I just finished the Run for the Zoo 5K! It was a cold, windy morning and I had one of my best runs ever. I ran the whole thing, I stayed positive, and I improved my time by over 2 minutes. Not bad—and against the wind. I feel great!

The thing that kept me going in the race was focusing on being in the present. I started out slow and didn’t think about what other people were doing around me: speeding by, stopping and starting, I just kept going at my pace. I did my mantras: “I can, I will, I am”; “I love the hill, I love the hill; and others that help me stay in the moment and keep the negative thoughts out. I focused on what my hips were doing, that seems to help me open up a bit and feel the road and not focus on the finish line, on lunch, the bathroom, the time, other runners.

While I was running I thought about my writing and how it mirrors running a race. I thought of all the people I was running with as writers: some are racing ahead, some are erratic, some are young, and some are seasoned. It doesn’t matter. It has nothing to do with me and my writing/race. I just have to stick to my pace. It’s not that I never should slow down; I just need to pay attention to my body and being aware of when I need to alter my pace. The same goes for writing; there will be times when I need to slow down: to replenish my creativity, get ready to take a different tack, to let an idea simmer.

For example, we got hit by a few big gusts of wind out there and there was no point for me to exhaust myself pushing against the wind. So I took it easy for a bit, coasting along, still making progress but not wearing myself out. When we turned a corner and were out of the wind I picked up my pace. The last mile I pushed it, went a little faster, and then near the finish line, really opened up.

The race felt different today. I’m stronger than I thought I was. I have more stamina. I’ve had trouble motivating myself lately: feeling weak, tired, negative…not wanting to push. Consequently, I was surprised that I was able to motivate myself today, that I used strategy. I’m really pleased about my performance.

Back to writing. I’ve been thinking about the process I’m in right now; not writing as much as I’d like to but doing a lot of research on publishers and agents. I’m busy getting work ready for submission. I’m also thinking about joining a writing group (something I’ve avoided since graduate school).  What I need now is stamina in my writing—to keep going, even when I get rejection letters or my queries just disappear into the void. Keep going. Motivate myself. Stay positive. Focus on small things, like writing this cover letter, editing that story, starting on a new idea for a novel. Just showing up at the computer and writing regularly takes stamina. There are small actions I can take that keep me moving forward: research for my new novel idea, read a blog by an agent before submitting, read a novel published by a press that I’m interested in—even when though it takes time and doesn’t feel as sexy as the creative stuff. It’s part of the process.

This is like preparing to run a race. I practice by running 4-5 times a week whether I feel like it or not. I go a little bit further even though I want to stop. I practice by stretching, eating right, reading runner’s magazines, looking at my running log to see what’s working (and what isn’t). When I run I practice self-talk, I focus on where I place my feet, what the ground in front of me looks like, the shadows falling on the path, my breath, by arms, my hips and my feet. By focusing on what is immediate, I get where I want to go.

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Today is the one-year anniversary of my starting to run. It’s hard for me to believe I’ve stuck with it for an entire year—not my usual M.O. I think this blog helped (even though I abandoned it for a while), keeping a log helped, but it also helped to have a running partners and friends who like to do the different races in town. Thank you all for your support. I’m going to celebrate today with my favorite long run by the river and then I’m going to register for a 5K coming up on May 1st. Run for the Zoo: that was my first 5K, a year ago, and I walked more than half of it. I’d started out on a walk/run plan of running a minute, walking a minute and I did that through the 5K (I think I was up to 3-minutes stints by then).

I’m not sure how I feel about this anniversary. A bit emotional, actually. Very proud, but a little embarrassed or disappointed that I haven’t become a marathon runner yet. I suppose I thought I would be farther along now than I am. I had a few down months, slogging along, running maybe two or three times a week—a couple of times only once—terrible weeks. February was awful with below freezing weather. I did run some—never missed an entire week, in pretty cold temps mind you, but it did slow me down.  A terrible cold, the death of my cat (I actually ran more that week—running is good for grief I found), moving, chaos at work…lots of reasons not to run. And then, to my dismay, I gained weight; six or seven pounds, seemingly overnight. So now, I’m back to watching my weight and pushing myself to run more. It has not been easy. My legs have been weak, flabby in the thighs, muscles have gotten mushy; running has taken a lot more effort this past few weeks than I remember it being in the beginning. But for two weeks I’ve pushed myself to run longer and more often and it’s finally feeling like fun. I’m stronger; seeing some muscle tone in my thighs. I’ve dropped the weight and I can really tell the difference in the way my body moves, in the energy I have.

