Contra Hemingway

For all my recent mental excitations, I’ve been feeling particularly – unprecedentedly – ill at ease in my aging flesh. My thermostat is on the fritz. My eyesight continues to deteriorate. More and more often, my insides either break off trade with the outside world entirely or else insist on an accelerationist laissez-faire. I have lingering injuries to my head, neck, shoulders, fingers, bicep, lower back, hamstrings, calf, achilles tendons, ankles and feet. I don’t even want to talk about the CTE symptoms. This is all heading in one direction, of course. And one needn’t be a gun enthusiast overfond of alcohol and the style of individual sentences to find it alarming.

And yet. And yet. Sometimes, all it takes is a fillip – merest clinamen – to knock me out of a still-shallow rut into a deeper, more soulful, groove.

My last 50-kilometer run was in 2014, shortly before I broke my left foot for the first of three times that year.* With my 50th birthday looming (March 21st, 2023 – DM for the postal address to send presniks), I have been thinking I should try to put myself back in a position, by the end of those twelve jubilee months, to run another 50K. Such thoughts have been depressing the hell out of me, however. It’s only been eight years, but it feels like somebody else ran those miles. Like they happened in another dimension, on a different planet. Somewhere I wasn’t limping around all the time – half-ill, half-shot – whinging.

The forehead flick that knocked my astral form out my backside, so that it had to hang on to my running shorts or be left behind, occurred somewhere in the (sic) transit (gloria mundi) between Saturn and Mars on the drought-puckered banks of the Cam. Before settling in among dark green thoughts in a deep green shade with my pal Rob, a spark of desire caught on the soaked rags in my head and began to smolder: not only am I going to run another 50K, I’m going to run it hard.

Much is taken, but much abides. Time may be stripping me for parts, but I am still mutant enough to get back to 26.2-mile Sunday runs. The question is whether I can also bring my 5K down to 19:59.

I know the answer.

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, “Wow! What a Ride!


*Dante might have written a whole fourth book of his Comedy about the one 50K ultramarathon Chris Lauer and I ran together, through an experimental forest in the Coast Range mountains near Corvallis, Oregon. Among its many trials – including the fact that I had just crossed the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim in under 36 hours with his brother Mark five days beforehand; that Chris can walk uphill nearly as fast as I jog; that the route included 7,000 feet of vertical gain; that, because of pouring rain, ~25% of the course was covered in thick, sucking mud – the sort of thing where you slip and don’t just fall, you fall downhill; and that I’d inexplicably tried scrambled eggs that morning for the first time in my life, and had needed to puke, shit, and piss twice in the first thirty minutes of the race – there were a few moments of grace.

Approaching the point of highest elevation, Chris decided to change socks and refuel. So I made a break for it, hoping to put enough distance between us that he wouldn’t be able to catch back up (which didn’t work). As I crested the peak, a woman latched on to me & refused to be shaken off. The woods vomited us onto a paved downhill section and we gathered speed. Before I knew it, we’d run a 6:28 mile. Then a 6:25. I glanced back. She yelled, “THANK YOU!” and fell off pace – receding into the black dot of a period.

I saw her again, many miles, and much misery, later. We tractor beamed each other for half an hour before I bonked on the last hill, for what I thought would be the last time. As I was reduced to shambling, she left me behind with a pat on the shoulder and a shout of encouragement. I caught her at the finish line. She was so psyched to have been passed at the end by someone hauling that much ass she pulled me into a bear hug and, for a glad moment, we each kept the other from collapse.

I fucking love running.

2 Responses to “Contra Hemingway”

  1. prudenceinhell Says:

    And running fucking loves you. You can do this.

  2. Pavey Ark – Blencathra – Scafell Pike | Chamblissian Says:

    […] A public notebook. « Contra Hemingway […]

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