Saturday, October 16, 2010

If you want to neglect your blog....

... just sign up for a full time graduate program, try to Qualify for the Olympic Trials in the Marathon, become an assistant XC coach for a D1 collegiate team, get hired as assistant editor at a lit. magazine and attempt to be a writer in your own right. And while I have to admit that list is INSANE, I only have two years here and I am going to try and do as much as I possibly can with the time I've been given.

That being said, I did rather well in the San Jose 1/2. Not as well as I'd liked, but 1:20 isn't bad. It puts me at about a 2:50 marathon now, but I still have two months. Plus, the race photo that was featured on the FB site for the 1/2 is just so awesome. I'll repost it here:

Otherwise, life is busy, but OK. I have a small issue with tight IT bands, so I've been pool running for a couple days now. I've also bought my first foam roller (I needed one anyway.) Pool running isn't ideal, but I think one thing this year has taught me is that perfection really doesn't exist. Worrying about it only tires one out. It's much better to give your best on any given day in any given moment: and if today my best is pool running, then gosh darn it, I'll pool run! :)

I've also been writing quite a bit for workshop. I try to write everyday and most days I manage to turn out one single-spaced page of prose and edits of things I've written in days past. It's not an enormous practice by any means, but it's at least consistent.

My latest project is one I dreamed up while running: I want to explore this "why do I run?" question from a new angle. So many sport narratives are linear-- that is, they travel from A (the past) to B (the present) and perhaps linger for a bit in C (the ultimate goal achieved/or ahead.) But I wonder if that's the only way to talk about training and to understand the pursuit of an athletic goal. So-- I've started writing about my running through the lens of a 17th century French play I had to know for my comp. exam in 2009. It's an odd play-- but I think the Baroque aesthetic (which it draws on heavily) oddly fits to running (with its focus on instability, motion, light/dark and change.) Though I don't usually like posting draft material, I will nonetheless do so (it's not like anyone reads this thing anyway.)

This section is the first of what I envision as a novel-length work. In terms of theatrical metaphor, it occupies the time prior to the curtain lifting but that is filled with music (when you are watching an actual play.) Thematically, I hope to show my desire to merge athletic narrative with aesthetic narrative that is specifically concerned with a Baroque aesthetic. I know it needs work (especially in regards to its musicality) but I really think, intellectually, I'm on to something here. I don't have a title for the piece yet. This section is called "In media res."

In media res.

Les feux d’artifices-- fireworks-- the false fires invented in what is now China long before their appearance in 17th century France, appear in my mind when I think of the Baroque aesthetic, and oddly, when I think about running. It’s a light that flashes, an instant which transforms dark to light and back again. Constant movement, constant change interlaced with ephemerality that shimmers across the dilated pupil of an eye before it must expand once again, like a hand trying to retrieve what is already lost.
I imagine fireworks as I run, each foot fall a spark that has a life of its own, a movement which disappears as soon as it transpires, a perpetual and recurring absence as I run round and round on a path in the spiraling motion the Baroque liked: the spiral leading upward as one often sees on the columns of the buildings constructed in that period.

Dark to light and back again. And again. The repetition, the constant motion: playwright Pierre Corneille would have liked that, though he never wrote about runners. Another oddity. Odd. Odd. Odd. Tap. Tap. Tap. I breathe the word in and out as my racing flats tap the pavement and I round another corner of the race I’m in with the salty air of the bay sticking to my skin, wetting my hair. The sound of water lapping is seconds from my ear. There is movement in front of me in the bending shadows on the man’s blue shirt. Movement of the visible muscles in his moisture-dappled calf as he steps, strides, steps.

He is a minor character in this drama; another element of the scenery which has been lit with a muted light, diffused by morning fog. Gray, but with the flashing colors of runners dressed in their artificial bright and reflective hues, runners who never remain in one place, but seem to occupy several.

The curtain lifts: the scene: a tall grass and reed-ridden park on the edge of earth and sea beneath a gray sky. The palette of the natural world is muted; the colors worn by characters are not. Bright blues and yellows and me in fluorescent orange and all of us with slim reflective strips that running clothes are made with these days so cars do not hit us because we flash with light.