It’s amazing how quickly one can lose momentum, frightening really. A cupcake here and there; skip this run or that yoga class. It’s like I started thinking I was immune to calories. I was eating more but maintaining because, I told myself, I’m running now. Denial is not a river….The fact that I lost the weight by cutting out the junk and exercising wasn’t registering at all. I’m not cured of calories; good lesson there and it applies in other areas of my life as well.

My goals for year number two: keep watching what I eat and improve my stamina and consistency. Sure, I want to do a few 5Ks but I’m not concerned with racing. What I really want is to lengthen my runs (4o minutes instead of 25-30) and instead of running three times a week (sometimes 4), get up to running five times a week. I also want to do more trail running. That’s what I really love; running on dirt, under trees, and away from cars and buildings is inspiring and makes me love to run. 

Here I go, into my second year running…

The other day I tripped on a large tree root across the path. I stumbled first, an impressive number of feet really, six to ten, before I fell. At least I was closer to the ground by the time I landed, maybe only a foot away, and I was able to “drop” to the grass. (At least there was grass.) It wasn’t the worst crash I’ve ever had in my life but it was the first one since I’ve started running. It really shook me up.

I knew it would happen eventually. I’d heard stories about people falling while running. (Tales told around the campfire.) I’d even seen evidence. When I ran in the Pecos Mountains during the summer, one of the women I ran with fell and was completely scraped up: angry trail rash spread across one arm and both her legs. I was horrified. When would it happen to me?

I was determined never to fall. I’d been so careful. Always keeping my eyes on the path, watching for roots, for rocks, clumps of thick grass, holes underneath the grass, anything that might jeopardize my balance and send me sprawling onto the ground. I couldn’t afford a fall. I don’t need to hurt my hip/s, my knees, my back. My body just can’t sustain many more bang-ups at my age.

I made it six months.

It came out of nowhere: that root. Actually, I saw it, my mind registered that there was a big fat root. I run in that park all the time and know where the roots are exposed and reaching across the path. I am skilled at maneuvering over them like an obstacle course in boot camp. Most of the time, I think it’s a blast to run on uneven ground, cross county;  I dance over the web of roots. However, this day, I was not paying much attention to what I was doing, where I was placing my feet. This is different from being in a Zen state while running, somehow. I’m not sure how but I’ll get back to this. (I was tired, possibly even a little sick—could that be it?) Anyway, I was thinking about other things, something to do with the blog, most likely. What would I write about? What was I going to fix for dinner? I was not present; not in the moment. I saw it but the message from my brain to my foot was slow, apparently, and the foot just didn’t respond, did not lift up in time, or not enough, and my bad toe struck the tree root.

(My toe is “bad’ because it has had problems—an old fracture in the joint–not bad because it didn’t obey my brain’s command.) As it collided with the root, I felt a jolt of pain all the way up into my knee and hip. Somehow, after falling, I rolled (old volleyball training–muscle memory is an amazing thing) and ended up on my back, looking up into the trees. I was embarrassed when a couple strolling by asked me if I had fallen, asked me if I was okay. Bruised ego. I didn’t want to get up; more out of shame than the idea that I may find out I was really hurt.  I would just stay there on the grass, looking into the trees forever. Maybe I would turn invisible. Maybe they would buy the idea that I was just contemplating the foliage.  They didn’t. I stood, thanked them, said I was okay, and started limping down the trail. It wasn’t too bad. I was a little wobbly, afraid to go to fast. I felt a sharp pain in my foot but it subsided and I figured I could give it a go. I ran around the park one more time, this time utterly in the present, completely aware of the ground and every blade of grass that might trip me up. It was easy to focus after falling down.

Fear is good for focus. (Is that what I’m saying? Generally, fear paralyzes me, but maybe a healthy respect for pain is good for focus.) I’m not sure, but it was easy to place my attention on the path, on every step I made after being on such intimate terms with the ground, knowing now, I am not invincible. It occurred to me that maybe falling while running is a rite of passage; something all runners face at some time. I can say I’m really a runner now because I’ve met the earth.  Joking aside. I don’t know what “real” runners say about falling, but the point I’m trying to make is that I kept going. I fell down and it didn’t stop me. I survived. I may even be a bit better for it (at least more aware of where I’m putting my feet).

