Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Running Long Distances

I have changed. I started this blog as a 21 year old engineering student harboring secret dreams of living in Paris and being a writer. I had the interiors of my tiny Parisian apartment planned right down to the tapestry on the drapes and the embroidery on the table cloth. I had my daily schedule planned out; including the details of my meals, the kind of wine I would drink, the kind of clothes I would wear, the music I would listen to, and the hours I would spend at museums meditating on works of art. It was meant to pan out like an upbeat, Audrey Hepburn version of Jean Rhys' 'Good Morning Midnight' with smaller quantities of alcohol and a happy ending.

I am 30 now. I live in New York City. I barely write. I find art to be pretentious and insufferable. I think literature is having its apocalypse, and I can't bear the idea of moving to a tinier space than my New York apartment. You see, the Parisian dream had no plot. The writer needed to express something. The plan was completely devoid of that need. I moved to Ithaca and got a Masters in Engineering instead. I wrote short stories and insipid poetry, sometimes under the influence of a glass of whiskey and at other times under the influence of some research paper.

One day, I decided to get out. I had stopped eating because of what I now call an eating disorder.I had to run, for the first time in my life without any prior history of physical activity. I covered 3 miles in 50 minutes. I walked most of it. I came back home and decided I wouldn't settle for anything less than a marathon. I had found what the writer needed to express. I didn't need a bag of words to give it meaning. I sat down to eat. Real food with nutrients and not the usual dry cereal.

A few months after that I found myself in New York City. Working as an engineer, running so I would feel like eating. Numbers gave me comfort, as did my abysmal running stats. I ran so I could just be; human and imperfect. I found myself being more forgiving, and less demanding. Epiphanies were no longer limited to illegible late night scrawls in my diary. The first 8 mile run, the first 11 mile run, the first half marathon, the first 18 mile run, the first marathon, and then the second marathon. All epiphanies in their own right. I am not an athlete. I have tiny strides and run 11 minute miles on a good day. I like the stoic silence of octogenarian runners who plod through the last 6 miles of a marathon, and the contemplative faces of charity runners raising money and trying to make sense of the suffering and death of loved ones.

Through running I have found silence; the quiet meditation among works of art, the tapestry on my drapes, the embroidery on the tablecloth, and  the plot to the book I wanted to write.