Say Yes - Elliott Smith

Things started to go wrong early. 

I couldn't sleep. Too excited. Too scared. Too many feelings to have for sleeping. Also, I have a cough. I never get sick. I'm from that hearty kind of Eastern European Jewess stock, thick thighs and thicker lungs. I'm like a goat. I eat anything. I stay up too long. I just keep going. And just in time, my newly functional right ass cheek was sore from being used for the first time, apparently, in years. The good news is that the physical therapy is sending me into the land of good health. The bad news is that it's happening on Marathon Day.  Some days you get up and you hit the road and everything feels like a movie. A nice movie in which you are the hero, a gorgeous, muscley, raven-haired hero, each stride a poem of triumph. And that, of course, was not how I woke up for race day.

Me and Ginger made it downtown before dawn, the streets teeming with runners. Every kind of piece of humanity you ever saw. Who are the 25,000 people lining up before the sun to do this strange thing? Some people have done it literally hundreds of times. Some of these folks run 26 miles ONCE A WEEK. There's plenty of folks there like me, nervous and unsure they can make it, knowing the clock is not an issue, that the streets will be closed up on them and the sidewalks will be their red carpets of quiet glamor, the kind of personal glamor called sticking it out. 

I can't believe I even make it to the starting line. There is some dj-ish dude saying kind of dumb things, at some point letting us, the last wave, know that he's saved us a special song to send us on our way. Tony Bennet. Tony Fucking Bennet. Does that say, Eye of the Tiger to you? The runners display an array of facial expressions as the piano beginnings of I Left My Heart In San Francisco swell. I can spot confusion, humor, irritation, disappointment, and just plain rage. What a tool. Turns out he's made a mistake anyhow, and we get one more song. It's my jam. Journey. My eyes pool with tears immediately.

 I'm at the starting line of a goddamn marathon. That first week in December I ran one mile. Just one. And somehow, for months I tacked on hundreds more, never really enjoying it, playing out a battle with my body, my self esteem, my guts. I found ways to meditate, to grow more honest with myself, with my life. I slowly inched toward appreciation of my body, the places it took me, the ways in which it provided me such joy staring wild-eyed across my city having scaled an actual mountain. It brought me to understand despair in new ways, to imagine the loneliness of a falling body to the bay, it brought me new pain that led me to ask for help. The body brought my mind to doctors and to therapists that are helping me to piece back together the damage I've quietly done over years of neglect and misuse. It taught me to see pain as a message and a clue, a big show of sensation and nerve endings, a fireworks display of what's bearable, and what's not going to work. The starting line. I made it. I already won. All except the pesky 26.2 miles ahead. It's feels both life assuring for me to begin this last journey, and totally unimportant at the same time. It feels like getting here has been my tale, that arriving is the actual answer. 

And also, like I said, I know already that it's not going to be pretty.

I take off down the road in the sausage outfit, tears rolling down my face. It's foggy. It's damp. Off to my left I see Ginger for the first time, joined by my friend Grant who rode his bike down to see me off on my journey. Seeing friends will eventually save me, as it always has.  My mind won't settle, my right side feels strange, and while the left heel isn't screaming, it's weighing in its constant dull protest. 

I make it over the huge hill up to the Golden Gate and immediately a woman coming towards me trips and goes down hard, face first, into the road bed. Her ponytail jerks left as her face hits the cement and her long elegant fingers reach helplessly for her careening iphone. It's kind of weird, really, the iphone. But that's what I see, in slow motion really, limbs and fingers and electronics. And it makes the worst sound, her body going down so hard. I feel like it should be louder, like a sound engineer should have jacked it up like for a film, but it's pretty quiet, the air leaving the body, a small smack of skin on road. A groan. The pack keeps me moving, along with shock and fear as she scrambles up again, I think. 

