Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On Running up Mother

Don't worry, the post title will make sense eventually. I promise. :)

Back in high school, our track and cross country coach had a saying: "The longest distance you will ever run is the one between your ears." What he meant, of course, is that no matter how hard it is to run any particular race, the mental battle is the hardest part.

When he laid out our cross country course, Coach Cohen made sure it reflected that. Every part of the course carried its own particular mental challenge--from the start that took us right up a pavement hill to the finish that tricked hasty runners into a final all-out sprint half a mile from the finish line--but none of them were quite as painful as Mother.

Mother was a trail named for who knows what reason. Our course was filled with trails like that, from Ice Cream to JV, but I always tended to imagine that Mother got its name from the first half of the vulgar, instinctive reaction of the runners who first encountered it. The trail came about two thirds of the way through the three mile course and it started out easily enough. Just a short, mildly difficult incline that you had to run up before you reached a slight turn to the left. A lot of runners, especially those who hadn't run the course before, would sprint up that first little hill and make that turn, fully believing they would have no trouble reaching the top.

The turn was the trick you see. No sooner did you make that turn than a monster confronted you. It was a sharp, long incline that seemed to stretch on forever, and you could see every painful inch of it the moment you made the turn. I remember more than one competitor coming to nearly a dead halt the instant they were confronted with that sight, and I have to admit that I often looked forward to blasting past runners who had so overconfidently sprinted past me a moment ago. It was the ultimate test of your endurance and mental fortitude, and I think I will remember running it the rest of my life.

At this point in my writing career, I think I'm running up Mother all over again. I've made it a pretty decent part of the way through the set up phase. I've got three different novels, and I've set up a writing schedule that will let me get two more done by the end of the year. I know I write well, and I am excited to start breaking into the finish. At the same time, I've turned the corner and realized that it's still going to be a long haul until I start seeing profit and benefit from it all. It's daunting to think of everything I have left to do, and it makes me wonder if the Lord will help me last that long.

At the same time, though, Mother's the wrong time to decide to quit. The best thing I can do is push harder, make it to the top and keep going. Otherwise it'll all have been for nothing, and I'll have to watch some other dirtbag sprint by me as I putter around the trail. So, head down, arms pump, time to hit it hard. Cause, if there's one thing I learned from cross country, it's how to make it up a hill.

This has been your regularly scheduled philosophical rant. More interesting posts will return Friday. See ya!

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