Nanowrimo and Marathons…

This weekend, my husband is running his third marathon. I know. I do three miles and consider myself a rockstar, but it’s all relative, I guess. Anyway, it got me thinking about his FIRST one, way back in 2004, which was also in November. I was writing Just Listen at the time and REALLY struggling, and seeing all these runners put themselves to the ultimate test was a huge inspiration to me, just when I really needed it.

I also know a lot of people are doing Nanowrimo right now. I have not ever done it myself, but I always love this month of people writing novels, because I know it’s not just me banging my head against the wall (or keyboard, or whatever) at least for a few weeks. Comfort in numbers, and all that. Anyway, I figured I’d go back to my old blog over at Livejournal and find the entry I wrote, way back then. If you’re stuck, or struggling, maybe it will help. Also helpful, just so you know: chocolate and therapy. Works for me!

Okay, here it is. Remember it’s a few years old, hence the dated pop culture references. Also: yes, I watched Starting Over and LOVED it. Truth!

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I try not to write too much about my husband here, other than the occasional random comment or remark. Mostly this is because he is a private person, and would never have an online journal (he doesn’t even read this one, actually) and I try to respect that. When people ask about him, as they inevitably do now and then, I just say that he isn’t like me, has no desire to tell the world about his addiction to Starting Over or the O.C. or his shopping problems or whatever.

But. Every now and then, I feel it’s okay to tell you something, as I do today, and that is this: this weekend, in Richmond, VA, my husband ran his very first marathon. He’s been training for over a year, and he really just wanted to finish, preferably under four hours. He came in at 3:50:24. It was so freaking exciting I can’t even tell you. And the best part was that I got to be there.

My job, during the marathon, was to function as both cheerleader (which meant standing at various points along the race, jumping up and down with this little clacker thing they gave me, which was very loud, clackety-clackety-clack, much better than clapping constantly) and supplier (which meant handing off bananas, water, etc, as he passed by at various mileposts). When we were planning all this, I figured I was all set: I had directions from the marathon organizers to three different mile marker places, complete with parking instructions. No problem. Yeah, right.

I am the first to admit I am navigationally challenged. I can get lost on my own street. But: these directions were NOT very good. I think maybe they were for people who, I don’t know, live in Richmond, and therefore could figure out that when they said to take a certain Parkway going East, but only North and South were actually available, which way to go. I found myself driving around Richmond for four straight hours, racing from one place to another, dodging fender benders, pedestrians, and blocked off streets. It was like extreme navigation. (And, irony of ironies, my own nav system was of no use, because so many roads were closed. Of course!) Plus, I was by myself, so I had no one to turn to and say, “Oh, $%#@&*! This can’t be the right road, can it?” Instead, it was just me, alternately cursing and on the verge of tears, tearing around a city I didn’t know. Clackety-clackety-clack.

It WAS great to see the marathon, though. I missed my husband at the first stop (&^%$#!) due to traffic, but caught him at the second, if just barely. (I also dropped one of his water bottles in the road, and it got run over, oops.) By the third, I’d wised up and realized that trying to go to where everyone ELSE was waiting for the runners was making things so much more difficult, so instead I just parked in this vacant lot, jumped a guardrail, and walked across the road to stand by myself and wait. So there I was, right before this big bridge and mile twenty, in the whipping cold, with my clacker (clackety clackety!), a one-girl cheering section. At the first couple of stops, people had seemed in good spirits. By now, you could see it was getting harder. Not so many smiles, plus it was freezing, and they were about to go over this long, cold bridge where the wind was going to be even stronger.

Standing there, waiting for my husband, I kept watching all these people go by, and I was clapping and clacking and trying to cheer them on, but feeling like it was slightly pathetic, since it was just me, and I couldn’t make all that much noise. But then I really started to think about it. I mean, I’ve never run a marathon (I don’t think I’ve ever run one mile, much less 26.2) but I have had times in my life when I’ve been facing something really hard that I’m not sure I can do. Like, I don’t know, writing a book on a deadline with a movie coming out and more pressure than I’ve ever felt in my life? And at that time, or times like that, just having one person believe in me maybe a little bit more than I did in myself at that moment often made all the difference in the world. So as I thought this, I started cheering louder. Alone, in the cold, on an overpass. “Keep it up!” I yelled, “You’re looking good, keep going!” A couple of people smiled and waved, so I kept going, shouting out everything I always wish I could hear when I’m up here in front of the screen, struggling: “You can do it, don’t quit!” “Great job!” I was making a total spectacle of myself, but people seemed to be responding, so I kept at it, jumping up and down, yelling. “Keep the faith!” I yelled, and just then, this man who was struggling past looked at me and said, “Thank you.” And then he kept going, up up up to the bridge. And I forgot, temporarily, about all the traffic crap and the cold and the frustrations of the day and just cheered for him even more. It was a nice moment. Clackety-clack.

The finish line was the best. Seeing all those people crossing, some smiling, some crying, overcome with emotion….it was really great. Wouldn’t it be great if, whenever you completed some big goal, you had a crowd of people there at that exact moment, cheering wildly? You can’t beat it. You really can’t.
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You know what? It’s all still true, too. Even as I sit here today, working on book ELEVEN, and watch the blinking cursor, feeling slightly panicked. Keep the faith. You can do it. Clackety-clack.

Have a good day everyone!