“You are allowed to stop researching and start experimenting.”
I love a challenge. When I see a problem, or a goal, I want to solve it, or meet it. I don’t want to wonder “what if.” I want to SEE what if.
Once upon a time, Oprah Winfrey trained for and ran the Marine Corps Marathon, which I will be doing this October, 20 years after Oprah did. Some say Oprah ruined the marathon because suddenly just anybody thought they could do it. According to Salon, inspiring others to believe they can overcome something as daunting as the marathon counts as ruining it. I say fuck you, Salon. Okay not Salon entirely, but fuck you, Edward McClellan. You know who you sound like? This asshole. The marathon bar was not set by the Boston Marathon qualifying times, nor was it lowered by Oprah’s time. The Boston Marathon qualifying times were set in the late 1960’s, over 60 years since the Boston Marathon began, by more and more people wanting to prove to themselves they can run the marathon. 25-30 years later, Oprah was simply the highest profile person to do that.
And guess what? We may be producing slower runners than the rest of the world, but we are producing more runners. People that never would have laced up in the first place, people that would have waved off running as “not for me” and gone on slaving away on the elliptical working out only because they have to, not for personal proof of ability. Not for a sense of achievement.
26.2 miles are 26.2 miles. When Oprah ran the marathon, she didn’t shorten the distance. She just made Edward McClellan feel less special.
And Oprah was like “LOLSORRYNOTSORRYBRO.”
If you live your life the way other people want you to do, avoid the things other people tell you you’re not good enough for, you’re part of the problem, not the solution.
INTIMIDATION, FEAR, and HABITS
So I’m sitting here thinking about a conference I went to yesterday (or, an “unconference,” but the lack of structure and organization that it celebrated in its advertising turned out to be the most frustrating thing I took away from it), and about all the blogging best practices I’ve learned from my Communications work at Hopkins, and there I was yesterday with some very intelligent scholars, academics, researchers, many of whom were challenged when it came to the question of how to tell stories. I heard some things thrown around about blogs that I didn’t process til now — yesterday I couldn’t understand why I didn’t understand what was being said about blogs and storytelling, and today I realize why. When one is not a regular blogger or storyteller, it would go to assume that one would have a completely different perspective on the use of blogs, a different definition of storytelling, than someone like myself might.
Which leads me to being a big old hypocrite. Have I even blogged this month? I have many stories to tell you, the running community, about how I’ve been dealing with time off from running because of injury, much content on the subject of downtime during injury to share with you that I could add my original thoughts on, and I even, at the basest content I use my blog for, ran a race I can review for you… all things I have avoided.
Because when one isn’t blogging regularly, as I got out of the habit of doing, one forgets how to blog well. When one isn’t running regularly, in training mode, one starts to doubt ones own ability to get back into it. It’s scary, now that my ankle is healing, to lace up and get back out there and see I may have regressed a bit.
STRETCHING YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Yesterday I was a bit intimidated by the unfamiliarity of the topic at hand and its nebulous definition, by the loss of what I expected to be discussed and grappled with, feeling as though it were my own incompetence on the topic to blame for my not getting much out of the day. Today I’m realizing it was that self-consciousness that inhibited me from being able to add the perspective I do have, one of a writer, storyteller, and communicator, both personally and professionally, articulately.
As I thought about that I realized how proud of myself I was for going in the first place. The topic was the field of the digital humanities, something that I vaguely understand and understand enough to see how DH projects can be quite useful to communications professionals, so I went wanting to learn more. Many of the people there had been familiar with DH for quite a while and yet the concept remained nebulous within the walls of the discussion that occurred. Even those leading seemed to forget the “humanist” aspect of “digital humanities” and much focused on the “digital.”
Wait, Nevie, why are you talking about this on your running blog?
Not having run in a few weeks has taken its toll on me for sure. I’m in the last two weeks of my semester for grad school, more self-conscious about so many things than I’ve been since I began running.
And yet, it doesn’t take as long to build that confidence back up without having to tear anything else down. If nothing else, feeling self conscious yesterday in a room full of people who knew a lot more about what we were talking about than I did left me wondering if other people thought I was dumb, but worried for not even a second that I actually am dumb. Then came this:
“There was a split second when I just went, ‘oh, I should step out of this. I’m not welcome.’ then I thought, oh no no… if I step out of the race, even if I’m unwelcome, everybody is going to say, ‘see? Women are always barging into places where they’re not welcome, and they can’t do it anyway.'” -Katherine Switzer, the first woman to ever run (and finish) the Boston Marathon
I showed up. I came to learn, and while it wasn’t what I expected to learn, I learned. Some things I already knew and twisted and fidgeted in my seat trying to be patient for the sessions I was interested in learning more about. It finally came at the tail end of the day, when a practical example of a DH project showed up on the screen and my brain burst open with ideas.
You can patiently train, sometimes in frustration, for months and months and then finally hit race day, beat your PR and feel the world is at your feet. Or something unexpected happens, the lessons aren’t what you expect, you sprain your ankle doing something silly like one wrong step off a curb, and you’ve got to figure out what to make of it. And sometimes, that moment, when you’re not going to get to do what you expected to be able to do, is the moment when all the opportunity opens up.
I can be an impatient person. When I see a problem I want to solve it. When I don’t understand something, I sometimes can be like my dad’s dog Dopey who continually bashed his head into the boards of his backyard fence until one came loose and he could escape to run the neighborhood wild and free. When I don’t see progress, I assume it’s not there and I figuratively and sometimes literally stamp my foot in impatience. When it comes to work, work is work. It’s not always fun, it doesn’t always feel rewarding. Sometimes the reward itself leads to more and more work, like when your brain explodes with ideas for projects or when you cross the finish line of a half-marathon and think – what next? Faster half-marathon? Longer distance?
So shut up, Edward McClellan’s of the world. If someone else accomplishing the same distance, the same degree as you makes you feel less special, quit whining and run an ultra, or find out why you feel you need to feel more special than someone else. And hey folks similar to myself, future Oprahs, just because we might be queens of daytime TV, the 5K distance, or whatever our area of expertise, doesn’t mean we can’t scare ourselves a little, try and commit to a new hobby, open a book on something new, step up to a 10K.
Be not afraid of going slowly; be afraid only of standing still. -Chinese Proverb