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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