I can't get out of my own way in my mind, six miles in and all my counting tactics are failing. I stay calm. I stay kind. I know things are coming apart. I get to the other side and finally have a chance to pee. I will not regale you with the horror that is the bathroom over there, or the band that would be thrown from a bar mitzvah by a mob of livid semites. They are both equally soul crushing. But not nearly as bad as the feeling that washes over me as I pass the 8 mile mark on the bridge. I see the eight, my lucky number and my right hip just seizes. The whole right side of my body follows and I dig my thumb into it. I dig until something opens enough to let it keep moving, my six hour finish time dissolving on the bridge. I cannot make it like this. Eight miles is usually when I begin to feel good on a long run. Strong and immortal. Slow but capable. But on race day, mile eight is where things are clearly not going to improve.

By the time I make it over the Presidio hill, past Baker Beach, across more hills in Sea Cliff to the avenues, the cops are beginning to pull up the cones and let traffic through. I am still surrounded by a good sized hunk of runners, but the marathon has a contract with the city and cars need to be moving. I understand, but it's kind of a harsh toke for the old spirit. Maybe it's good, I tell myself, to be on the sidewalk like in real life. Just another run. Just another day. 

Golden Gate Park is upon us and my chunk of humanity heads in. Almost everyone, it turns out, is doing the half marathon and right about three hours into this, they retire and I am nearly alone in the park. Even the bison look depressed. My body is over it. I think about cheating. Not as an option so much, but that the possibility exists. That I could. Except I actually can't. Can't live with it. The sign up to the Presidio Hill had a quote from Confucius that said, It does not matter how slowly you go, Only that you do not stop. And so I got right with that way back there, I could go slow. I could take seven and a half hours, and I might. But I would finish. 

The race has been flanked with volunteers decked out in biker leather and pins blanketing the vests, like bad ass Scouts. They dot the side of the route in safety orange hats, reclining easily on their gargantuan Harleys. Northern California bikers that came down to volunteer, help with traffic. Heading into mile 16, I see a trio of them off to my right talking to a person in Levi's and Vans. I see curls kicking out from under a paperboy hat, arms gesturing toward a piece of paper. 

Sam. Sam!!!

She turns and comes toward me, arms thrown into a huge welcome, no care in the world for my sweaty body. 

Sam it's horrible. It hurts so much. Everything is wrong. My right side won't move. My heel is killing me. My lower back is so tired. It's awful. I feel like shit.

She laughs. She laughs more.
Yeah. Yeah.

She is beaming. She is so happy. She wears happiness across her face like a finish line. 
You just ran 16 miles. Of course you feel awful. It's terrible. Nothing is making me feel better than you right now. I love it. You're just doing it. I'm an athlete and I don't want to do this. But you are. You're just doing it. You're having a bad day and you're doing it anyhow. 

We walk. We walk fast but we walk. I am sobbing, telling her my fears. I am afraid my friends and family will think less of me in my bad performance. I am afraid the pain will rob me of my work. I am afraid to feel humiliated, to see people who had come out to cheer for me, standing and waiting too long. I am taking too long. 

The bikers said people are collapsing. You're not. You look great. You look strong. Look, there's Mr. Blue Heron. He came out to cheer you on. And the hawks are out. 

We basically proceed to have a nature walk in which Sam tells me about the animals and the trees in the park. The park goes on for fucking ever. I tell her when we finish Stow Lake, I need to head out on my own. I'm afraid I won't be able to run anymore at all. But I wantch Sam go, and then my legs pick it up. I run. I walk. I run. 

As I'm just about to the 18th mile a pair of bicyclists pass me, The man is saying 

Oh these are just the stragglers.
Unimpressed, she says, 
How long does it take the average person to run a marathon?

And all the love my heart has recaptured, all the courage and willingness turns catty. I feel scarlet rise. And I think,

Honkey, please. 
Average people don't run marathons 
at all. 
And I may be a straggler, 
but I am not 
Just a Straggler. 

I emerge from the park fired up, running dow Haight Street. First just to get out of there as soon as possible, and second, because I hate those people. Those biking mean people. I see my friend Eric on the road. He'd been watching for me. He is also beaming, unconcerned with my slow going. The bottom of the hill welcomes mile 20, and my first crew of cheering dykes. A knot of women going nuts with a french bulldog puppy. I am so happy to see them. I realize I've kind of felt happy the whole time. Even in fear and in discomfort, I've felt happy. 

