A (Sort of) Marathon
It’s 2 o’clock on a Wednesday and I find myself rounding a familiar curve which I’ve already run six times today. As I pass I make sure to check out my neighbors garage and note how far he’s come along on his cleaning project — this mile he’s power washed his driveway and looks like he’s headed back in to organize what appears to be kids’ sports gear. At this point I’m about a quarter mile in to my 7th mile of the day. My legs are heavier than they were on mile six and my feet are starting to ache in my bright neon pair of running shoes. It’s a real shame the brightness of your shoes doesn’t correlate to running speed because man, I’d be fast if it did. But, a mile is a mile and I’m already almost done.
As I near the final turn of my seventh mile I find myself wondering, Why they heck am I doing this again?
It all started back in March. I had just returned home from university in the face of a mysterious thing called Covid-19 which was beginning to take hold across the world. With some newfound time between classes and an order to stay indoors, I found myself with a burgeoning youtube addiction and no real reason to fight it. In one of these far-too-long video watching sessions, I clicked on a video titled, “A Mile an Hour- Running a Different Kind of Marathon.”
For the next 17 minutes, I watched a charming but goofy Australian man run one mile, every hour for twenty-four hours in order to complete a marathon in a day (he ran three and some miles to start it off). Between each mile, he filled his 24 hours with all sorts of tasks around the house like building a table, planting trees, picking up trash and (most importantly) simmering some soup in a heavy duty pot over a wood burning fire.
The video was inspiring, invigorating and as Beau would say, pretty cool. But as the video slipped farther down into my YouTube history so did it slip farther into the back of my head.
I can’t tell you what exactly allowed Beau’s video to resurface in my head some months later. Perhaps it was the Groundhog’s day feeling of having been home for 5 months straight, the need for a challenge to get me to write a nagging final paper or just a moment where I lacked the better judgement to keep me from committing to this thing but one August evening I decided I’d try my hand at this weird marathon thing I’d seen on YouTube a few months prior.*
So, there I was on a random Wednesday in August, running my 7th mile of the day with achey legs and slightly-less-neon shoes than when I had started. I didn’t know why I was doing this thing but, just like the video, I was suddenly inspired and invigorated.
In my whole jam-packed day I wrote a pretty alright 12 page essay, called three friends, gave horrible legal advice to a teammate, cleaned my room, packed my bags to return to university, thought a little too much about my future, planned a hike, booked some hotel rooms and enjoyed quality time with family and friends.
I watched a construction team build an entirely new staircase, a man clean out his garage, kids play in their yard, adults take out the trash, workers leaving for their shift, workers returning to their homes after their shift, home improvement projects and many novice tennis players chasing stray balls.
All of this was more than I had actively done in an average work week during quarantine (besides, ya know, work).
Counting every minute and hour of your day and marking it with something like running a mile has a strange way of waking up your system to the unending passage of time. Running and jam packing my day shocked me into the present second, each moment just as important as the last each quickly slipped into the background as the next moment emerged. Instead of focusing on metrics deemed important like efficiency or productivity I began focusing on action, seizing the moment and creating things.
I quite literally, watched the day pass through movement in my neighborhood. The sun’s position slightly different each run, cars parked in new places, new people walking on the streets and houses with newly full trash cans. The world moves and it moves quickly, whether I join in or not.
People love to throw quotes out about “not wasting a second of life” and “seizing the day” but that places an odd pressure on each moment, as if there’s a perfect action or choice for every second and anything else is just, well, the wrong choice. In reality, life is about a series of moments which can be filled in front of a computer screen watching YouTube or out running miles around your block. Each choice might alter your life or, it might not. Maybe it’s not really about wasting moments but about biasing yourself towards actions as often as possible. What I know now, is that choosing a life out in the world full of action (even if it’s just around your block or in your own home) is a heck of a lot more fun than sitting at home watching YouTube. I don’t know what the less wasteful choice is but, I got more out of watching some random dude clean a garage throughout the day than I being stuck at home on my computer for months. Life’s more fun when you’re doing things and not sitting around watching other people do stuff on the internet and I think that’s just a plain fact.
Though, this whole thing did start on YouTube so, who knows if I’ve really learned anything at all.
*I can’t stay up past 10pm without being a total wreck so I opted for a solid half marathon instead, running from 7am to 7pm.