My Own Private 30K (The Run Diary #6)

This is part of a diary I’m keeping on this blog about long-distance running, which I’m calling The Run Diary. All pieces can be read here. The group I run with is called Tribe Fitness and they are absolutely incredible. Check out their Facebook page.

My Around the Bay shoes.

1. You Got This

The night before the 2014 Around the Bay Road Race (ATB), which would be my first time running this race and covering a distance of thirty kilometres, I laced the timing chip to my shoe. Unlike other races, where your chip is attached to the bib that you pin to your shirt, ATB provides a chip through which you weave your laces. This requires that you unlace your shoes, place the chip flat on the throat of your shoe, and relace the shoe, running the laces through the chip.

I noticed that my shoes were worn down. Holes were visible in the fabric near the toe and around the sides. This wasn’t a major issue. The sole of both shoes remained firmly attached, but showed signs of wear and tear. Because I’m a writer, however, everything is a symbol of something and an invitation to reflection on something else.

I never counted the distance these shoes covered, but however many miles it’s been since I first laced them up, that distance includes navigating the Louvre and the halls of Versailles, roaming the grounds of Westminster Abbey, and climbing to the top of the Belfry in Bruges. They also included my first 10K race, my first half-marathon, and as of this writing, the 2014 ATB.

Truth be told, they had overstayed their welcome and would need to be replaced after ATB. I thought about how they survived training right through one of the harshest winters I’d known in my lifetime and figured that like a shopworn fighter, they would give me one more run.

I wove the chip into the right shoe and sent a picture to a friend to ask if I had done it right. I had an extreme case of apprehension that I would do it wrong and somehow my time wouldn’t register at the race. Then I would be considered as not having completed it after months of training and dragging my sorry ass up Valley Inn Hill. She said it was fine.

This type of anxiety is essentially part of my ritual before any event for which I’d long been awaiting. I contemplate all the things that might spoil the occasion. As we stood in the First Ontario Centre the next morning before making our way to the start line, I pondered trivialities out loud. Should I tuck my shirt in for the race? Am I wearing enough layers? Are these socks good? Do I have enough fuel? As if I could change any of these things at this point. With calm and compassion rather than the backhand slap that I probably deserved for all this neuroticism, my fellow runners all affirmed, “You’re fine. You got this. You’re going to do great.”

I suppose this anxiety can’t help but be present, but one thing that I’ve come to adore about running is that it vanishes immediately as I take off. As I run, imperfections never spoil the journey. A little cramping, soreness, or overheating are par for the course and I always find a way to continue. If I’m wearing a bit too much clothing, perhaps a hat or pair of gloves that becomes unnecessary, I tuck them into my fuel belt and continue. I never find this the least bit inconvenient. If I’m running, the desire to continue is so much more powerful than any minor imperfection. Discomfort is something I have learned to power through.

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How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired (Not an Advice Column, but a Book Review)

One of the primary components of satire is perhaps a little bit of blasphemy, or at least a healthy degree of ridicule, directed at those things we hold sacred. Whether it’s the family, politicians, religion, culture, etc., much good satire illuminates the more farcical elements of those things that we consider so urgently serious and plays them for laughs.

Race and sexuality, as well as the intersection between the two, is one of those things that we’ve come to consider with urgent seriousness. We probably should. A history of miscegenation laws and lynching in the United States, and here in Canada the consistent targeting of Aboriginal women for rape and violence, just to name two examples, invites scholars as well as us laymen to consider the oppressive tactics used to associate race with particular characteristics and traits that have over time been employed to fuel both denigration and fantasy.

One doesn’t need to look any further than the world of pornography to see the way in which we’ve loaded certain traits onto race, creating a billion dollar industry based on fetishes stemming from race. In a sense, a significant portion of the industry is built upon stereotyping, employing it to craft fantasy and in many cases generalize and denigrate one’s sexuality and race at the same time. In a reflection on race in the porn industry, Wendi Muse writes,

For the most part, however, despite the inclusion of porn uploaded from other parts of the world, racism was rampant in terms of stereotyping and essentialization. In accounting for the hundreds of hung black stallions, bored and docile white MILFs, barely legal, small-chested Asian “girls,” and desperate, sex-hungry Latinas longing for citizenship, I couldn’t help but wonder: if we rid ourselves of race, would porn like this exist? What would we even call racism at that point?

Such are the fusions of race and sexuality that we have consumed, enjoyed, and in many cases internalized, perhaps coming to believe such things about ourselves and in a culture so drenched in these images and ideas, not necessarily limited to hardcore pornography, this becomes the lens through which we view others, reducing individuals to their assigned stereotypes. The consequences are certainly serious and a more serious dialogue concerning racial and sexual stereotypes is not at all a bad thing.

These same notions of race and sexuality are the objects of interest for Dany Laferrière’s wonderfully titled “How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired.” The novel finds its satirical prowess in taking up the question of race and sexuality and pushing it to its absurd and comical consequences.

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