By this time my heel has upped the ante of its protest from dull to insistent. The skin feels stretched over the bones and as if a small tack is living in there, a mean thing from an elementary school prank. Every step it pricks and yelps. And yet, I feel elated. My people are so amazing, out there in the cold waiting for me. Waiting as long as it takes.

Mile 21 brings another pack of folks, these ones wearing letters that spell out my name. Team Seinberg scrambles to get in the right order and stretch across the road stopping traffic. They go nuts. They go so nuts when they see me that even the people waiting outside a cafe for brunch across the street go nuts too. They even take off and run with me for a block. Because at this point, I am actually still running. I run almost the whole way to Mile 22 where my friends have again built an outpost, lining a corner to cheer for me.

By now we're all crying really. I am so happy. I am so drowned in endorphins and pain. And I think they are happy too. My time is pathetic and nobody cares. Even my pregnant friend has made it her business to haul it out to the course and cheer. I kiss her and her belly. Ginger pulls her truck into a spot after almost getting in an accident to catch up and I almost collapse into her. 

You look great babe! You're doing so great. I love you. You can do it. You're almost there!

Everyone keeps yelling that I'm almost there. Which is true and also seems like a joke. A bad joke. But I love a bad joke. I have four miles to go and they seem impossible. But I go. 

I stop to get water at Mile 23, where a questionable gentleman offers to take my hand in marriage for the third time of the day. Questionable gentleman apparently find me irresistable. So that's something. 

At Mile 24 I am by myself entirely, in the industrial backlands of San Francisco by the water on long 3rd Street right before you get to the ballpark. I see the sign for the 24th mile and I just burst out laughing. It feels so good. My heart feels so full. So enormous, I could love the entire world. I could love BP and the West Bank and the Bush empire. I could love that douche Glenn Beck and his lover Sean Hannity. I could love everything I fear and laugh along as they wish me death. I feel amazing. And my body feels destroyed. But at Mile 24, I finally know, I am going to finish a goddamn marathon. My watch has passed six hours, but not by much. 

I round the ballpark and spit my little carcass into the Embarcadero. I can find almost no signs that a Marathon has been run here. Cups have been swept up, cones are all but a memory on the road, crowds are dispersed and there's no water anywhere. In the distance I can see a bald man coming toward me in the sun that has finally peeked out. I check his gait over and over. 

Is that?
Is that my brother?

It is!!! Steve Seinberg walks toward me and I walk toward him. My running has been reduced to very limited hunks of 64 strides at a time. My brother!!!! He's seen it all. I just want to sob. I want to dance. I want to hit something. But I don't think I can lift my arms. 

We walk together and he ushers me to my mom. She's crying. I'm crying. We cry, me and my mom. We're cryers. My mom. I have never had anything hurt so much that feels so good. At the 26 mile mark I tell Steve

OK. I'm gonna run this bitch.

And I do. I pick up my ruined thighs, I beg my aching ankle full of brand new pains and my poor heel to just soldier on for two small tenths of a mile and they do. They even let me sprint the last few steps over the finish where my dad is beaming. Dad!!!

And that's how it went. It was kind of horrible. I had the worst day of running I've yet had, probably. And the best day of spirit. And I think that's exactly how it was supposed to go for me. I was supposed to just learn that it doesn't have to be perfect. It can be messy and ugly and blundering. You can hurt and groan and make weird faces. There can be bad photos of you and still, your friends will cheer wildly in the cold, your parents will weep with love, your brother will adore you and Ginger will take you home and run you your first of several ice baths. And hours later you will limp to your front door and find Coach Cadwallader there, an enormous bouquet of sunflowers in her arms for you, telling you Congratulations. You did it.

I came in 5907th out of 5980.

And that's just fine. I couldn't be happier, truly.
After months of saying no to everything,
I am ready for the Era of Yes.
Thank you for running with me.
Thank you for
Helping me be a better writer
and a better person. 

Thank you for everything.

Love from a former marathon runner,
Sara Elise.


