Running is Magic

Running is nothing if not a constant dialogue with yourself about the things you never thought you’d do.

I never thought I’d take up running.

Then I never thought I’d enjoy running.

I never thought I’d run in a race.  (Pay money to run?  Run with other people?  Do I look like a fool?)

Then I never thought I’d run multiple races in a year.

I never thought I’d run more than three or four miles at a stretch.

Then I never thought I’d run more than six.  Or eight.  Or ten.  Or thirteen.

Oh, that’s half of a marathon.  I never thought I’d run a half marathon.

I never thought I could appreciate any activity completed outdoors in the summer in the deep south.

Or in the winter for that matter.

I never thought I’d look forward to getting up while most of the world is asleep to “exercise”.

I never thought I’d ever be grumpy about not going for a run.

I never thought I’d ever have anything to say about running that was worth writing down.  (Okay, that’s probably still debatable.)

I could go on, but that’s probably enough for the moment.  Anyway, I say all that to say this.  Running is magic.

I don’t say that lightly.  Writing is magical.  My son is magical.  My wife is magical.  (No, seriously.  She once cast a spell on me and it WORKED.  She also convinced me that getting married was a good idea, so clearly she has magical powers of persuasion.)  But that’s about where the magic ends in my life.  Just for the record, I set the bar pretty high when it comes to declaring things magical.  A decent magician can pull a rabbit out of a hat or tell you what card he forced you to pick.  Real magic is when a piece of lead turns into a piece of gold right before your unblinking eyes.  Real magic is when something that WASN’T suddenly IS.  Real magic is when the work and the time you put into something gets magnified and transmogrified and turned into rainbows and kittens and sunshine and all the good things.

Writing?  Magical.  I feel smarter every day that I write, and given the esteem that I hold my intelligence in (again, I will reference my wife), that’s a pretty big deal.  But in addition to getting my story down in literal, tangible words that another human could read, consider, and then (hopefully) enjoy, it’s filling me with a sense of purpose and accomplishment and a sort of general sense of being a little bit awesome.  My son?  Magical.  I put in a fun weekend in Florida and a few sleepless nights and I’m rewarded with a TINY FARGOING HUMAN that’s basically me on a thirty-year delay.  Incredible.  My wife?  Magical.  I know of no other person on earth who would put up with and call me on the stupid things that I do and still allow me to have happy fun times with her.  (She might kill me tonight for writing that.  That would be less magical.)

Running, to return to the point, requires a bit more explanation.  I’ve sunk a metric sharknadoload of time (not to be confused with the imperial sharknadoload) into running, and what have I got to show?  I lost some weight.  I “feel” healthier.  The endorphins that follow an individual run are nice.  But that seems like a balanced equation; there’s no magic there.

No, the magic of running is not like the magic of a rainbow suddenly appearing.  It’s more like the magic of a sculpture emerging from a raw hunk of marble under the practiced hands of Michaelangelo.  (He made sculptures, right?  I don’t know Art.)  You work at it, and you work at it, and you chip away day after day after day, knowing that there’s something good under those layers of stone and sweat and tears and exhaustion, and then one day it just appears.  Like Batman out of the dark.  He was there all along, saving your asgard, looking out for you, protecting your city and your whole way of life, but he only just now revealed himself to you because you only just now stopped to look.

Running gives you patience.  Not right away.  When you first dip your toes in the shallow end of the pool, you barely have the patience to slog it out for twenty minutes.  But you can’t embark on a thirteen mile run, or a twenty-six mile run, or a fifty mile run without the patience not to get bored, not to get distracted, not to quit halfway through because you just can’t stand the tedium for another minute.  Running teaches you to accept the tedium of the long miles and, eventually, to appreciate it.

Running gives you resilience.  It hurts.  It’s exhausting.  Especially at first.  But the more you do it, the less it hurts, the less it exhausts you, and finally you realize that running wasn’t the problem, the old you was the problem.  The more you learn to get up off the mat when running knocks you down (and running WILL knock you down), the easier it gets to keep standing up for another helping.

