Dang. Where have I been all your lives? Time is moving too fast. We spent Thanksgiving at the beach; it was just the unplug-and-do-nothing break that I needed, but something was missing. Mom, Dad, Jane, Emily. I had a cold. Couldn’t play outside. Never enough fresh air and the light faded at four. Still, chocolate cake every day and Nebraska, which was very good.
Tonight through Sunday: Miami! Six days of beach running, art party hopping, and a private tour of the whole joint by seaplane. Follow my adventures there in real time via Instagram.
Last night: While running, made a pit stop at the mid-Manhattan NYPL branch. I haven’t checked out books in years, but it was all so familiar: finding the right stack, searching the author by last name alphabetical, seeing where that search lead—one, two, three—three books was enough to carry home (while still maintaining an 8:00/mile pace). They really do smell like nothing else—words and aging paper and, yes, a little bit of filth, but that’s part of why reading is so thrilling. You never know what you’re going to catch. Finished one last night (The Lost Boy by Thomas Wolfe) and starting Philip Roth’s Goodbye Columbus on the plane. Have you read either? What do you think?
Mister: good. Work: okay. Running: not much. Home: Liquiteria on 15th and Eighth. Want: long hair again and a tan! One of those is attainable. The other, patience, patience, grasshopper.
"I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house. So I have spent almost all the daylight hours in the open air."
When I realized about a month ago that, between ultra training, a promotion and unexpected upheaval at work, my sister’s engagement, and holiday travel, I would not have the time to devote myself to my Camp Interactive marathon project, thereby likely missing my $3,000 minimum goal, I emailed the race organizer at Camp Interactive for help. Could I donate less than the minimum, I asked, or have an extended period of time to meet my goal?
The answer for both questions was a flat no. I started to sweat. Through CrowdRise, Camp Interactive will automatically charge my credit card for the difference between goal and monies raised on November 2. That amount is currently $1,500. That isn’t pocket change; that’s more than a month’s rent! Thus for the past several weeks, I have lain awake at night racking my brain for ways to raise money for a charity I frankly no longer care about. I have emailed every ex-boyfriend, top-level executives at my company, family members, Facebook friends, FrED fans. I have shouted into the void.
If you read Mary Pilon’s article "Hitting the Wall" about marathons and charities, published Friday in the New York Times (or if you are running the ING New York City Marathon for a charity or were asked to run for a charity but declined or have been hit up repeatedly by runners looking for donations), then you know that the run-race-to-do-good bubble has officially popped. My roommate sent me the article today after a heated discussion about how sick and tired we are of fundraising—and feeling guilty and resentful for not raising enough—even though months ago, we (perhaps stupidly) pledged thousands of dollars in exchange for a race bib.
Here’s what I know about the act of charity: Give what what you want. Tithe if you wish to tithe. If you pledge $3,000 dollars to an organization and can’t meet that goal but raise, say, $1,500, you’re still giving $1,500 that the organization didn’t have. And maybe you’ll give more later or you’ll work to earn money for another organization. And everyone gives now and then, and now and then, they cannot, or it’s not their top priority, and this is how people remain generous without going bananas.
Reading Pilon’s article yesterday, I realized that I’m not alone in my pre-race fundraising frustration. And that the very friends and family who I hit up for cash have already given and are still inundated with requests. CrowdRise’s motto is: “If you don’t give back, no one will like you.” But why should anyone feel obligated to give over and over again? And do organizations like Camp Interactive truly believe that locking voluntary supporters into set fundraising goals—with the threat that they will be held accountable for any money not raised from outside sources—is sustainable? That it will breed goodwill toward the organization? When is enough enough?
That answer, for me, is now. I’ll never again support another charity that raises funds through CrowdRise. I’ll probably never want to work with Camp Interactive again. And I’ll definitely never again marry fundraising to my long-distance running hobby. In this past month, all the joy and anticipation of training for and potentially finishing the ING New York City Marathon has been sapped and turned to blood-boiling resentment. I’m pissed off at CrowdRise, at Camp Interactive, at the system in general which allows runners to buy their way into a race by asking friends to help chip in, using charity as an excuse. But most of all, I’m furious at myself for signing up for this goddamned race in the first place.