I’ve realized, looking at my running log, that I only ran two days last week and only one day so far this week (and it’s Thursday). What’s up with that? It’s hard running without my running partner, who has an injury; she definitely motivated me.  I’m feeling lazy and I think I’ve gained a few pounds. I’ve definitely been eating too many sweets lately. Making a lot of exceptions (the cupcake as reward system).

I’m feeling a little down about my novel. It’s a complicated feeling: disappointed, angry, frustrated, annoyed, discouraged. It’s not about another rejection, it’s about realizing that I’m not finished. I thought I was finished a year ago. I went through an edit and thought—that’s it—I’m done! And now, after a friend read it, and told me that a couple of chapters were slow (“boring,” was her actual word), I know it needs more work. I’ve known all along that it needed that work. I just didn’t want to do it (the ignore it and it will go away school of thought). Plus, now I’m realizing that there are a few other issues in the novel that I need to deal with; issues of continuity. I wanted so to be done. This has been such a long process. Years and years (three at least). I did so much work last year, I really thought I was there, and now I see, if I’m honest with myself, that it needs revision in a few chapters and then there’s this really important thread throughout that just kind of disappears near the end without any resolution. I need to deal with that. Last week, I finally became willing to do more work on the novel and I’ve actually enjoyed it, most of it, getting back into the characters and the story; however, this week, I’m losing faith. Will this ever end? This process is so long and tedious it really has me wondering if I want to write another one.

It makes me think of my last race—the four miles—and how I thought the finish line was closer than it actually was. They moved it. The finish line wasn’t at the point where we started, but around the corner—an extra block to run—and then I thought it was where the guys in yellow jackets were standing but NO, they waved me on, “keep going, you’re almost there.” Sure, I thought, I’ve heard that one before.

When I logged in my run this morning, I noticed this quote at the bottom of the page: “Not all runners can go faster, but everyone can run longer. It’s pacing, patience, and persistence, more than talent, that allows you to cover longer distances.” —Joe Henderson, a Runner’s World columnist

Writing is about choices.

 I’m in this novel-writing thing for the long haul. Pacing, patience, and persistence are what it takes. I think I have talent, some anyway, but perhaps not at the level of some more prolific writers. I need to take it easy on myself. I’m not in a race to finish my novel. I want it to be good; I don’t want to publish something mediocre, just because I want to be done with it. This is hard now: the final push when I had already used what I thought was the last of my reserves. Now, I need to summon resources from the depths of my being, vigor I feel I no longer have. Persistence. Doggedness. I’m not fast, mind you, but I can persevere. I ran the last “race” in 12 minute miles—no, not fast—plodding and determined, am I.

I’m choosing writing over dust bunnies, over putting on make-up, if it comes down to it. I’ve set my egg timer for twenty-one minutes and I’m going to write, then I’ll get ready for work. I’m sitting here at the computer in a damp sports bra and running shoes. I did take my cap and sunglasses off, but I just came in the door after stretching and cooling down. I wish I could tape-record my thoughts while running. There’s so much I think about and it all seems terribly deep and ponderous; I’m sure everyone would be awed at the wisdom and inspiration that springs to mind as I’m running. Maybe it has something to do with endorphins.

My morning routine these days: I get to the computer as fast as I can; after cooling down a bit; changing into something dry (usually); grabbing breakfast and a cup of coffee. Today, I’m eating steel cut oatmeal (already made but heated up in the microwave) with raisins and walnuts and some almond milk that I’m trying out (good stuff, low in calories, non-dairy). I want to write about everything—nutrition, because running has been changing the way I eat (except for those cookies I still find ways to slip in), and the path—the actual terrain I run on—(that one sounds deeply metaphorical, may have to go with it), and the people who block my path as I run.

People who block my path: Today it was a woman walking her dog on the trail in Hyder Park. It amazes me how people won’t get out of the way, won’t move (some of them). Of course, who am I to think they should move out of the trail and let me stay on it? I suppose I feel more significant somehow because, after all, I’m running. I am the one really exercising here—the one with purpose—look at me puffing away, you can see I’ve been running for a while and I’m very serious about the business of running, so get out of my way. After all, you are only walking your dog. Your dog does not need a trail.