Running gives you confidence.  You start small.  If I can run for a minute, maybe I can run for two.  If I can run for two, maybe I can run for three.  If I can run for a half-mile, maaaaybe I can run an entire mile.  And then you get there.  Sooner than you think.  And what was once impossible becomes routine, and you start getting crazy with confidence.  If I can run fivemiles, maybe I can run ten.  If I can run a half-marathon, maybe I can write a fargoing book.

Sidenote: it’s foolish and stupid that half-marathons are called half-marathons.  You have a 5k, then a 10k, and those sound awesome.  Then there’s a half-marathon, which sounds like, “well, that’s nice I suppose, but why not a whole marathon?”  To which runners who have just accomplished their first run at that distance might, rightly so, kick you in the sack.  And yeah, I know, some people call them Pikermis, and that’s nice and all, but nobody knows how to pronounce Pikermi and it sounds a little ridiculous besides.  Call it a Salvador or something, or surely there is some other Greek city with a nice name we could appropriate.

Finally, Running gives you a sense of community.  I don’t know if I could name a social situation I’ve been in where the collective vibe was more uplifting than at any race I’ve attended.  Runners support one another, because we’re not running against one another, we’re running with one another.  And if you’ve never raced, then at the very least you know the deep-seated connection you have with every other runner you pass on the road.  Whether you wave or not, whether they wave or not, you see each other, and you know that they know, and they know that you know, and both of you are going through it together.  Through what?  Through it all.

Why am I still writing this?  I’m going for a run.  (Okay, fine, I’m going for a run in the morning.  I just… god.  Why you gotta ruin it?)

(EDIT:  My wife would like for me to point out that there is in fact nothing magical about blisters.)

The Importance of Routine

I am quickly learning the importance of routine to — I want to say any creative endeavor, but I will err on the side of not being an overgeneralizing jerkstore and say — this particular project of mine. No matter what I do, it seems I have had and certainly will have good days and […]

The Potioneer’s Ploy

Chuck’s challenge this week:  Pick Five Characters.
I used random choice to get me down to eight and went with the five that I felt best fit together.  Here’s what I came up with.
The Dexterous, funny hermit

The Agile heir
The Unpredictable hunter, worst in his profession
The Unhealthy jailer
The Unheroic impostor
I wasn’t able to get an entirely self-contained story here, but I think it worked out well enough.  As a result, while I feel the arc of this particular moment is completed, it certainly leaves more to tell.
But, for a change, it’s NOT dark and weird!  Here, then, are 1494 words of fun in a sort-of LOTR, sort-of GoT world:

The Potioneer’s Ploy

As usual, Danver had no idea what on earth he was doing.

He poked his pointy nose around each corner of the cell, examining every last crumb of moldy bread and every crack in the wall for some sign, any sign, that might give an indication of where the princess had escaped to.  None was forthcoming.  Only one thing to do: stall.

“I’ll need to see the grounds outside her window,” Danver said, with as much authority as he could muster.

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Follow Me Over This Cliff (Or, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon’s Fading Star)

Last time I did this was fun.  Let’s have another terrible review of a terrible entertainment option.  Today’s target?

The Following.

Spoiler Alert, etc, etc.  Here I’ll be talking about the show, its characters, its plotlines, up through the current episode.  If that’s troubling to you, this is the point at which you should turn off your computer and rethink your life, because if you’re able to be significantly upset by prematurely learning some vague details about a show that you’re watching after the party, perhaps the decisions that brought you to this point were not the best ones.  (Though if you’re still watching the show, I doubt if there’s much I could spoil for you, as the show spoils itself by virtue of running headlong into virtually every cliche in the suspense/crime procedural/gritty hero/criminal mastermind genre simultaneously.)  That said, if you don’t watch The Following, there probably isn’t very much here for you.