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The ultramarathon is exactly one month away, and I am thinking of dropping out. No good excuses (although will have two if my boyfriend and parents must cancel their travel plans for work-related endeavors that they are trying hard to avoid, but anyway); 50 miles is just a long way to run. I’m getting scared. Ran 20 miles last month and felt great; I ended the run wanting to go further. But on Tuesday, set out for 30 and could only finish 16. I couldn’t breathe; the heat felt oppressive. My energy gels made me sick. I couldn’t drink enough water—until I drank too much. And I kept thinking, What’s the point of all this?! So, runners, tell me: When you lose sight of the goal, how do you get it back? Or do you get it back? When do you know that you really ought to throw in the towel? And what do you regret most—the agony of finishing when you feel like you’re going to die or the agony of quitting before you even begin?
I did something awesome today (and it’s not even noon yet). I unfriended and blocked all my ex-boyfriends on Facebook, inspired by this article, published today in New York Magazine. It was so easy. And reading that piece, which had few merits (the strongest one being repeated references to George Strait’s “All My Exes Live in Texas”, which is quite possibly the greatest country song ever produced), I realized how fucking stupid it is to hang on to old flames via social media. Just because I can doesn’t mean I should or must. Ex-boyfriends are a drag, and I already carry too much weight. Bye bye, tired old loves.
On Sunday, we visited Elbow Beach. This was in Bermuda—it’s been a month now since then. A few of us got in the water and rode the waves, and the water was clear and clean. It was very cold, but once we ducked under, it became bearable, pleasant even. We swam a little, and then the others went back to our chairs. I started swimming out; there were dark spots out in the water that looked like coral or a sandbar. I kept swimming, and I wanted to keep swimming. I wanted to keep swimming till I couldn’t, till I was so tired that I couldn’t swim anymore. And then one of the other girls hollered at me; she told me that there were sharks there, where the water gets deep, and I thought, I don’t want to get attacked by a shark, so I swam back to shore. A week later, I flew west to Missouri for a little homebound rest and rehabilition, and I felt better. But now I’m in the city again, and I love the city, but I am exhausted. It feels like I really did swim out all the way, like I have been treading water for the past four weeks, and there is no sandbar in sight.
In defense of the flip flop.
I waited six months for that bad boy at Ralph Lauren to mark down, and when it did, I pounced: the Vicky sandal crafted from black and yellow Italian leather, racy and bold and subtle all at once. I went, I bought, I took home. And then I tried on. And then I returned.
And then I put on a black flip flop, and I was happy. The end.
Except not the end because the flip flop—or thong if you’re Euro—is a polarizing piece of footwear. On one hand, it’s easy and versatile. It can be dressed up in chic textures and materials. It’s a feat of engineering, all sleek and minimalistic. But on the other hand, it’s ugly. Casual. Unsupportive (of your arch, not your hopes and dreams). Any opportunity to class it up will probably fail. (In eighth grade, for example, my clique was partial to hot-gluing fake flowers on our flip flop straps; during freshman year at college, rhinestone sorority letters were a big deal.) The flip flop is like a neon yellow marker highlighting all your worst foot flaws. Every callus, corn, broken nail, and bunion is on bold, shameless display. And in the summer, in the city, if not much stands between your tootsie and trash—oily puddles, used syringes, dog shit—but flip flop rubber, then you might be better off dead.
Still. I’m a sucker for risk. I like pain and discomfort and the threat of gangrene. And I like the way the flip flop looks more than any other sandal I have ever tried on, purchased, and inevitably cast aside. Made of little more than two slabs of rubber, it goes everywhere, with everything, from the shower to the beach to the club. There is comfort in consistency. Also: I like what the flip flop connotes: casual disregard for fashion, absent-mindedness, like I was in a hurry and couldn’t be bothered to find a cooler shoe (which is the case anyway, 99.9 percent of the time). I like it so much that I’d rather buy a pair in every color than splurge on one chic designer sandal with all the trendy trimmings. (Giuseppe Zanotti, I’m looking at you!) With the money I save, I can finally afford a pedicure, and no other shoe lets wet polish dry quite as cleanly as the flip flop. Believe it.
