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25 August 2014 @ 12:29 am
LJ Idol Season Nine: "Sideways Inspiration"  
Sideways Inspiration
lj idol season nine | week 19 | 630 words


Even in high school, I was a fan of male/male slash fiction. This was before the Internet, so the offerings amounted to occasional gay novels bought in bookstores. "The Fancy Dancer," with its secret affair between a priest and a local Native American man had some clichés, but wasn't bad. "The Front Runner," by the same author, developed a surprising second purpose completely unrelated to its appeal as erotica.

I went to college in Eugene, and I was an on-again/off-again runner during those years. The "off" season was winter, because of its frequent, heavy rains. Nowadays, running in the rain isn't pleasant, but it won't kill you and then it's over. In college, things were different. I didn't own a blow-dryer, the nearest clothes-dryer was at a distant Laundromat, and my rented house was like most student housing and had no central heating. If you got drenched while running, you'd stay wet for hours, and it could be a week before your shoes dried—possibly after sprouting a mildew colony or two.

When the rainy season started, running went on hiatus until the spring. Once the weather turned promising again, "The Front Runner" was what I used to find my motivation.

The story features a middle-aged running coach who works at a small college and falls in love with one of his students. The coach is also a runner, and the book is filled with descriptions of crisp, morning workout sessions and athletes breezing through practice-sets of 5-minute miles. The team members who specialize in the longer 5K and 10K races eat warm-up miles for breakfast, and the coach himself runs for hours, going in and out of Zen-like hypnosis as he tries to distract himself from his feelings for that one special student.

Every year, spring returned to Eugene and within a week or two I'd get that urge to take up running again. I'll go tomorrow or the day after, I always thought, and I'd get out "The Front Runner" and start reading in preparation. About two or three chapters in, I'd find myself thinking, It's all so simple—all you need is determination! Forget tomorrow—I'm going now. I'd change my clothes and lace up my shoes and be off.

The reality was never anything like the fantasy of ease the book portrayed, but it was a return to a familiar habit and that first outing always carried me through the season.

After college, I lived in Illinois for three years, where the snowed-in winters guaranteed my status as a sporadic runner. The book helped me start back up again each spring (though I learned that without the dance classes I'd taken all through college, my feet were no longer prepared to go right from moderate indoor-use to blocks and blocks of pounding the pavement).

When I moved to Sacramento, I found a climate where I could run year-round. I have my own clothes-dryer, and the winters are much drier (in fact, the cold weather is my favorite running season). I've only had to stop and start running a few times, during both pregnancies and then after a terrible bout of plantar fasciitis. Maintaining basic running is much easier and simpler than having to fire everything up again year after year.

I'm not even sure I still have that book anymore, since I no longer need my Magic Motivator to kick things off every spring.

But if I were to find a copy and start reading it tomorrow, I have no doubt that I'd get about two or three chapters in and find myself under its influence all over again:

You know, four miles is kind of a puny effort, hardly anything at all. You should really start working your way back up to doing five!


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Donnellejexia on August 25th, 2014 10:43 am (UTC)
I enjoyed this, thanks! Happy for some proof-reading?
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 25th, 2014 05:03 pm (UTC)
Are there things that need proof-reading? I thought I'd caught them all!
(no subject) - jexia on August 25th, 2014 06:48 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on August 25th, 2014 06:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - jexia on August 25th, 2014 07:25 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on August 25th, 2014 07:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
ecosopherecosopher on August 25th, 2014 12:03 pm (UTC)
I love that the book had a dual purpose :) And I hear you on the running thing. It was something I began in primary school, and then carried on with through high school and uni and afterwards. Having the children kind of did a number on me for a while there, but I'm back now, and it's awesome.

