The East River was quite choppy, let me tell you. Do you see those crashing waves?
This one I really did. It was scary.
I am my own worst enemy, I know this. Since I was a small child, I've put so much pressure on myself to achieve. This pressure got me into a good college and a good grad school and into a good job (one that, ironically enough, I do not like and I'm actively looking for a new job - if anyone wants to hire a recovering academic, use the email address on the right!). 

But then sometimes, the pressure I put on myself hurts me. Lying on a mountain, or more accurately a little bunny hill, unable to even stand up on my skis unassisted, unwilling or unable to go on, knowing there was only one way down the hill and choosing to take off my skis and walk down, I pondered the line between quitting because I don't like something and quitting because something doesn't come to me easily. It wasn't until later that I realized that "not quitting" hadn't even entered my head.

Do I hate skiing because I'm afraid of it? Because I'm bad at it? Am I afraid of it because I'm bad at it?

And what am I actually afraid of, anyway?

Proof. And don't be fooled by how flat the ground looks.
Even with running, I don't push myself. I have a mental block; I'm afraid to push myself to run harder and faster. Afraid of what? Succeeding? If I pushed myself with running, at all, there is no way I'd do worse than I do now. The irony.

My common excuse with running is that it's the one area of my life where I'm free from this pressure, and I need to keep it this way. If I turn running - my best possible stress release - into something that causes me to put pressure on myself, what then? Where will I go? What would happen? Will I self-combust in a fiery ball of pressure?

I'm not going to lie here and claim that I'm about to turn over a new leaf and ski down that hill; I'm returning my borrowed ski clothes and avoiding mountains for the time being. BUT, I am registered for the Broad Street Run. It may mean half-assed business as usual for me, collecting a participants' medal without a true sense of accomplishment. But I think that admitting that I have these mental blocks might be the first step toward getting over them.

I usually hate those "desperate pleas for comments" questions at the end of blogs, but I'm going to do it anyway: am I alone here?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Chicago Marathon Registration Fiasco

I don't really have much to say about this one. I had no intention of registering anyway, and besides I'm too busy being bummed that Sage Canaday has a girlfriend.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Spirit of the Marathon 2

Possible subtitles:
-"Because there's still money to be made off of you"
-"Setting it in a foreign country will make it seem like a new movie"
-"Why can't we all just run and not have to tell the world our STORY when we do?"
Any other suggestions?

Yes, you can probably guess from my sarcasm that I'm not a fan of the original movie.* Yes, I watched it, and no, I was not moved. Running is more than just something I do; it's part of who I am. That said, I do it for me. The marathon is a race. Maybe it's a 2 hour race, or a 4 hour one, or a 6 hour one, but what it's not (for me) is a metaphor: for life, for the human spirit, for some improbable journey.

If you want proof that anyone can run a marathon or if you need motivation, go and spectate at mile 24 of your nearest large marathon around the five hour mark. Chances are good that I'll waddle past, looking nearly dead. I'll be amongst my compatriots, the everymen. We're fat, or thin, or sick, or healthy; we've raised a lot of money for charity, or maybe we volunteer in our daily lives outside of running, or maybe we're selfish twats. We'll finish the marathon, or we won't, and we'll go back to our daily lives the next day same as ever.

Maybe this is me, but I feel like this focus on the everyday participants (not unlike myself) in the race takes attention away from the fact that it's a sport. I'll bet more people will watch this movie than will watch Mary Cain's super amazing performance two weeks ago when she shattered the high school two mile record. Shortly before that, she'd broken the one mile record - after taking her SATs that morning.

That said, I'll watch this movie, just like I watched the first. Anyone want to do a Spirit of the Marathon Marathon once it comes out? Popcorn and gatorade is on me!

*I also watched "Run for your Life," about Fred Lebow and the NYCM. The only thing I took out of that movie was that Fred really liked young girls. Not my kind of role model.

Friday, February 1, 2013

UPDATE: Mark Remy like bun huggers

Following up on my post from earlier this week, my sister emailed Mark Remy and he answered her.

Here's what she said:


Since the what to wear tool is no longer available, I think to make up for it you should go a little beyond "what do I wear if it is 40 degrees out, misty, no wind and a dewpoint of 38".  How about this.  Running fashion advice.  For instance, shouldn't bun-huggers be outlawed unless you are an actual contender in an international championship invite only track meet?  
How about mixing and matching different colored florescent clothes?


Amanda Musacchio

And his reply?


As a redblooded male, I am firmly pro-bun-hugger.

Mixing and matching different fluoursecent colors, however, should be punishable by fine and/or confisaction of the garments in question.

Black bottoms and solid-colored tops, people! It’s not that hard!

Kind Regards,

He's wrong about the bun huggers but right about everything else. Except the vests (I was reading between the lines there; he didn't mention vests... this time).