Wow! Didn’t know that was in there.

It’s funny, some of the things people do. Some do move aside, other runners mostly. Runners seem to be aware of each other, glance when we pass one another; a look that suggests, “I’ll move over” and a nod to says, “thanks.” Runners are such nice people. Then there are the people with headphones, (runners and walkers) who don’t even know you are there and you just have to dart around. That’s a different breed entirely.

 People who get in my way, hmm; I thought I would write about one thing, but another is coming up. Maybe they aren’t in my way, maybe they just are. Maybe my path is supposed to go around them, into the grass, off the dirt trail, that is my path, the one that goes around. That’s a very Buddhist sounding idea; it makes me think of water. Water flowing around the rock, instead of complaining that the rock is in the way. I suppose I want the easiest path, nothing blocking me, no rocks to go around. I definitely have to think about this some more. Think of myself as water, or the journey as one that’s fluid and meanders here and there around obstacles. I think “obstacle” isn’t really the right word, either. Is a rock an obstacle to water when water can easily move around it? Aren’t there meditations on this, water flowing around rock for years, shaping it over time?

 My egg timer just went off: I have to shower and go meet eighteen different obstacles to my serenity today. Not a good attitude; I know. Maybe I need to see them as something that changes me while I change them, the exchange of energy, flowing around them, breaking off bits of old ideas and shaping their little minds (still not there yet).  Today, I will be water and obstacles in my way are rocks in a riverbed; I will flow around them like water. I am water. (Or am I the rock? I’m getting confused.) They can’t ruin my day by being there, they just are.

I flow.

Four miles wasn’t so bad. In fact, this run was easier for me than the last 5k in August. I don’t get it. Longer. Colder. In fact, it snowed last night and the roads were a bit icy. The wind was bitter. I suppose I was mentally in a better space. I’d prepared with running in the cold and I wasn’t worrying about time. I did not even carry my trusty egg timer (trying to wean myself) and I had no idea when I’d gone a mile; there were no mile markers on the road. I just ran, practiced being present—in my body—and kept an eye out for ice. I ran about three miles with a friend who likes to “chat” (her words) and I don’t mind. It keeps me distracted from negative thoughts, and it helps that she doesn’t expect me to answer her (breathing is challenge enough; you don’t smoke for 20 years without any repercussions). The sandy parts were a challenge, but I kept going (a little slower, maybe, but I didn’t stop) then at the end sped up to pass two women around my age who had been dogging me for most of the race. I’ve reached a new goal: 4 miles. It feels good! I don’t know my time, it hasn’t been posted yet, but I’m not worried. I ran a good race. Now I can kick back and eat my fill of turkey, low-fat pumpkin pie and stuffed eggplant. Yum. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow I’m running in a thanksgiving day race, a Turkey Trot. This one is four miles and I’ve only done 5Ks before (3.1 miles). I’m nervous about it because I’ve never gone four miles. I’m also nervous because it’s going to be cold. It’s kind of silly to be nervous, because I’ve been running in the mornings the last few weeks and I’ve survived. I ran yesterday morning in 29 degrees and was warm enough once I got going. I’ve prepared by buying nice warm gloves and socks. Four miles is just a little longer than one of my long runs. I know I can do it, but still, I’m afraid. I worry about hurting my knees, about irritating that hip thing, and then some irrational fear about not making it—never getting to the end. I know it’s ridiculous, but it’s real.  (What if I’m stuck there on the trail for days? Months? ) My goal is not to win (I’m not delusional) but just to run the whole thing. I’m actually okay with the fact that I might walk some. If I need to walk for a while that will be fine. I mentioned the run to my class yesterday and a few guys were teasing me about it: “Only four miles. What’s that, an 1/8 of a marathon?” It pricked my ego a little bit but I don’t care. Four miles is four miles. A few years ago just walking to the end of the block was a big deal for me. I won’t let them get to me and I’m making a deal with myself right now. I won’t compare myself to anyone else at the race tomorrow. I’m running to motivate myself, to challenge myself, to grow, to be healthy, to have fun. I’m running my own race. Wish me luck!

“Yoga is about the journey.” My yoga instructor said that the other day and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. Life is also about the journey, the process. It’s not the destination but the journey—is the common saying, cliché, but accurate. I’m realizing that this idea works in many aspects of my life: my writing, my exercise program, my job hunt. It’s easy to forget and start trying to control every step of the way, worrying about the outcome.