I Try - Macy Gray

People don't love Rocky because he won. They love him because even though everyone knew Apollo Creed was better, he still tried. He gave it everything. And then after he gave it everything, he dug for more. And so here I go, slathered in silicone lube, bejeweled with rainbow sweatbands, and armed with so so so much love from people. I am off to try. And then dig for more.



The Long and Winding Road - The Beatles

24 hours from now I will be one hour into the marathon . I'll be jogging slowly up the steepest hill  of the race at that point, climbing up up up over Crissy Field to the Golden Gate Bridge. It's such a painful grind getting up there, and such a payoff when you do. San Francisco splays itself out, off to your right like a gorgeous lover on a bed, exhausted from how beautiful everything is. She sports the golden dome of the Palace of Fine Arts winking up, promising you that when all this is over, art will still win. Through budget cuts and sarcasm, through depressions and earthquakes and war, through snarky detractors and through each and every hurdle, art will hurl its golden dome up into the world, proclaiming its resilience and its freedom. Its unquenchable spirit for survival. It has always been here, and here it will stay, not just proving the faith people have even in the most treacherous depths of despair, but also providing it for those still here. People will always paint and sculpt and write and photograph and film and perform and dance and draw and sing. Humanity is built to be moved and to move each other. And straight from the heart of New Jersey, we were also Born to Run. 

Today I don't do any training. I am done. Finished. Complete in that way. I tied a big bow on my work with a brand new route last night down Ocean Avenue in my new neighborhood and back home, ending at my front door. I collapsed on the couch, my head spinning, pouring sweat from my hairline, just three little miles into the thing. About one eighth of the distance. The thing about the little runs is there is no time to settle down. To settle in. To make peace with the project at hand. I spent the last run too excited about Sunday, but what's a girl to do? It will be impossible to understand what I am about to do until there I am. I do not understand what it's like to be with so many people. I have done this, the road part, alone. I don't understand what it is to be witnessed, so slow and awkward next to gazelles. To see my friends, my family, my brother and my parents along side the road, cheering for me in a state of pain and destabilization. To see my beloved Ginger, a heavy camera on her neck, electric albatross capturing all of it as I lumber around such a pretty place, doing the best I can, which promises to be just as painful to watch. I will surely see her and I will feel that familiar excitement about having her back, having my time back, having long lazy days in the yard with her, gardening, reading, all the time laughing. But the race will have me so very stripped down, and already I can feel the nakedness of being seen doing a thing I am not good at. I am not a person with talent in this area, and that's finally, finally, ok. Not comfortable, but ok. 

This whole pilgrimage into the world of the marathon has been so much more profound than I could have imagined. And I don't think I knew I would stick with it after that first mile. I don't think I knew I'd stick with it until today, I guess. How can you know? But here, on my last day before the ribbon, are some things I learned.

1. People are full of love. They want to help and they want you to succeed. Let them be your wave when you are adrift. Let them carry you when you feel exhausted. Your strength will return, and you will get your legs under you again. 

2. You are capable of anything your mind conjures. Your mind is not only your strongest villain, but your most ferocious ally. It will be your guide to everything your life is offering you. And if you let it move aside, it will be a most gracious ambassador to your heart. 

3. Strangers are just like you. When you tell your story, they will hear it, and they will recognize themselves, and they will rise up and share theirs too. Or they will nod at you and you will know. Or they will quietly relate. Or they will never say a word, never once make a motion toward you, but you will have connected and they will take that seed into the world and plant it and other strangers will quietly walk by in the night and water it. And we will have made a forest.

4. Pain is a dull word that stands in for a billion sensations. Just like love. And the two cannot exist without each other, and that's just fine. 

5. Your story matters. Your efforts matter. And if that is fiercely true, then it is also true for all the people you run by every day, even the ones who make vile noises at you and stupid comments. It is true for the people we fear and the people we reject. Everyone's story has to matter. No one was born an asshole. Even the ones who eventually arrive there in such a blaze of glory. And so it matter, at the very least, to honor the grain of truth that humanity is a collection of stories and each one is a little bit what shapes you too. Yes, even that asshole over there whose ass you just kicked. I'm not trying to tell you what to do here, or not to be mad or outraged or disgusted or frantically filled with loathing in any given moment. But that too, is part of your story.

