Writing and running in Austin, TX.
Pretty much anyone who has met me can tell you: I have an addictive personality. A lot of kids read The Black Stallion and decided they wanted a pony for Christmas. I read every book in the series (including the out-of-print ones that my grandmother’s neighbor had in a closet), then read every book in The Saddle Club (up to #82 or so), then demanded to go to horseback-riding summer camp, and then really DID get a pony for Christmas.
In retrospect, I was every parent’s nightmare.
Horses were the first of my obsessions, but hardly the last. There was the Star Wars phase, the *NSYNC phase, the Ricky Martin phase, and of course the one I’ll never ever live down, the Star Trek phase. There were also the less-benign addictions–namely food, followed shortly by the addiction to avoiding all food as much as possible.
While I would like to say I took up running for a noble cause (to fly like the birds? to be carried along by the wind?) I started for the same reason any 18-year-old girl would start running: I wanted to lose some weight!
Well, it wasn’t an immediate success. But somehow I kept going. Even though I hated every single run for the first six months. Even though my lungs burned and my skin chafed.
Don’t worry, this isn’t an inspirational anecdote about following your dreams. This is some cold, hard, self-analysis. I kept going because that’s just what I do.
Lots of runners envision themselves as animals: gazelles, cheetahs, roadrunners, etc. I envision myself as a tank. I’m not going to start fast, I’m not going to finish fast, and in all honesty I probably don’t corner all that well. But I’ll run on a road or on a trail, in freezing cold or blazing heat. I’ll pretty much roll over everything in my way until I run out of gas or get blown up. (Luckily the latter isn’t too much of a risk in modern-day Austin.)
And to be completely honest with you, I’m not sure if this is healthy. I also don’t think I can change, because I’m like this in every aspect of my life. I’ll eat the exact same breakfast every single morning for months on end (Quaker Weight Control Oatmeal — keep the dream alive!), watch the same trashy TV shows every Sunday (like you’ve never been entranced by WE Go Bridal night!?), and trudge through books that I abhor because the only think worse than a bad book is returning that bad book to the library unread.
I was in fact trudging through a book when I was forced to face this questionable aspect of my personality. As many of you know, I love John Bingham and his “Penguin” philosophy of running. I’ve always been prone to weird celebrity fixations: Mark Hamill at 14, John Bingham at 27. It’s not a crush. No offense to my running hero, but I can’t say I’m particularly attracted to him. I’m more fascinated by him. Both Mark Hamill and John Bingham are perfect examples of normal, okay nerdy, guys who somehow made lives out of being…nerdy.
I feel a kinship with John Bingham, and I guess that’s why I, a runner for almost 10 years, recently checked out his very first book, The Courage to Start: A Guide to Running for Your Life.
Let me put it nicely: Not his finest work. It meanders like an overly-detailed Christmas letter.
And yet, it does offer a glimpse of the great insight that comes through in his more recent writing. He really got me with one passage in particular:
He just had to go and air my “issues” out for the whole world to see. I was only 16 when this book came out–of course I had issues!
But do I still? It’s hard to say. I do think it’s easy to hide behind the “health” benefits of exercise. A lot of us use physical work to quash emotional demons. But in the end, I guess I’d rather leave my issues out there on the road, to run until I’m so tired that I can’t think of anything more complex than my desire for a cold glass of water. Compared to other potential addictions, I think I’m doing okay.