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Holy Sharknado, it’s Really Happening

I was writing along today, enjoying myself, working on a cute little scene between the hero and the love interest, and WriteMonkey’s little heads-up display bar ticked over.  It does this constantly, tracking word count, the time I’m writing in the current session, the time until the next save (WM can be configured to save automatically, as often even as every five seconds.  This is a feature I laughed at when I first started writing with it, but it has actually saved me a couple of times.  Not the every five seconds thing.  That’s excessive to the point of lunacy.  The automatic save thing.  Every thirty seconds has been more than sufficient.).  Nifty little program, as I’ve said before.  But today’s little tick was more significant than most, because today the progress meter ticked over to 50%.

See, way back when I started writing, I set a goal of ninety thousand words for this little endeavor I’m tarrying away at, the way a man who’s never run a step in his life might stand at the start line of the Boston Marathon and say, okay, the finish line is out there somewhere.  The way I imagine the Apollo astronauts looked up at the moon and said, “There it is.”  The way, perhaps, that my dog watches the mail truck driving by and thinks, “one day.”  At the time, it seemed lofty, massively optimistic, and even a little foolish.  A goal so distant and unattainable it might as well have been on Pluto (alas poor Pluto, we hardly knew ye).  WriteMonkey merrily and quietly accepted the leviathan goal I had set for myself and popped a happy little 8% indicator down in the corner.  Every day I write a few more words and it increases, one tick at a time. 

That was (wait, let me check) 44 days ago.  44 proper days, mind you, not 44 writing days (weekends are for not working!).  44 days!  A month and not quite a half to hit the halfway point.  I’ll save the champagne and the sparklers for a more momentous occasion, but suffice it to say, I am pretty jazzed.  Having been a runner for a little while, running metaphors spring naturally to mind; it’s like reaching the turnaround point on a long run.  It was hard work to get here, and it will be hard work to get back, but there’s nothing for it – nobody’s going to drive out here and pick my tired, dehydrated asgard up.  Mile 13.1 of a marathon: you’ve come this far, it’s nonsense to even think of not finishing now.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve written so much.  Forty-five thousand words is no small chunk of writing.  I don’t want to dump on myself too badly, but I’m a little bit surprised that I’ve done so well.  Frankly, I expected of myself a lot more waffling, a lot more excuses, a lot more days when I just didn’t feel like getting the work done, and a lot of not actually meeting my goals.  At the risk of sounding like a jerk, I know Past Me pretty well, and that guy is LAZY.  But Past Me is trying to change his ways, Present Me is holding the course, and Future Me is reaping the benefits of our sticktoitiveness.  Granted, our sticktoitiveness is creating for that guy an ever growing pile of hog slobber that he’s going to have to go wading through to find the tasty bits, but hey, that’s a problem for THAT GUY.

It’s pretty overwhelming to look at how far I’ve come and how much (or rather how LITTLE) I have left to go.  It almost makes me sad to think that I’m entering the downward slope of this thing.  To think that in 45 days (assuming I stay productive over the summer, KNOCK ON FARGOING WOOD) I could have a finished draft of this story that I never actually thought I’d get around to turning into a book … I just don’t know what to say.  It suddenly feels real in a way that it hasn’t really felt real despite all the work I’ve been putting in.

Who knew that this was something that was legitimately within my capabilities?  I sure as sharknado didn’t.  I fully expected, on a level I didn’t and haven’t and probably won’t talk about, to end up in a ditch after a few weeks, sobbing internally as I walked away from the smoldering wreckage of another failed project.  I still feel like I’m cheating fate a bit to be where I am.  I spend my writing time trying not to think about how far I’ve come and thus how far I have to fall.  If I don’t think about it so much, I can keep walking the tightrope.  If I don’t look out the window, I don’t have to think about the plane crashing into a mountain.  If I keep putting one foot in front of the other, I just might reach that finish line after all.

Forty-five thousand words to go. Suit up.