I’ve had a writing breakthrough—I am moving, whether it’s right or wrong, I’m moving in some direction. I am writing. This is the journey. It may work into something. Many things in my life have come about this way. A few years ago, I wrote some community plays and this led to helping a middle school teacher with her class theatre projects. That community service led to teaching a summer youth program drama workshop, and the semester after that, I taught Theatre Appreciation at a community college. Based on that experience, I was asked to teach drama to High School students last summer and direct their play at the end of the term. I don’t have a degree in theatre or dramatic writing (although I do write fiction and have read a ton of plays), but I just started writing plays and performing and directing them (they were understandably amateurish but I got better each time and people think I have a knack for it).

Now, this won’t get me a faculty position  in a university theatre program—although, who knows, stranger things have happened. I’ve been paid to direct theatre now for three semesters without a degree in theatre. All because I just started doing what I loved. If you’d told me this would happen, I would not have believed you. To be completely honest, however, I have a hard time believing that if I follow my bliss with writing something just as great will happen. That doors will open. I’m trying right now to hang on to this. To remember that writing is a journey, not a destination, even though I want to reach a destination, I admit. I believe that destination is some talk show—David Letterman? Oprah? The Today Show? Me being interviewed about my book. That is the destination that I have in mind. The reality is that I will most likely never make it there. I may make it somewhere similar, or for another reason. I can’t think about that, it takes the joy out of creating for me. I need to create. So one day at a time, create. That is the journey. Perhaps I’m thinking about my job hunt/career change all wrong. It’s a journey as well. I’m not going to just land on some shore of employment and think Ahhh, I’ve made it. This is where I’ve been headed all along. Where I am now is part of my journey, not a mistake, and I don’t know where I will arrive next. It’s not about arriving though, that’s what I need to get into my awareness, it’s about being where I am. I saw a magnet on someone’s refrigerator recently that read: “I’d rather be here.” Here is all I have. I might as well make the most of it.

I only ran 22:16 today. It took a long time for my muscles to warm up. The temperature was lower than it has been all summer. It’s the middle of September, right on schedule. I actually meant to stop at 20:00—just a short run today, but I forgot. I hadn’t set my egg-timer (I carry an egg timer that fits nicely in my pocket with huge numbers. I’ll talk moer about this later). It was in my pocket, and I glanced at it, saw I had about three more minutes and I planned to run to the intersection and ran right through it without any thought of stopping. I just ran almost all the way home before I remembered I was going to stop back there. Sometimes, it’s easier to keep running than it is to stop. I noticed that when I was doing my “training (run three minutes, walk one minute, etc.), I got to about five or seven minutes and I didn’t want to stop for my minute walk, it was almost easier just to keep going. But, that wasn’t the point. I stuck to the plan, did it right and eventually got up to where I am now, able to run 35-40 minutes straight.

I could have gone longer today, but my calf was hurting (on the inside, left leg).  My right knee was complaining a bit too. Then my gut was talking to me. Too much coffee this morning, ate that yogurt too close to running—yeah, some days it’s like that—my body just won’t leave me alone. ‘What the hell?” it says as soon as I start out. “What are you doing? This is just wrong!” Okay, that was this morning and I don’t know why, because I did yoga yesterday. I should be flexible; my muscles should be stretched, warm. I ran the day before—35 minutes or so. Maybe I really didn’t stretch enough this morning. I just did a few cursory stretches, calves mostly, and then left—and it was cold. I may need to invest in some running pants.

While running I had a thought, it had to do with the journey—running being about the journey—because each day is a new day. You never reach the end and say, “well, I’ve run enough.” Even someone who runs marathons, who runs those crazy 60-mile things, can never be done. They stop running altogether and after a while, they’ll go back to flab, their muscles will atrophy, they’ll lose what they’ve built up. So yeah, you have to keep doing it. I ran a lot last week does not make me fit this week; I have to run a lot this week also to be fit. I’m not sure this is having the inspirational effect on me that I thought it would. It’s a little depressing…geez. But, here we go—here’s the upside—I keep doing it regularly, and it does build on the work I did before. I keep getting firmer, stronger, my stamina is greater each time. I wonder sometimes if I’m doing the right thing for my body now. Do I need to push more, have another goal? I don’t have a running goal right now. Just keep it up—that’s my current goal. Three times a week, at least. And I’ve added yoga and biking, I think I just want to see how the three work together for a while. Trust the process. (September 14, 2010)