It made me smile that the male/male fiction you wanted to read was only in books--how the internet has changed all that, now!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 25th, 2014 05:33 pm (UTC)
It's funny that I now live in a place where maintaining running in the _summer_ is the bigger challenge-- because it's so freakin' hot here! But stopping and starting is, overall, doing things the hard way.

how the internet has changed all that, now!
I actually had to go back to see if blowdryers were even a 'thing' when I was in college, or whether I was just incompetent at using them on curly hair and thus didn't have one. It was the latter thing. ;)

This is what happens when you're a dinosaur... :D

Edited at 2014-08-25 06:38 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - ecosopher on August 26th, 2014 12:31 pm (UTC) (Expand)
adoptedwriteradoptedwriter on August 25th, 2014 02:52 pm (UTC)
I've had books and movies attract me for one reason and motivate me to something else! I love being able to bring back old hobbies and interests!

The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 25th, 2014 05:42 pm (UTC)
Thinking about it, the environment of that book is one where a "runner's high" is a regular thing. I used to mutter a lot about why that never happened to ME when I ran, but it's not so much a euphoria as a feeling that you can run forever, as if it's effortless. Which is what would kick me out the door every time-- Yes! It can be done! It's all so easy!

The runner's high didn't become really evident until I went up to 4 miles instead of 2 1/2 to 3, and it was even more obvious at 5. At five miles, the "crappy" part at the start of the run is only about the first half mile and the crappy part at the end is only the last mile. Over 3 or 4 miles, it's the first and last mile-- which leaves you a lot less of the good middle!
bleodsweanbleodswean on August 25th, 2014 05:31 pm (UTC)
This is a really well written examination of inspiration! Although running as an enjoyable pastime will confuddle me for ever. ;)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 25th, 2014 05:46 pm (UTC)
If you do it regularly, and you get enough distance (this turns out to be key), you can get to at least like it. A tiny part of the brain is on obstacle-avoidance mode, and the other half is woolgathering into oblivion. Or listening to Nightvale, as I often am now. ;)

I still prefer cycling, but that year of plantar fasciitis where I could not run? I had to stop reading running magazines at the gym, and at times I'd see other people out running and feel like a dog with his nose pressed up against the window watching all the other dogs frolicing outside and chasing squirrels or eating ice cream. It was bad.
(no subject) - bleodswean on August 25th, 2014 05:48 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on August 25th, 2014 06:30 pm (UTC) (Expand)
cindytsuki_no_bara on August 25th, 2014 11:35 pm (UTC)
i love that the end result of this m/m erotica was to get you running. heee. probably not what the publisher intended.... (altho the author might have been pleased.) i have no stamina and prefer to walk, but there's something about the way people talk about running that makes it sound really attractive as exercise.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 25th, 2014 11:53 pm (UTC)
It makes for a really good workout, and doesn't require a trip to the gym or a lot of special equipment, which is nice. NOT being able to do it, for that whole year of foot-recovery, was really maddening. Wow.

But walking is also good exercise, and very simple and sustainable. Plus, you've got a great city to see lots of. :D
shimmerdreamshimmerdream on August 26th, 2014 12:01 am (UTC)
I've never understood the enjoyment of running. Walking briskly? Yes. Ice skating? Love it. But I've never experienced the whole "exercise high". But I did really enjoy this entry.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 26th, 2014 12:50 am (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed this. :D

Did you ever run longer distances? Like 3+ miles on a regular basis? If you don't build up a running 'base' (and one that develops stamina), then it's just obnoxious every time. I remember the "running the mile" days in jr. high, that I _hated_. I was lousy at running back then-- the trick was to run more slowly, at a pace that worked for me.

Ice skating! I wish I'd been good at that, but I could not spin or even skate backwards very well...
Direst Ryl: Saving Livesryl on August 26th, 2014 12:23 am (UTC)
Inspiration can be found in the strangest places, no? Every time I read Mercedes Lackey's The Black Swan, I have to pick up my cross-stitching and start working on it. Just reading about embroidery makes me want to do it.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 26th, 2014 12:56 am (UTC)
Have you ever read Patricia McKillip's "The Tower At Stony Wood"? There is a lot of embroidery in it (and a gorgeous cover by Kinuko Craft--example here).

