One of my toenails, which I lost in March, has grown in. My left ankle, which I sprained in 2008, feels fine. There’s no swelling under my left kneecap as there was two years ago. My hip, which tends to ache if I stand in the wrong shoes for too long, has been fine. I had some pain along the left side of my rib cage last month, but that’s gone now. The burn on my arm is healing nicely. I go through a few tissues every morning, but I don’t have the flu. Nothing medically major has happened to me in more than five years. Like family money and unconditional love, good health can feel like an entitlement. It’s something that goes unappreciated, almost unnoticed. But there’s nothing better than being healthy, and if you are, take a moment to appreciate whatever’s not hurting.
I’m running my first marathon on my 28th birthday. What’s up, aging?
There’s a transition between running half-marathons and real marathons. For one, when you’re training for a full marathon, you think an 8-mile pace run is an acceptable thing to talk about in public. It’s not, but it’s easy to let training take over your life.
And in my life, which includes a book on hold, weeks of waiting to hear back from grad school, and a couple of short stories kicking around, the marathon is a tangible thing to worry about. Running is a structured escape. It’s a reason to leave a party early. It’s a way to get out of the house for hours at a time. And if 18 weeks are passing you by, it’s a way to make sense of the time that never ceases to move forward.
And in this way, running is no different than smoking cigarettes. Well, it’s better on the lungs and worse on the knees.
As Jonathan Franzen explains:
There’s no simple, universal reason why people smoke, but there’s one thing I’m sure of: they don’t do it because they’re slaves to nicotine. My best guess about my own attraction to the habit is that I belong to a class of people whose lives are insufficiently structured. The mentally ill and the indigent are also members of this class. We embrace a toxin as deadly as nicotine, suspended in an aerosol of hydrocarbons and nitrosamines, because we have not yet found pleasures or routines that can replace the comforting, structure-bringing rhythm of need and gratification that the cigarette habit offers. One word for this structuring might be “self-medication”; another might be “coping.”
The other thing that’s different about training for a marathon is that you can’t get away without carrying anything on a run, and just vomiting from salt depletion when you get home. And so nutrition becomes another thing to think about, you know, instead of considering the human condition.
I bring Fruit Snacks on my long runs. I can already picture myself packing school lunches for my children that include such Fruit Snacks and wistfully remembering this period in my life, when I used Fruit Snacks to measure time’s passing. Not that I’d ever let my kids eat that shit for lunch.