Saturday, February 20, 2010

I've got to be crazy 10k: coming this Sunday. Redux and revised.

I've already written about the importance of friendship on this blog, but the topic came up again (and once again, unexpectedly) when I decided to improve my mood by the tried-and-true method of changing my hair's color and cut. My stylist, Kim, is such an amazing woman and I don't know how on earth I managed to find her. Not only is she able to transform me from blah to fabulous, she's also one of the most creative people I know: interested in art, music and literature, she took interest in my blog when I mentioned it, sitting in her chair.

And as she began to tell the other stylists in the room about it, her understanding shifted my perspective. In lieu of saying: "Rebecca wants to qualify for the Olympic Trials," she said: "Rebecca's writing a blog to record her attempt to qualify for the Olympic Trials so she can write a memoir about it later." I don't know how I'd lost this notion, but hearing Kim's words, I realized that I had. I have become so focused on the athleticism of my ordeal, I'd forgotten the other half of my project: to write.

The Miles and Pages Project is my attempt to document the journey someone takes to become an elite athlete. I believe my account of this journey is unique because I'm not a gifted athlete, I didn't run in college; in other words, I'm nothing but a plain Jane who's got big dreams of becoming a notable marathoner. The project attracted me, originally, because I love running, or more specifically, training for an event that is, well, difficult. I do well with the long 16-week (or in this case, multi-month) training program leading up to an equally long race. It makes sense to me; and so I thought, nine weeks ago: "Gosh what if I actually tried to become an elite marathoner and write about the whole thing-- and tell the story of the journey. My perspective is unique: I might notice things about training or about racing events that others (who "grew up" in such environments) might otherwise take for granted.

I also want to believe doing this on my own (outside of any academic curriculum) will make me a better person. How, exactly, I can't say. In addition to better fitness (I better be fitter by the time Chicago rolls around, which is next October) I hope to increase the confidence I have in myself and reduce the negativity that I tend to draw upon when life becomes uncertain (see the posting previous to this for an example, if you must.) Perhaps egotistically, I hope that the Miles and Pages Project (or the memoir produced from it) is an inspiration to all sorts of people: runners, but also children who have athletic dreams or businessmen who've hit "rock bottom." Egoism is inherent in writing, I've been told (and everyone knows it's a necessary part of athletic success to a certain degree) so-- what if I argue it's a necessary part of every aspect of life?

Another topic I wish to explore in the months ahead is the mechanism that drives some of us to compete in things like running races or any athletic event. What is it about athletics that draws people, even if they have no hope of winning? It's definitely not a universal desire (not everyone wants to run a marathon and not everyone wants to be an Olympic skier)-- so what drives those of us who do to do so often at the expense of a successful career or relationship?

I'm not sure I'm qualified to answer all that, but I hope that my experience will speak to some, if not all, the subjects presented above.

And so, I want to extend my gratitude to Kim Smith of Transformations Salon in King's Beach for recalling to me the purpose of the project: it's not so much the end result of this blog-- if I qualify or don't qualify for the Olympic Trials at the Chicago 2010 Marathon-- but rather the steps I will take to progress to that elite level of fitness. It's the journey, in other words, that I have chosen to live and write about above all other things (perhaps I have that desire/drive for athletics I mentioned earlier? Time will tell.) It's the miles, what they feel like, who my body changes that I'm interested in. Will my thoughts evolve along with my fitness? Will people treat me differently because of who I appear to be between this moment and the one I'm working toward months from now?

Will my conclusion be that dreams are worth having and believing in? Or is it the appropriate response to be cynical to the world? I can only hope that, even if I fail, I'll believe in the power and importance of dreams.

And so, with all that in mind, I welcome the 10k race in Verdi, tomorrow, If people yell mean things at me, I will keep running. I will do my best, even if that means last place. I have my eyes set on the journey which rests before me, come what may.

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