Monday, April 16, 2007

Marathon Monday Musings

Well, Marathon Monday has arrived here in Boston, along with a huge Nor'easter that has kept me secluded to my studio apartment for much of the long weekend. However, I plan to fight the elements at some point to check out the amazing athletes who are literally braving the wind, rain, and snow to make it to that finish line at Copley Square.

For many, Patriot's Day marks the start of spring in Boston. People emerge from their winter cocoons to check out the runners, the Red Sox, and the BU students partying along the marathon route on Beacon Street. For me, the day is a reminder of how much discipline I don't have when it comes to working out. Recently, as I was riding comfortably in a friend's jeep past a slew of sweaty runners, my companion asked me if I ever had any desire to run a marathon.

"For a hot second," I told him. "Then I realized it would be a horrible idea and I got over it. "

I've never been a real athlete by competitive standards, and thus I admire those who have the discipline and drive to train for such a huge undertaking. Last summer, my younger brother stayed with me while he was marathon training, and he would return from long runs with calves caked in salt from the sweat that had dried on his cooling body. Meanwhile, I spent my days drinking coffee, and sitting by the large window in my apartment, concentrating on a page, a paragraph, sometimes only delivering a single line of workable prose. And so it went, each day, for most of the summer.

As a teacher, the summer is when I get most of my writing done, and I just started reading Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer to motivate myself to write more in the next few months. The first chapter discusses how much a writer can learn from close-reading and analyzing the works of great writers--not a new idea, but one that I think writers often forget in the competitive marketplace. I know that there are times when I feel so pressured to get the work done that I find myself unable to concentrate at all. Prose brings us back to the basics by pointing out that sometimes all we need is a burst of inspiration from those writers who have been down the same road many times before us.

Maybe that is why every year when I watch the marathon I find myself clapping and cheering for the runners as they climb their way up Commonwealth Ave towards the finish. It's a little like reading Nabokov--you can't take your eyes away from the scene. The hundreds of feet pounding the pavement make me think of all the training, the mental preparation, and finally the immense feeling of accomplishment that must come from such a feat. I always vow that I will start running the next day.

Maybe this year I'll start writing instead.

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