I continue thinking about this blog post, on the blog of author Susan Henderson (whose novel, Up from the Blue, is making its way towards me as I write). The post is about when you can call yourself a writer, and the guest blogger (a literary agent) says the answer depends. In private, you should call yourself a writer right now. (Unless, of course, you have no writerly aspirations, because then it'd just be silly to look yourself in the mirror and say "I am a writer.") This is a way, of course, to convince yourself to be what you aspire to be. If you're in public, though, you're on your own, because if you claim the Writer title, someone will ask you what you write. "Blog posts" isn't a great answer, especially if your blog is read by approximately seven dedicated readers. Of course, I want to be able to call myself a writer in public, but obviously I cannot yet, since none of my writing is published. That would be when I could claim the title: when I have a published book.
I'm not sure when that will be, but after today I do know a title I am no longer sheepish in using: runner. (If you are right now rolling your eyes and thinking "really, Amy? another blog about running?" then you should take comfort in the fact that my race is a week from today. I'm thinking about running a lot because I'm, well, running a lot!) I needed to fit in one last long run today, and I was shooting for an hour and fifty minutes. (Counting time instead of miles because I was running in the canyon, where the mile markers are iffy and random.) The weather man'd said yesterday that today would be stormy, but not until this afternoon, so I felt safe in sleeping in until a luxurious 9:00, and then starting my run.
About two miles up the canyon, though, it started to drizzle. I thought it would clear up (still trusting that weather man) but it didn't really matter: I had to get my one hundred and ten minutes in, so I kept going. At first, the rain was refreshing, but as I worked my way up the canyon, it started to get worse. I looked up at the cliffs and had to stop, the storm was so beautiful: snow at the heights, warming to rain as it fell. Then I kept going, up a road I was determined to get to the end of. And I did, but when I turned around, I discovered I was running into the storm: a fierce, howling wind flinging the rain at my face, turning it into watery pellets and then, for a good ten minutes, shifting to hail.
A few cars drove past and part of me wished one would stop and offer to drive me back to my car, but I would have turned them down anyway—I still needed those miles. It wasn't as painful when I got off the road and back onto the trail, but the rain never let up. I felt like I was competing in a surreal biatholon, swimming and running combined. I wasn't just damp, I was soaked, all my spandex layers glued to me. It felt, in fact, like running in a wet suit, only I highly regretted my white running shirt, white sports bra combo. (Running should never feel like a wet t-shirt contest, but today? Yeah. A little bit, it did. At least my sports bra is padded.)
There were a few bikers on the trail, their backs muddy, water flinging from their wheels, but only one other runner. I passed him when I had about three miles left, and when I got to his shoulder he gave me a thumbs up. "You and I are hardcore, badassed runners!" he shouted at me, and I raised my fist in victory.
Maybe I continue to be not-very-fast, and to not be as dedicated to training as other runners. Maybe I'm too lazy to pull my butt out of bed for early morning runs. But running elevenish miles in the rain? That made me feel like a real runner. It made me think of a stanza from a Sharon Olds poem which is not about running: "I have wanted some epic use for my excellent body,/some heroism, some American achievement/beyond the ordinary for my extraordinary self,/magnetic and tensile." It made me feel heroic, a little, and as if I had achieved something extraordinary, as if I were tough, as if I really were a badass. It gave me the ability to say (if only for today), to claim my title:
I am a runner.