I can understand why that would motivate you! I used to embroider, and reading that McKillip book always makes me think I should take it up again...
(no subject) - ryl on August 26th, 2014 01:07 am (UTC) (Expand)
Rebeccabeeker121 on August 26th, 2014 05:18 pm (UTC)
I relate to this; it's only in the last few years that I've managed to run through the winter (even though in the Bay Area the weather certainly isn't that harsh), and after stopping for a while the restart is always the hardest part.

I'm tempted to go and look for this book.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 26th, 2014 05:32 pm (UTC)
Ah, the Bay Area! For running, that's just about perfect year-round. it's not TOO rainy in the winter (probably about the same as Sacrament), and it's rarely a blast-furnace in the summer as it is here.

It's definitely easier if you never stop. You don't have to build up the miles again, or deal so much with blisters, and you're more in touch with your personal 'pace.' That used to be one of my downfalls-- running too fast, and then burning out early.

The book has some pr0n in it, but you can skip over that if it bothers you. To get all fired up for running, I'm not kidding-- I've never made it past chapter 2-3 before I'm ready to go out _now_. It's impressive!
(no subject) - beeker121 on August 26th, 2014 05:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Laura, aka "Ro Arwen": White Sneakersroina_arwen on August 26th, 2014 08:31 pm (UTC)
I've never been a runner, but I certainly appreciate the information and the source of inspiration!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 26th, 2014 11:01 pm (UTC)
Running isn't for everyone, but that book sure makes you think that everyone could do it! Whether or not that's actually true... :D
Jennkickthehobbit on August 26th, 2014 10:57 pm (UTC)
I have to say, as someone who lives in Oregon, I loved this. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 26th, 2014 11:04 pm (UTC)
:D Have you lived in a place without central heating yourself? These tend to be rental houses built in the 20's to 40's, where the heat was a fireplace or woodstove. The place I was thinking of above? Had a fireplace, but when the elderly landlady decided to convert the attic to another apartment and put in a woodstove (on the same chimney!), that meant the downstairs fireplace could not be used anymore. D'OH! It was news to her, too.

The drenching issue... sometimes, space heaters just don't cut it. :O

(no subject) - kickthehobbit on August 27th, 2014 03:24 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on August 27th, 2014 03:52 am (UTC) (Expand)
uncawes on August 26th, 2014 11:55 pm (UTC)
At least you didn't mention "fun runs" - my body insists that's an oxymoron :)
My late BIL used to run every day when he lived in the UK. Didn't matter the weather, he'd be out pounding the pavement, while the locals made comments about the crazy Aussie doctor.

All that aside, nicely told.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 27th, 2014 12:16 am (UTC)
I tell you, having the ability to dry things out (including yourself) and warm up makes all the difference. My sister once persuaded me to go running on a rainy day around Christmastime in Eugene, with the logic that, "At least you won't overheat." (which is a problem for all the women in my family)

Who could argue with that? I imagine your BIL was incredibly grateful to be out of the Australian heat. :D
tonithegreattonithegreat on August 27th, 2014 03:27 am (UTC)
This was such an enjoyable read! Makes me want to lace my running shoes up.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 27th, 2014 03:53 am (UTC)
Yay! That's how the book makes me feel-- as if endless running is possible, for miles and miles. :D
Elizabethwatching_ships on August 27th, 2014 03:33 am (UTC)
really enjoyed this! i don't have any particular affinity for running, but the power of the written work to make something SOUND appealing is amazing :) great job.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 27th, 2014 05:18 am (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it! I always wondered, with that book, if it was driven by something beyond mere research, such as the author's own experience with running. It makes you believe that almost anyone can do it.
Jemima Paulerjem0000000 on August 27th, 2014 07:38 am (UTC)
Books always seem to be so much more optimistic than reality is. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 27th, 2014 06:03 pm (UTC)
Especially one that's most written from the perspective of a runner's high rather than slog-slog-slog. :D
Every Day Above Groundmallorys_camera on August 27th, 2014 03:03 pm (UTC)
I love that your running career was inspired by your passion for slash fiction. :-)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 27th, 2014 06:04 pm (UTC)
I had run before, but darned if the motivation to pick it up again after a break wasn't lacking before I found that book!

Thanks for reading. :D