Friday, March 21, 2014

The Vanity Project

Sometimes no Truth is more Powerful
Than One Expressed in Anger by
A Melancholy Man....
- Pete Hamill

I have spent the better part of the past three months training for the 2014 New Jersey Marathon.  This year's edition is on April's final Sunday, the 27th.  My dedication to running as a daily discipline since Thanksgiving has been off-the-charts.  I have missed about one week's worth of days (total) in the past four months.  I feel good.  My soul is light.  My soles are firm.  

Two Sundays ago I re-remembered the significance of not lying to one's self.  I think I wrote in this space on that day something to the effect that one cannot change one's DNA.  We are who we are.  Lest anyone think I was pointing a finger of judgment outward let me clarify that point.  I was not.  I was pointing a finger of judgment.  But I was doing so in the direction of the face I see in the bathroom mirror every morning. 

Marathon training is tough.  Running in a marathon is tough too.  A battle of will in many respects.  When you are a 'ham and egger' as I am and are going to spend four hours or so on the marathon course, the part of your body that needs to be in the right place even more than your legs or your lungs is your mind. 

Two Sundays ago, as I was fast approaching Mile 13 of a 16-mile training run and doing so at a 8:30 pace or so that had me very, very pleased with the manner in which I was running, my mind trumped my legs and my lungs.  The New Jersey Marathon is a very nice event.  It is well-organized.  The volunteers who serve as Pace Runners for the various groups are terrific.  There are a lot of things to like about it. 

However, there is one thing - for me - at least to not like about it:  the course.  Once you head south on Ocean Avenue out of Long Branch towards Asbury Park you run on extended stretches of deserted landscape as you pass through towns such as Deal whose occupants have not yet arrived for the Summer.  Worse yet, once you reach Asbury Park and run on the boardwalk down to Ocean Grove and get juiced by the sights and sounds of hundreds of people milling around and enjoying their Sunday morning as you run past them and through them, you head north out of Asbury Park and back into the wasteland that separates it from Long Branch.  

So, a week ago Sunday as I was cruising along towards Mile 13 of my 16-mile journey, I asked myself the question that one should never ask himself while cruising along towards Mile 13 of a 16-mile journey, "Why am I doing this?"  Worse yet was the follow-up question, which was, "Do I really want to have to run 26.2 miles on this course?"  The answer to the former was "I don't know".  The answer to the latter was "No".  Having made that decision, I adjusted my route so that I completed Mile 13 much closer to my home than I otherwise would have, hit the 'STOP' button on my GARMIN and ran home the rest of the way untimed and unencumbered.  

I love the challenge of the marathon.  I look forward to running in New York City with my friend Gidg in another couple of years.  It is on her "Bucket List" of things to do for her 50th birthday and I would be honored to participate in that event with her.  I would like to run the Marine Corps Marathon once before my legs quit on me altogether.  But I realized, out there on Birch Run Drive in Piscataway gazing at some of the homes that my brother Kelly helped build thirty-plus years ago that I have zero desire to run in my home state's marathon.  Been there, done that.  

The decision having been made, I contacted the New Jersey Marathon people and "deferred" my 2014 entry to 2015.  I know as I type this that I shall not run it in 2015.  My last best chance at tricking myself into thinking I wanted to was this year.  Having fallen short in the effort to pull the wool over my own eyes, I shall not try it again.  

Whether it was coincidence or not I know not but this past weekend, I had two of the most enjoyable, mid-distance runs (6 or so miles) back-to-back that I have had in some time.  It was as if with the weight of my own artifice lifted off of my shoulders I strode more purposefully and in a far more relaxed and free-flowing manner.  I enjoyed the sights I took in on my run a lot more than I had just one week earlier.  I am likely reading far too much into it.  I tend to do such things. 

There'll be a rider
And there'll be a wall
As long as the dreamer remains
And if it's all for nothing
All the roadrunning's
Been in vain....
- M. Knopfler/E. Harris

Gee, I hope not.   If it has been, then I have put a lot of mileage on my legs for nothing.



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