I didn’t have enough time to train properly. I downloaded new software onto my Garmin the night before the race and didn’t realize I’d screwed it up until mile 3. The day dawned too cold. Too hot. Too ordinary. I ate an Oreo four hours before the start; my shorts were too short; I fell. I fell three times. The excuses pile up easily after a bad race.
It’s not unusual for me to get messages from friends, former students and strangers asking for help with their running. When faced with these requests, I’m happy to hammer out a content-free pep talk, sharing slogans and koans that have helped me in the past. Or I just say, “You can totally do this,” even if I have no idea whether it’s true.
Try to imagine a more challenging city to govern than Jerusalem. The place has been sacked, attacked, captured and besieged. It’s been divided. It contains some of the holiest sites for three major religions. Whatever your politics, you might agree a person would have to be nuts to want to be mayor of such a vexed and contested place.
For most of my running life, I’ve had male training partners. Partly it’s because I like poop jokes. Partly it’s that competitiveness rarely goes subterranean the way it can with women; it stays loud and in your face. Partly it’s because it’s fun being the only girl in a group of boys, nudging my way into conversations that become more textured after a couple of hours on the trail.
I love running. I love running even more while on steroids.
A handful of years ago I was pre-riding the course the day before the World Ride and Tie Championships. My trusty steed, Pip, an obstreperous, flea-bitten gray Arabian, waxed a little less than trustworthy and dumped me into a heap of what turned out to be poison oak.
We were running buddies when Cathy turned 50. That year she went after the North Carolina age-group records and bagged them all. Then, for about 10 years, she wasn’t able to train hard because she worked so much and traveled so often. When she retired from her government job, things changed.
When I first started running, I was in it for the clothes.
I wanted those T-shirts, always too big, too ugly, too cotton/poly blended, too heavy, to wear, but collected and curated as if they were first editions of rare books. They inspired me to want to race more.
Not long after I began, I started snagging what I came to call “SMOs,” Shiny Metal Objects. At first they were ribbons and medallions from tiny little 5Ks where I came in third out of four women entered in my age group. It opened up a whole new world of obsessive assemblage, one where the collection strategy involved more than just paying an entry fee.
The fast guys and the pretty girls sit at a table and their laughter rises and forms a canopy above them. They talk to and about each other; the rest of the room, for them, is empty, though it is crammed and packed with others who do not glow and glisten. For the fast guys and the pretty girls, time is fat and slow and they are not. It will, they believe, always be this way. They are unfit to imagine any alternative.