Running today was not easy—feeling sluggish, a bit sad, but my body went into automatic at some point and I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I was running, I was just moving above the ground. I like it when that happens; it’s like flying. I’ve used that analogy before with things—with riding a bike, with writing. Yes, sometimes writing feels that way. Like I’m soaring above the ground, zipping around, a kind of high. Although, writing is not always like that, writing is often just plodding away. Just like running is, those first seven to ten minutes—sometimes longer—before my body goes into automatic. I don’t like that, really, the word “automatic.” It makes me think of machines and robots when it’s more like a natural state, a zen state of writing, a zen state of running, where I’m in the moment, doing the thing and not thinking about doing it.

I was in that state today, floating over the sandy ditch bank, watching geese fly overhead in arrows, calling out in their funny way—I felt like I was soaring with them. But I’ve since landed. I’m feeling a little depressed, still, after getting a rejection “letter” (email, to be precise) from this small press I’d submitted my book to. Unhappy, but there’s a strange sense of freedom in their rejecting me. I think I would have been sorry had I gone with them. They are not respected; I think they put out a bit of pulpy stuff (not that there’s anything wrong with pulp–it has its place). I suppose I should be glad that my work does not fit in with their “needs” (whatever those are.) I do think my novel is a bit too literary for them, even though it may not be literary enough by MFA program standards. It is still too complex for the regular, strict-genre fare that this particular press puts out.

If that’s the way I feel , why did I submit to them and not do a thing (as far as writing goes) for three months while I waited for their reply? I was sure I would be picked up, to be honest. I thought that well of my novel, it was actually too good for them, they’d be happy to pick it up. What is wrong with this picture? First of all, I was definitely aiming too low. Secondly, I was afraid to go to a better press. There are very few presses that deal in my niche market and I’m afraid to be rejected by those that are more respected. This is difficult, writing about this. I’m afraid but I have to forge ahead, to walk though this fear and see what happens. I have not actually tried to publish this book. Sure, I submitted to a contest (one winner out of however many. I didn’t win—big surprise) and this “lowered expectations” press. That’s hardly a try and I really thought that they were likely to take my book because—look at the crap they sell—mine is much better. Whew, that kind of smarts! Maybe mine isn’t better. That’s the thought that keeps seeping into my gloominess, maybe I’m really not good enough—even for Bottom of the Barrel Books. Aaaaugh! The writer’s plight: always fighting with the magically morphing ego (now too big; now too small). I’m either the best or I’m the worst, never somewhere in-between.

All right then. Stop whimpering, dust yourself off. I need to look for a new publisher, rewrite my synopsis, get someone to edit it, try again. And again. And again. Who do I think I am, really, that I shouldn’t have to go through the many rejections that all writers, most writers, have to go through? This is hard to write about and I don’t know if I want this to be in the blog. Reflection on rejection, not very inspiring. I’m feeling about seven years old today. Feeling sorry for myself, wanting to give up, wanting to eat a bunch of junk. The run was good, but its effects are not as lasting as I’d hoped. I came home, escaped into a mystery novel, not wanting to deal with grading the stack of student essays, not wanting to deal with revamping my synopsis, working on that outline for another stupid press.

What would Julia do? (I’m speaking of the one and only Julia Cameron, of course.) In her book, the Artist’s Way she talks about letting yourself feel the pain of rejection, she says, “give yourself the dignity of admitting your artistic wounds.” I will allow myself to grieve a little bit; it really was a death of sorts, death of a dream (at least for the time being), even though my expectations may have been unrealistic. I know that in a day or two I will have healed and will move on in a new direction. Sometimes rejection is the best thing for me. It motivates me to look at something in a different way. It offers me perspective. I was limiting myself; I had not been taking risks, not really wanting to put in the effort, step out on a limb. I may even feel grateful for this rejection at some point in the future. Maybe. (September 12, 2010)

60s cheerleaders

It was hard to get going this morning. I can blame it on too much coffee, not enough sleep, loading up on that super sweet granola when I usually don’t eat before I run. Whatever the reason, I did not feel like running this morning. I dressed, got momentarily excited about trying out my new sports bra, did some stretching, and started out slowly. It was a bit cold for 8:00 am and I found myself sticking to the sunny spots rather than looking for the shade. I was actually crossing the street to avoid shade. I did a little more than I thought I would, which usually happens, even though my legs were kind of tight and mushy (tight and mushy???) throughout the whole run.

