Friday, February 4, 2011

On Dedication: The Doubt-Ridden 10k

I've been doing 85 mile weeks since January (though last week was 89 miles) with consistent speed and tempo work since the marathon I ran in December; and yet I don't know if I can run a 10k on Sunday. Crazy? Yes. Why am I thinking this now? I have no idea.

I met a friend in a cafe today whom I haven't seen in ages. We were both TAs in the same department when I was working through my first M.A. He asked me: "So what is going on in your life, outside of running and writing?" And I fumbled: " um...." I finally drug from my memory two days upon which I went to the De Young Museum in San Francisco to see exhibits featuring Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artwork. Most of what my mind recalled, however, was honestly pretty bland: I went to the grocery store. I put gas in my car. I read a lot of books (but that falls under the category of "writing" and was therefore not permissible to mention), I drank water consciously though not thirsty, I read book and film reviews. I listened to music-- mine and songs others have sent to me. This list caused me pause, and still does.

Wow. I am the most boring person on earth. Either that, or extremely dedicated.

I bring this moment to you because I am so afraid of this race on Sunday. What if I don't do so well? Will my dedication have been in vain? Perhaps that's what scares me: I don't want to lose the life I lead. Not yet, anyway. I WANT to be dedicated; I want to train hard, and I want to produce things of beauty (and yes, a race run well IS a type of beauty.) I don't want to race because, in my mind, I think I will fall short of my goal and that will mean that I should turn my attention to the things "life" is really composed of. But then I have to wonder, too, where this dualistic version of life came from. Why can't a life be what one wants it to be? Failure or not: if I want to run and write isn't it my choice to do so or not?

This calls to mind an author I read recently who suggested (among many other interesting ideas I have bouncing around in my head) that most people really don't want the lives they claim to want; they want to be prevented from living the lives they "want" so they don't have to actually live them. I wonder if having doubt-- and my doubt, at this particular moment-- is a manifestation of that. I say I want to be an elite runner and writer-- but would I rather say I want those things so that something-- in this case, doubt--- will "prevent" me from having them?

Or maybe I'm just excited. After all, I have more miles on my feet than I did last year going into this race.  Last year, I ran a 40:20 after five weeks of treadmill training of 50 mile weeks with only one tempo per week. This year, I have eight weeks of 80+ mile weeks on the roads and on a track. To say I will probably do better is nearly guaranteed unless I'm run over by a stray greyhound bus or have a massive total body failure between now and the finish line.

Needless to say, I think this little crisis-- it is "little" in the grand scheme of even my own larger goals-- demonstrates how seriously I want to succeed in this goal of going to the trials, of becoming a real presence in the athletic world. Nothing beats the accomplishment of a workout/race executed well; just as there's nothing quite like writing brilliance (oh, how rare that is) but in the end, it is a choice. A life choice.  It isn't a half-life choice or a quarter choice. But a whole choice, 100% or nothing at all. And there's something so admirable about that.

I think I'm writing, in a circular way, about dedication. And what I mean to say is: dedication is admirable because it nearly almost always kills some part of you. Where you might have been a multiplicity of persons (a musician, an artist, a mechanic, a marathoner, a beachcomber, a lover, a cynic, a priest, etc) dedication requires a more precise definition. So you kill the priest to be a mechanic, for example. It's a death and a birth; an opportunity gained and lost. It's the best way to live a passionate life; the worst to live a mediocre one.

No one mediocre loves, sacrifices and loves still. And that's what dedication is. So, despite the losses along the way, I would not exchange my dull life for any other. It's the life I want: a life of miles and pages.

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