6. In one of my favorite poems, Mary Oliver says, 

"You do not have to be good. 
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting"

She's right.

7. When you think you absolutely have to quit, you don't.

8. When you least expect it, that's when the quitting clobbers you.

9. It is rewarding to live in the body. And here I am speaking directly to women. Do not let the media rob you of your gorgeous body. Your disabled body or your rotund body or your scarred body or your struggling body or your damaged body. This is your home. Do not let the weeds run amuck in the yard or the cobwebs to overtake the corners. This is your instrument of life, you best and most treasured gift, the home of your mind and your heart. To tend them, you must enjoy the home. Stretch. Walk. Dance. Move your arms. Blink. Smell things. Eat what nurtures you. Make an alliance with thing the world would have you turn against and be silent with. I began my first mile truly disgusted with the jiggle and thunk of my heft. Today I am able to thank it, to honor it and be myself. This thing has carried me further than I ever would have imagined, to lovely sights and gorgeous places. I have had the honor of being its student. I never thought I could love a home so imperfect, but it's mine and I do.

10. Tell your story. It's yours and no one can ever take it. Raise your voice. Trust that someone is dying to hear it.

Sara Elise.


Wild Horses - The Rolling Stones

Gus is so sick of my shit. Very early on I took him with me on a run, and neither one of us liked it very much. I like to run alone and he likes to run fast. Since his company offers me no solitude and the leash offers him no freedom, well, what was left to do but part ways? Then he had his knee surgery. That was so terrible, remember? His stoned handsome face, stranded there on the floor, full of regret that none of his jobs were being done. No chews were being chewed, no sticks were being chased, and most importantly, no house was being protected. Now he just waits for me to find some damn time for him. As soon as he sees me change into the sausage outfit, his hopeful tail retreats to a sag and his gaze hits the floor. He trudges off to his bed, walks around and around in circles until it's to his liking, then he plops down with the cutest, most guilt inducing groan you ever did hear. As if to say,


I am doing my best to not look forward to after Sunday. And even with my best, lassoing my cantering mind and hauling it back to the present, I can't help but watch it take off on it's way. It tried to make a tattoo appointment for Monday, a small application of ink that would land on the open pages on the book tattoo I got on the last Sister Spit tour in Olympia, Washington. A ruby sparkles from the open pages on one side, and on the other a fancy "26.2" will face the gem. But my pal Sam can't make it happen monday. So my brain turned to some other reward for the day. And my most relaxing massage therapist doesn't work Mondays. There's not much money left to shop for house things, I already went to the spa this week, so I really have no idea what to do with myself. Maybe I won't be able to move. 

I also like to pack the backpack for after the run in my imagination. Ginger will bring it to me for when I'm done. There will be 3 cans of my favorite organic coconut juice in there, some raw almond butter in a little pouch I can rip open and squeeze out, a dry sweatshirt from Pratt in Brooklyn that I got with my Dad when he took me there and showed me the classrooms where he learned about engineering 50 years ago, and maybe some sweats to pull on. 

I can't stop thinking about any of it, truly. Gallop away mind: Saturdays will be open again, free to roam the world with my hot southern butch, explore the new show at the SF MOMA, go camping for the first time this season, hit estate sales, and cook all the recipes I've been saving up for. I will see my friends again, go back to being a woman who is there for her beloved people, listening to their adventures and woes, their hopes, their big big plans for genius accomplishments. I'll be free to see the pregnant ladies, who've been growing whole new humans while I ran, a nostril at a time, laying in wait for the big wide world. I'll write all the thank you notes I owe people, join the gym and go play tennis, swim, kick things really hard, and go on reasonable length runs. Turns out I really like a 6-8 mile outing. And finally, I'll get back to the beach with Gus. Oh, Gussy, run to the salt water! You'll look downright majestic. 

And I can write my book. 

