Now that’s just stupid.
Volcanoes are there. I don’t jump into them. Liver is there. I don’t eat it. Marathons are there. I don’t run them. Oh, wait . . .
My husband is a marathoner and a wicked-good one too, for a layman. His best time running the St. George Marathon is 2 hours and 49 minutes. I think that is mental. I used to ask him why in the name of St. Sebastian's Achilles tendon he wanted to murder himself like that. He said, in Mallory-esque fashion: “I need to know I can do it.”
My first response to that was, Dude. If your self-esteem is so bad you have to run 26.2 miles in less time than it takes me to eat a brownie sundae, you need a lot more than a marathon.
My second response was, Hmm. Wonder if I could do that. So I tried it. And holy hop-along, did it try me. Understand: I am not a runner. I do not love it. I am a dancer—or was in a former life. I get practicing until your feet bleed, and feeling music and movement flooding every cell of every muscle until you can’t not move. I do not get the unbearable monotony of pounding the same foot-pattern over and over again until your brain falls out, your chronometer beeps, and you say, “all done.” But, I signed up for the St. George and paid the entrance fee anyway.
Then came the pain. I got up at 5 in the morning and ran when my youngest had been up half the night with an ear infection. I ran at 12 in the afternoon in 102-degree heat when the getting up didn't happen. I ran in the rain, in the mud, up a canyon so full of snakes that I had to leap like a hurdler to avoid the diamond-backs in my path. I trained behind hordes of better runners, being dragged along by a patient husband, and wondering what I was doing it for. It became an obsession that had to be finished no matter what. My goals melted down and unified into one: Just cross the finish line before the little dude who picks up the orange cones. And you know what? I succeeded. Never even saw the guy.
My experience was brutal, fabulous, and life changing. I hated it. I loved it. I learned that I can do hard things and finish impossible tasks. I can climb mountains--even when there is no mariachi band following me pounding out a samba. Even when George Mallory is not running along chanting “It’s there! It’s there!” Even when I’ve pushed myself so far past my own bounds that technique has dissolved and all I have left is heart.
Writing a novel is pretty much like this. People everywhere to help you along your way. Technique fading out until you’re just writing with heart. A constant questioning of your sanity, but a determination to finish. Just like running a marathon. George Mallory would approve.