I felt like I never quite warmed up today. I made a point of keeping my arms low and slack. I am constantly surprised at how much effort it takes to stay relaxed! My arms want to come up above my waist even though it drains my energy to do so.  A running friend told me that it’s best to keep them down, and relaxed, unless I’m running up a hill. It does relax my shoulder and neck muscles when I run with my hands near my thighs, I’ve found, but they creep back up on their own volition. I think I’m working some new muscles just by trying to keep my arms down. I’ve been observing other runners’ form and I’m surprised that many hold their hands up near their chest, swing their shoulders, or let their wrists flop around. I’m trying to be aware of having the correct form and whether it’s helping or hindering me.

The most interesting thing I saw this morning was a woman walking four dogs and a baby carriage. Everyone was well-behaved. The dogs were just walking along, not pulling or barking, the baby was sleeping; they looked like they had practiced this for some time and had it down. It could have been a chaotic event. When I passed her, I said “Wow!” and she nodded with a tired smile. Good for her. I’m sure there’s some lesson there for me but at the moment I’m not sure what it is.

I told someone about writing this blog on running and she didn’t seem too impressed. Maybe it was because I’ve become excited about so many other projects lately that only lasted a day or two. That’s what she brought up—what about the work you were doing that came from the art gallery? Oh, that. Well, I’ve lost interest. Or maybe I’m still interested in a way, but I’m not really doing it anymore. What it was, was writing to a subject, the way poets do. I remember taking a poetry class and noticing that the real poets wrote from the perspective of a “speaker” and wrote to someone or something. I had never tried this before until I was in an art gallery with a poet pal and did some writing exercises (which I had miserably agreed to do with her) writing about paintings. My friend was actually writing to the subjects in the paintings—never occurred to me to do this but I loved it! So, I’ve been doing that for a month or so, little snippets, “poemettes” where I speak to the tomato plant, to the bird on a wire, to myself from my body’s point of view. It’s been interesting and it’s working some kind of artistic muscle that I’ve never used before. I don’t think I’m done with that, and I don’t know where it will lead, in fact, I think I may be using it now as I write this to an audience, to the reader of my blog—you, the person interested in running and writing and escaping reality as much as possible. You may not be my subject but I’ve never been so aware of an audience before. I suspect that I’ll see more come out of this in the future.

Today, when I was running, I kept thinking about what I would write when I got home. I would write some deep and ponderous things about the woman with the dogs and the baby,  the man watering his tomatoes, the yellow leaves that have cropped up on trees here and there, the golden light of fall that I love so much. I had such a hard time being in the moment, busy “writing” as I ran. Not that those things can’t go together. I have experienced that often as I walk (while working on my dissertation, as well as my last novel). Walking brought clarity, inspiration, even story to my mind. I’m experiencing some of that now with running. I think, however, that this morning I was trying to force it. Thinking ahead to my blog that I would be starting and how this is the way I would become famous, just like the woman in that film about Julia Child. I have questions now about the ethics of profiting from spirituality (inspiration, meditation—whatever you want to call it). Is this a spiritual exercise for me (writing, running, sharing my personal experience) or am I trying to find my niche? Make a buck? Get famous? All of those things, I suppose, and I’m probably not the first writer to be in a quandary over it. Maybe I should just stop thinking about the future and whether I will be on Oprah or on Ellen to talk about my book that came from this blog and just write for today. This book/blog is different from my fiction (as well as my poorly disguised memoir written as fictitious regional/coming of age novel based on my childhood) in that I knew the endings to those, or at least, it was up to me to fabricate an ending. I thought about where the story was going, plotted the course. This book (I can’t help it)—I have no idea. It is truly a work-in-progress and I love that. It is a one day at a time project and I will have to wait and see where it goes. Just like you do (if you’re still there). I’m thinking, write for seven more months, until 9/9/2011 (my one year anniversary of running). I can try that. If I don’t think it’s a good place to stop, I’ll keep going—just trust the process.

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