It's really incredible how much support I've gotten to do this thing. How many folks have just been pure buoyancy for me when I thought I'd sink. But to tell you the truth, I've been trying to write this novel for so much longer. It takes more sustained energy and it happens in the dark corners of aloneness. I find it nearly impossible. It makes the marathon look like a prep course. Writing a book, at least for me, is such a fantastic struggle and such a constant ache. It's a heavy thing to carry around undrawn ideas, to wait for stories to unfold, to coax them and try and find the quiet to listen for answers. The characters set up their little yurts in your mind, squatters in the realm of your imagination begging to be real. Little Pinocchios wanting a shot at the big time. And today, I have to say there's not much payoff waiting. The publishing industry is shredded to tatters, a Stevie Nicks costume of a thing, and on top of that, the presses that do survive are not interested in a book like my book. Magazines are much the same. The ones that might actually pay a bit for me to be a real writer who writes as a job, well, they don't find my voice in line with what they want. I'm a little messy. A little uncouth. And more than a little bit gay. I know gay goes a lot further than it used to, but still, look around. It's too unfulfilling to write in a different style for pay, although I could. But I guess I'd rather just work at Rainbow Grocery, being myself. And yet the book, it demands to be written, and like the marathon, it teaches me in the struggle to do it justice, that I become a better version of myself if I go out there and meet it on the page. Do its bidding because I seem to be here for that reason. Not because it'll ever "pay off". Don't get me wrong, I'd love to be a writer and a photographer as my main life purpose, but regardless, I just keep writing anyhow. For free. Alone. With friends. Paid readings. Quiet poems. Unedited blogs. The words just come. And it's my job to allow that. 

So the thing is that all this time while you have been supporting my run, my hundreds of miles into being a new woman, you have mostly been supporting my spirit to write my story. My Pandora in New York. My Icarus. My Prometheus and Hera. And because of all this help, I know they are going to make it. 

And hopefully on Sunday
So will I.

So much Love,
Sara Elise

Don't Crash the Car Tonight - Mary's Danish

I have been laboring under the delusion that while Ginger vacationed with her family back home in the South, surely to return to me with a thicker accent and the languid pace one acquires from doing stretches of time in humidity, that I would be welcoming her into my loving arms housed in a cottage brimming with the proof of diligent efforts. No. I have spent the week in a pretty constant state of panic and paralysis. Until yesterday, when I believe I returned to a sane state of mind. Course, I'm open to going a little nuts again, because as it turns out, sometimes the mind just does what it does. 

Ok, mind. 
Do your thang, freak.
No parking on the dance floor.

After many butt flexes and core crunches with Kevin, and after the good Dr. Greene cracked the feet, the ankles, the hips, the back, the neck, and everyone seemed to magically dig into terribly tights muscle points, I found myself wrapped in a foot centric ice burrito pulsing with electricity. My torso sported a sleeveless Van Halen t-shirt lifted from Ginger who acquired it on another one of her visits home, each stop at the Wal*Mart producing some kind of enviable rocker shirt. Last time was an AC/DC one I am still plotting to overthrow. A recent phone conversation revealed this trip will provide our happy household with a Lynyrd Skynyrd shirt for Ginger to grace the Robinberg land with. Simple Man. What a great song. Why did Freebird get so famous, when Simple Man simply kicks its ass? 

Anyhow there I am, in the Van Halen shirt and these oversized borrowed shorts from the clinic because I forgot my stetchy exercise pants. Not capris. I hate capris. In fact I even hate the word capri, unless someone is telling me I have won a vacation to an Italian island in the Tyrrhenian Sea. The shorts are kind of like scrubs but with elastic instead of a drawstring. and they are enormous on me. Huge. I look a little like a vertically challenged person. I also notice it's already time to shave my legs again. The upkeep is dizzying. So I'm just laying there alone. Looking a little bit unfashionable, as usual these days, and not really caring. Thinking.

