Former 2:24 marathoner, now in my late 40s and hoping to maximally flatten the curve of my slide into senescence and mediocrity • Magazine writer, book editor and author, and commentator on the sport of distance running since 1999 • Adviser and confidant of other perambulators • Paradoxical hater of exercise fanatics • Chihuahua whisperer Sentence-fragment impresario

Friday, November 2, 2018

My lack of work here is done

Whenever I travel to my hometown in New Hampshire for a couple of weeks, which I've done once or twice a year since 2014, I arrive with a number of goals, most but not all of them running-related. Although these are never wildly ambitious, I never attain all of them, but usually I do a reasonable job of trying.

This year's just-concluded fall visit, which I cut from 23 days to 12 less than a week after getting there, suggested a couple of things. One is that the next time I leave for the Granite State, it should be with everything I need packed into a MINI Cooper (which would not be impossible) and permanently. That's not to say that I intend to leave Boulder; it's an affirmation that I need to think a little harder about the role of both travel and goals in my life.

For one thing, I don't like being away from the roommate I took in four months ago, Rosie (I knew I'd miss her even though she was in six excellent hands, but it was still upsetting). It will be hard to enjoy taking trips any longer than a few days now unless I can bring her, and I'm loath to have her flown anywhere. More urgently, I can no longer tolerate the way I piss away these trips, more so every time, and the one I just finished had become almost a joke by the time I came back on Wednesday. I'm glad I went because I got to hang out with Troy and Teressa, two of my best friends anywhere, but I failed everything on my personal agenda with flying colors. No, worse that that; I didn't even give myself a chance to fail.

First, I was going to run a half-marathon on Sunday, October 21 in Lowell, Mass., about 30 hours after I arrived in Concord. If you're good at Googling, you can figure out which race that was. When I learned that I would have to make a 100-mile round trip on Saturday to make this happen thanks to my habit of waiting until the last minute to register for races, that was enough to for me to officially opt out. But I would have bailed anyway, because for a host of reasons, I just didn't feel like showing up at a New England Grad Prix event where I'd see a lot of familiar faces, however friendly most of them would have been. I'm not happy with my efforts in the races I've run in my year-and-a-half-long "comeback" despite an undeniable, if modest, positive trend since I started working with a coach, and I'm disturbed at how awful I look and feel out there. But at least in Colorado, no one has ever known me to be anything besides a jogger with ambitions that manage to be lofty and sad at the same time.

Skipping this half-marathon need not have been the definitive end of my Sunday racing plans, though. I discovered on Saturday that an established 10-miler the next morning would take me within a half-mile of where I was staying, and was run on a few of the same hilly, pothole-peppered country roads I trained on daily as a teenager and wondered even then, when road races were comparatively few in number, what it would be like to race on. This event was also only $35 to enter on race morning. If nothing else, it offered a great shot to get in a scenic, hard workout. But when I woke up at 7:35 (5:35 according to my inner Colorado clock), I muttered "fuck it" and went back to sleep, a nice encapsulation of attitude toward a lot of things nowadays.

By Wednesday of the next week, I knew that I wanted to be back in Boulder before my scheduled flight on November 11. I was keeping up with my work, and in fact overdoing it given that I had set aside this three-week time block for cutting back on my writing load in anticipation of driving all over New England. Instead, I did nothing but work, watch Netflix, watch the Red Sox, take a few desultory drives around parts of Concord I hadn't toured in 15 years to how the city had changed, and go token 3- to 6-mile runs. In other words, I was functioning just as I usually did when home, except with less running and no Rosie.

On Saturday the 27th, the weather went to shit (it would stay rainy for four straight days), so I didn't go watch the Divisional State Cross-Country Championships, which was to be another of this trip's highlights. But I was far from done avoiding things that day: I has also planned to swing by my 30th high-school reunion, which was being held about four miles away by sheer happenstance (the date hadn't been chosen until after I had made my fall travel plans) but I didn't, because this would have meant splitting time between that function and the 15th annual Halloween party at the home of my hosts. But I barely participated in the party anyway, even though I had little choice since I was already physically on the premises. Oh, and I had thought before I even arrived in New Hampshire about doing a 5K on the Seacoast that morning before the high-school cross-country races, so it's not a stretch to say that I skipped out on four meaningful events in a single 12-hour period.

From about 2004, the last year I ran decently (in fact, that was when I set most of my lifetime personal records) to the fall of 2016, I lived a chaotic life. The quiescent periods yielded considerable relief, but little real progress. Every time I started to get in decent running shape, or saved some money, or otherwise established a measure of stability, I would throw it all away on an alcohol bender. In the current decade, I never went more than maybe five months without a drink. It's now been two years, and not surprisingly, I've made a great deal of progress in that time in virtually every standard metric of living.

But I've also found that not dealing with some sort of recent crisis or preparing, even if subconsciously, to launch another one has forced me to engage more directly and consistently with a world that tends to be disappointing for a host of reasons best suited for a non-running, pro-nuclear-war blog. Here, I will only say: What kind of fucking booze-hound decides to get sober just after a full-throated idiot like Donald Trump somehow gets elected, and managed to stay sober through the systematic degradation of countless established U.S. political norms and the exposure of even more people than I previously believed as undiluted bellowing ignoramuses?

Anyway, I'm through with goal-oriented running for now. If I couldn't find the inspiration to give it at least 80 percent of my all in the environment I've been in, it's probably not going to happen at all. Masters running is every bit the grim circus of knock-need hangers-on it looks like for all but the fastest specimens, and since I would actually be annoyed to discover that running was making me more likely to live longer*, I'm not in it for "health" or "fitness." So it's all about enough stimulation to make life more bearable, nothing more. Rosie gives me a reason to get out and bumble around out there at least a little bit every day, so I expect I'll hover at around 40 otherwise purposeless miles a week. And knowing what a fence-sitting, stubborn moron I can be, I won't be surprised if I find myself on some starting line or another in the near or somewhat near future, looking around and thinking "Why the fuck am I still insisting on getting high off the stink of farts?" (or something close to that).

But anyway, I kind of tried.

*That's a bullshit idea anyway.


  1. I skimmed this and noticed one thing that stands out : "...the next time I leave for the Granite State, it should be with everything I need packed into a MINI Cooper (which would not be impossible) and permanently." .See you in April...and May,June,July, Aug...

    1. Pretend I wrote, "If I ever go to the moon, I'm bringing plenty of oxygen." Same kind of logic. It just means I'm unlikely to make a trip back there for the sake of a trip. I would want to bring my dog, and I'm not sure I feel like driving all the way across the KKK-and-Jesus Belt to get there and face the prospect of doing the same thing soon afterward.

      I would miss the sunshine here. I'm a huge pussy now when it comes to weather.

      I hope you're doin' well.