This time, it didn’t come creeping in the way it used to, the way I am used to, sort of like shower steam sneaking under the bathroom door, but instead, I woke up one morning last week, and it was lying next to me in bed and on top of me and streaming in the window, the opposite of sunlight. It didn’t announce its presence or ask if it could stay but burrowed deeper under the covers and wrapped around my arms and legs and crawled in through my ears and parked itself, and I wanted to cry all the time and sleep forever, and I became afraid of everything, of seeing anyone, of sitting at my desk and staring at the screen and trying not to just get up and walk away to nowhere. It was a little shock, ta-da. Or maybe it had crept in all along, and I just hadn’t noticed, or I had thought I recognized someone, a case of mistaken identity, but you don’t invite just anyone into bed with you. Or do you? You’re depressed, she said, though I barely heard her through the crying. And the worst part is that it felt so comfortable, so familiar and safe, being sad, wanting to close my eyes and never open them again, that I almost wanted it stay. Want it to stay. Creeping around, old friend.
I can run fast, forever, et cetera, but when it comes to any other kind of physical activity (except golf, tennis, beer pong, shuffleboard, skiing, spinning, driving a jet-ski, doing donuts in a golf cart, and shoe-shopping), I pretty much suck. Thus, ever since signing up for the Can Lake 50, I have struggled to find a cross-training method that will challenge my body but not my bank account. (Sayonara, Physique 57.) The spinning classes at my gym pale in comparison to Flywheel; I can’t even walk into the studio without feeling depressed. Weight training is boring. 30-60-90? I’d rather do a 180 in the opposite direction. And while I love to swim, chlorine turns my hair green.
This brings me to yesterday’s yoga class. I signed up for Vinyasa at Equinox, thinking it would be like the only other yoga session I have ever taken, which was packed with patchouli and feel-good Mother Earth worship and not much physical stress. I needed that after a six-mile run. But this class was nothing like that. Fifteen minutes in, I wanted to die and cry (not in that order). I was sweating; I ached. I could not perform a proper downward-facing dog. I could not hop from child’s pose to plank in one swift kick, unlike everyone else in the studio. Following a half bow (a.k.a. backbend) , my back hurt so badly that I couldn’t breathe without shuddering and gasping. (That was probably a major red flag.)
But afterward! So light and long and lean! So relaxed! I grabbed a latte at the new Coffee Bean on 14th Street and practically skipped home. I felt like a cross between Gwyneth Paltrow and Sloan on Entourage (which I am watching religiously lately, having never seen it before, and oh my God, Jeremy Piven, please marry me.) And today, all the muscle aches are good, like I did something right (except maybe that backbend). I’m going back tonight. I will master the downward dog.
"The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that doesn’t require his attention."
As a teenager I hated the description of my zodiac sign. Cancers are homebodies. They feel most comfortable in their own little dens, snuggled up and protected from all the crazy shit in the world that might crack their sensitive shells. Why couldn’t I have been a Leo, I asked my mother. Why couldn’t she have waited just three more weeks before having me so I could be a limelight-loving lion? Dad is a Leo, and everything he was then, I wanted to be too. So I made up excuses to crash their parties when my friends weren’t throwing their own. I cut pictures out of Vogue and pretended I had somewhere fabulous to go and that my astrological symbol wasn’t also a horrible disease.
Almost fifteen years later, something has happened. I make the plans, I get dressed up and go to the events, the parties, the things we call them, and the instant I step into the hall, it’s like little tendrils of smoke seep out from under the apartment door and wrap around me, and a voice says, Come back inside. My favorite phrase in the world: I’m so sorry, I won’t be able to make it. My second-favorite phrase: I’m just gonna stay in and get stuff done. Translation: I’m going to go home and get nothing done. And the happiest place in the world is my sofa with all my books and magazines and my sisters on the phone and something yummy in the fridge to eat later. And sweatpants. And a face mask. Game of Thrones on my iPad. Housewives queued up in the DVR. A candle burning. An early bedtime.
All those years, and the astrologers were right! The astrologers and Dorothy, post-Oz. But home isn’t some sentimental place from my youth that I visit twice a year; it’s a two-bedroom shoebox in the Meat Packing District. It’s clean and bright and cool, and I’m going there right now, and I never want to leave.
"One of the many puzzling aspects of yesterday’s attacks was the question of what, exactly, the perpetrators thought they’d accomplish by targeting what basically amounts to a celebration of human tenacity. If anything, the tragedy in Boston will further solidify the bond between runner and spectator. And when the Chicago marathon happens this October, I’ll show up to run harder, and they’ll show up to cheer louder. If anyone thought this attack would discourage the runners or the watchers, they’ve clearly never been to a marathon."
Erin Gloria Ryan, "The People Who Watch Marathons," Jezebel, April 16, 2013.