Even though I usually run five times a week and it’s a big part of my life, I don’t write much about running. It’s hard to write about running without being annoying. Without bragging. Without saying, “Hey, I’m so awesome, I ran all these miles!” Even if I told you about the time I peed myself during the last half mile of a race or the time I had to poop during a race, but I didn’t, and then I didn’t poop for five days and I thought I was going to die. Even then, those stories still involve talking about how I ran 13.1 miles willingly without zombies, or bears or White Walkers behind me. And all sports stories are the same–this thing was hard, I did it, go me. It’s cliche and I hate cliche.
For me, running is about the challenge, the endurance, it feeds the intensely competitive beast inside me by keeping me humble because I’m slow. But I can also compete against myself and I do. I love beating that smug Lyz of a few days ago. But in the end, running is really about justifying my deep craving for chicken nuggets and cheeseburgers. Look, we all have our vices. Mine just happens to be fried and breaded chicken, also true crime. Also, pantslessness. Just be glad it’s not cocaine.
I also don’t write about inspiration. I am inspired a lot, by people and places and things. But I don’t write about it because again, it seems so cliche. This thing is hard. I was inspired to keep going. Go me.
I suppose in the end, it’s a matter of pride. I wish it was something esoteric that inspired me or kept me running. But it really is just cheeseburgers and someone telling me that Jane Smiley had four kids and still won a Pulitzer, so shut down Facebook and keep writing, loser.
On Sunday, I ran five miles and for the last two miles I did intervals, uphill. My legs burned and I thought I was going to puke. Part of me, thought I was really stupid. But the other part of me said keep going because nothing good ever came without pain and struggle and sometimes the worst pain is what you do to yourself.
As I was running up my last hill, Sara Bareilles’ song “Brave” came on. You know the pop song that’s been corporatized by Microsoft? It’s my own personal stance that no one should ever be judged by the contents of their workout playlist. Mine already has way more One Direction than is appropriate for a 31 year-old mother of two. That number, by the way, is two. Two songs. Also, some Britney, also a lot of Chris Brown, who I don’t like on principle, but “Drop it Low” is pretty amazing. It’s hard to have principles when your last mile of a 10 mile run is uphill. At that point, the only principles that remain are “Don’t die. Don’t fall.”
I’ve been singing “Brave” to Ellis this year as a joke of sorts. She hates it when I sing, which isn’t different from the rest of the world. I’m pretty awful. But I sing her the song, because my little anxiety-ridden three-year-old sometimes needs that extra boost to climb a rock, slide down a slide or walk near a chicken. But when the song came on during my run, I started crying for all the stupid, cliche, reasons that I normally abhor on principle. But I was running, I couldn’t have principles. So, I gave in. And there I was–chubby white lady, tromping up a hill, with tears in her eyes because of a top 40 song.
Since February, I’ve seen some of my closest friends and family go through some deep pain–divorces, infertility, infidelity, separation, death. My friend Kristin has been writing about the death of her 11 month old son on her own blog. Someone told me that her blog was hard to read because of the pain that seeps through. And I agree. Her words are hard, but how much harder was it to write them? Did her fingers burn? Did she feel like she was going to puke?
Head down, legs burning. I think of all the people I know working so hard to crawl out of the spaces and cages they found themselves in. It’s not pretty, it’s not easy. It’s like clawing out of quicksand, pushing yourself to the light you see, which may not be daylight, but at this point it doesn’t matter. Just out. Just get out.
Maybe it’s because it’s all so complicated that easy cliche finds meaning. And easy simple things–like saying, “I’m proud of you,” like telling your kid you are there for her as she faces a chicken, like a silly Top 40 song that now means everything because of that moment when you heard it at the time you most needed to–sometimes those things are really important.
I tell Dave I hate sports movies because they are all the same–underdog tries hard, overcomes obstacles, wins. I think the thing that offends me so much about cliche is that it makes things seem easy–judgement, triumphs, it undercuts the specificity of what makes our lives individual and our pain so contextual. But sports movies are timeless for a reason, cliche sometimes happens because it’s true, because everyday we all feel like underdogs, trying hard, overcoming obstacles, and will we win? I don’t really know. I hope so.
After I came home from my run, I was pretty sure, I was going to have my period or that I needed to pee on a stick. I’m usually a rock and an island. Embracing cliche and crying from it? That’s what old ladies do! But maybe old ladies are soft because they realize that life is too hard, if you don’t cry every once in a while, you’ll never get it all out.
So, here is a song for you. I hope you ugly cry at your computer. At least then, I won’t be alone.