We appear as colors reflected in a stream of moving water, coursing round a park on a muted Sunday, past flags which dance in the wind that moves across the bay to the oak-covered hills in the background. We circle this park twice and then depart to conduct another loop which passes another part of the bay and then, a soccer field. Most runners remain, circling, on that first loop (their colored tops glimmering like the candles of a seance that goes round and round) but those few of us who elected to run the longer distance, we peel away, like flies that have lost their lust for the light and wander into the taller grasses and reeds on a paved bike path that is nearly concealed.

The number of actors on the scene diminishes. The others, who circle, are left behind. Now is it four men and me; three in front and one behind. We continue on; striding, striking, our efforts propelling each forward. We move in a single line and it seems, as though in step, choreographed. No one gains on any other though the effort of our attempts manifests itself in our rapid breathing and the droplets of sweat which fall like raindrops from our bodies. An observer, standing far off beyond this scene might believe it is an image of stability: of a balance and will the think the distance between each of us is somehow sustainable, defining it as an element of classic beauty.

But within my body, the instability trembles in the fibers and tendons of my muscles and the bones beneath them. With each step, I’m launched into the air-- a brief flight-- and the landing courses through me from the cuboid bone in my foot to the soft tissue which forms its arch which transfers to the complicated network of tendons and ligaments in my ankle to be dispersed up the leg to the hips tightened by the the lower and upper abdominal muscles, as well as the lower back, counter balanced by the swing of my arms, each bent at ninety degrees. And if any sort of stability is reached in that--if-- it is thrown immediately by another push, another brief flight and landing; another series of tightening and loosening and straining and stretching; another round when what is sustained is hardly balance but a precarious imitation of one-- then I move forward and the man before me moves forward to cover another mile of this 6.2 mile (10k) race which begins and ends in the same spot, as though we will have run no where.

But we have. I am. Running. Another mile; a little over one left to go. The change in direction blows my hair from my face and the finish line is a visible destination across the body of water to my right. I see the circling 5k runners, still circling, still lighting the landscape with their colored garb and I let them guide me as a lighthouse might to a distant ship, or a lighted window to a traveler in the night. Where the previous mile had been difficult and heavy, the next-- because it is the last-- turns as all races do, to lightness and joy. I nearly bound-- no, I don’t bound-- but I smile and it must be a bit unnerving to see me smile amongst all the others who grimace, but there it is: that expression, one the Baroque might have likened to a death mask though I am so alive.

Breathless but alive; I strike the ground, imagining the Earth pushes me onward and not the other way around; I pull my arms back and forth and keep my head and chest still so that I can move faster; faster, faster, I feel I’m gaining speed as the wind turns from my face to my side. No one else has passed me yet; the man in the blue shirt is still out of my grasp but for now and remains so. And yet, I step, step, step; breathe in and out and in and out and force the fire in the very pit of me to descend deeper into the darker regions, down deep to the place where my foot feels earth faintly because it can go no deeper.

I think, my thoughts are dancing, flickering, like the motion of my body: I am in third place, third overall when there might have been a hundred people here; I am the first woman and the little girls who might have been me all those years ago smile as I run by, as I pursue the man in blue.

Then there is the feeling I always feel when I run. Like the bubbles rising to the surface of freshly opened and poured champagne in a fluted glass, a lightness rises in me. Noiseless at first, it sings: joy, joy, joy. I step, step, stride: jubilant, joyous life. It fills me and the consciousness of my body falls away. Joy, jouissance, la bonheur, glee and gratitude for motion. Joy, joy, JOY; absolute and singular.

And only, it seems, when I’m running.

Then there is the final straightaway and this, you might think, is where the drama will play out. But no, this is not when the audience will stand; the clapping must not commence. No, as I cross the line and my hands go to my face, you do not need to applaud me. And those who might have raised your hands will now watch as joy becomes a sort of sorrow; there are tears that prick the corners of my eyes where disbelief resides because the years have placed it there. The breath slows. Yet, words do not come.

In the silence one notices the wind. The quality of light has grown sharper. The number of actors grows, swelling around me, until I am lost from view in a brightly colored crowd of all those who have crossed the line and who are no longer running.

You have only just heard the music and the lifting of the curtain, perhaps catching a glimpse of the composer in black who waved his arms to make the colors come and go; the palpating heart beat to the plaintive strains of a violin’s cry. The music conveyed passion, yes, but the brief flicker of something else appeared, lighted and disappeared like the life of capricious candles on birthday cakes.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

All else aside..that photo is AWESOME.