Tarheel

My bling from last weekend’s race

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Remember the quote from my last blog entry, the one from last year’s Tarheel ten-miler? This year the yard sporting that banner had a new one, still blue, with this quote:

“Bid me run, and I will strive with things impossible.”

I love whoever lives in that house, and comes up with those inspirational literary-based banners. I wish I could meet them.

I am a planner. I am a problem-solver. I like to be in control — not over everything and everyone, but over aspects of my own life that are important to me. Maybe this is why I love running so much, because I like the feeling of control I have over my body when I run. Of course, bodies can fail, and things happen, but compared to other aspects of my life, running affords me at least the illusion of control. This past month I registered for a full marathon to be held in November and a half marathon in June, and I ran the Tarheel ten-miler last weekend, as I did last year. After I hit ‘submit’ on the registration form for the 1/2 in June, I thought about why I felt compelled to register for that race, when I had told myself no more races until the end of August. Maybe it’s because I need the challenge. Maybe I need a race I can be more mentally prepared for, to make up for how mentally difficult running the ten-miler was last weekend (sleeping fitfully in a tent at a grassroots music festival the night before a long race is something I won’t ever do again). It could be connected to the fact that some areas of my life feel out of my control right now, so I struggle to regain a sense of autonomy over a part of my life I feel I can control.

There is something so satisfying to me about all the weeks and sometimes months of training culminating in the excitement of a race. To get that medal at the finish — that tangible symbol of the hard work, is worth the pain it sometimes takes to get there. I can hold it in my hand; weigh it, and show it to others. It makes the hard work real.

I thought a lot about my writing career during the race, because thinking about words, in all stages of their development, is one of the best ways I know to take my mind away from how many miles I’ve done or are left. I thought about the book I’ve written, and how it seems to be floating in some kind of purgatory, its fate still to be decided, its characters in some murky place between existence and non-existence. Because, without readers, how is a story told? How do characters live, and breathe, and grow? I think about the book that I am writing now — characters ephemeral still, like the half-developed images we used to make for kicks in my high school photography class. I imagine a book — my book — in my hands one day. I feel the weight of it. I turn the pages. Sometimes I scold myself to stay grounded, and to stop getting ahead of myself; after all, so much of the journey towards publication is out of our control. Other times I allow myself to be carried away, faster than my feet, by the fantasy.

Those times are rare, and happen only when I am running.

Why? Because when I run, that’s when all dreams feel truly possible.

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