The Real

November is national novel writing month. I don't have a novel I'm dying to get out, but I am a fan of the holy, all-American resolution, and I like the idea of forcing myself to write a certain quantity every day. I will attempt to blog every day in November. (Idea stolen from my good friend Stephanie, who did it last year and loved it.) Enjoy the creaking of my writing joints.

There was a very exact moment that I felt like a real runner.

Three weeks ago I ran a marathon. At the start of the day, I got up and worried. I put on my clothes. I packed up all of my carefully selected and tested gear, telling myself I hadn't selected or tested it well enough. I put on gloves, and a headband, and an extra shirt. I pushed each of my four pins through my T-shirt and stared upside-down through my number: 1905. I chanted it to myself, thinking about how none of this ridiculous gear existed in 1905, but running still did, so why did the gear matter?

I walked out toward the start line and stood by one of the oldest carousels in the country, waiting for Greg to meet me. Reading an email from a friend pushed my anxiety to love to some kind strange emotion that wasn't good or bad or even able to be evaluated. I cried into my cheap gloves and waited by the carousel and Greg appeared.

Here was the email:

Run! Run like the wind!

Run like the next sentence to write is waiting inside the next stride.

Run like perfect punctuation is in every footfall.

Before I knew it I was running, slow and cold and overjoyed. For a few miles I ran with a friend who had planned every step. "So what are you going to do when you have no energy left?" I don't know. "So how often are you going to walk?" I don't know. Did I train enough? Did I eat correctly? What is under this highly imperfect body?

It was cold out, and I like it cold. I threw my gloves at a friend at Mile 3, and my long-sleeved shirt at a friend at Mile 10. I ran the first 6 miles with the very prepared friend, and then was leeched onto by a chatty stranger. At first I hated her. Then I realized that she was speeding me up and distracting me with her chatter, and before I knew it, it was Mile 15, and she was leaving me in the dust.

The last eleven miles were lonely. Horses watched me go by in my own private misery. I whimpered to myself a little. I bowed down to the greatest god there is: math. Seven point seven miles left at this pace means I will finish for 200 steps... you are 80% finished....

At Mile 26, I ran by a huge crowd of friends, and sprinted through the finish. I felt amazing. I ate a peanut butter sandwich and continued to feel amazing. My medal was incredibly heavy because the sponsors had insisted on including their huge ING skyscraper in the inaccurate Hartford Skyline. I bragged about my achievement for a week.

That was not the day I felt like a runner. I never had before, and running a marathon didn't slap that nametag on me.

A week passed, and I was so sore I didn't run. Another week passed, and I was still feeling lazy, so I didn't run. Another week began, and a hurricane hit, so I didn't run.

Yesterday, my throat hurt so badly I went and got a strep test. It was negative. I went to work today and mostly had Dayquil to eat. There was an event I wanted to go to-- four miles away, way off the route of public transportation-- and I was going alone, and don't have a car. I was meeting someone there I wanted to impress and wanted to dress somewhat respectably. It was 40 degrees out, and dark already.

I put on my jeans. I pulled out a winter thermal underarmour shirt that smelled vaguely of cat pee, and I put it on anyway, because I had to wear it if I was going to do this. I put a wool sweater over that. I put on a pair of Greg's dress socks. I put on a vest, and in that I put $20, my keys, and my ipod. I put a bottle of water in my hand. Then I put on the electric blue sneakers that had carried me 26.2 miles, the only hint that this overweight, bookish, sick-looking girl might possibly do something athletic. 

I had one hour to get the four miles to the event.

As soon as I began, I felt good. I felt like myself-- a person who wears old sweaters and unflattering vests-- and I felt like I was running to go somewhere. My feet were transportation and I was on a schedule. The cold air felt better on my throat than any medicine had. I was so happy to be out skittering slowly across people's lawns and listening to my terrible audiobook, I could have run all night.

At the lecture, I met the folks I'd hoped to meet. I bought two books. I ran home the same four miles, in the dark, holding the books in my hand the whole way.