I've pretty much come to the place where I've done all the work I can do. I either did enough, or I didn't. I will either make it, or I won't. Dr. Greene says the only job I have left is to enjoy the run. Laurian tells me when things feel like a wall or I can't possibly make it one more step, I just have to melt more. She told me this in terms of childbirth, and if women can make it through that, I can make it around San Francisco. And when I get a message from my friend Sarah in NYC, she tells me I have already won everything. I have taken back my body as the amazing system it is. I have run hundreds of miles I never thought I'd be able to run. And I have an opportunity to run around one of the world's most beautiful cities to do one singular thing that's just mine. Just a stretch and burn, a pyre of all the fictions I ever constructed about the things I was unable to accomplish. My legs are the kindling and my heart is the match. And my friends, along with acquaintances who have cheered me through everything, are the oxygen that let the fire grow. 

Upon returning home, I unpack the mailbox containing the new issue of Better Homes and Gardens that the former tenants have not had forwarded yet. A bonus. A nice red envelope from Netflix for me and Gus. We watch Valentine's Day. And a package from Julie, who has become my biggest cheerleader. 

I lived with Julie in college through the bong years. Although I don't remember her participating in the bong action itself. The problem with the bong is that it impedes my memory of much of anything. Anyhow, I lived on Trigo in Isla Vista, CA with Julie, Christy, and Rachel. Julie and I knew each other the least. And after we lived together, we didn't see each other for about 18 years. We still haven't seen each other. In the mean time, she collected herself a nice husband, amazing looking children, and a running habit. She's got more experience than me, she's faster and more consistent. It's so inspiring. Even with that whole family, she still kills it out there on the road. And makes time to be right here with me, sending me encouragement almost daily. Yesterday it arrived in the form of an envelope addressed to Sara "I Can Run Hella Far" Seinberg. Partly because in college me and Rach said Hella about everything, especially when we'd work our eyes to a crimson place, exhaling plumes of smoke about the apartment and blasting Mary's Danish while our heads bobbed.

This weed is hella strong.
I know, right? It's giving me munchies already. Do we have snacks?
We have hella snacks.
Awesome. Can you get 'em?
No. Dude. I can't really move.
We're hella hungry. Can you bring us chips?

And partly because it's actually true. I can run hella far. Inside the envelope is a packet of bath salts and one of the nicest notes a girl could ever get from an old friend explaining the necklace. It's a chain with a singular silver bead on it. A cube. A block. Sara's Block, she named it. She tells me it can be a stumbling block or  writer's block or whatever. It could be pain or laziness or a bad attitude. But whatever it is, the necklace is about how no matter what difficulty arises, the best way around the block, like the necklace, is through it. I light all the candles in the bathroom and climb into my Julie sponsored arnica bath. My fingers go to the necklace over and over. It is like she sent me ruby slippers. My race day just got a little bit better. My sausage outfit now includes the necklace Julie made me, the earrings my mom gave me, and the rainbow wristbands Christy Schaefer is bestowing upon me. 

I finally feel a little peace. My parents are flying in tonight to cheer me on. Ginger gets home too. Friends are making plans to dot the city with good will and screaming for me. I actually took Monday off work. I kind of feel like the luckiest girl on the block. Even with stubble and in a sausage outfit. 

Sara Elise.


Black Coffee in Bed - Squeeze

I'm drinking coffee too late, 7:42 pm, because I want to write this blog and I have still not gone out to do my 5k for the day. That's me. Non-stop Action JacksonLifestyles of the Cute and Geriatric Acting. That's my jam. Try and keep it cute. Green with envy is not your color. 

Speaking of which, I wonder if I will vomit on Sunday. I know that during my 20 mile jaunt, complete with a large swath of walking in the middle, I felt waves of potential upchuck quite a few times. Surprisingly, I accepted these feelings at the time out of complete exhaustion, and the knowledge that I have, for sure, barfed many, MANY times in life leading up to those moments for much stupider reasons, also self-induced. Today I checked out  34 page digital Runner's Guide I got in my inbox to find out where all the Aid Stations are. Some of the highlights: all 12 stations include water, electrolyte drink by some corporation that's gonna make a ton of money on this thing, and medical staff, which I find both comforting, and doom-inducing. Do a lot of people need medical attention? What kind of medical attention? Am I going to perish? Can I save myself the humiliation of not being able to finish by feigning an injury? A twisted ankle? Severe dehydration? Dislocated hip? The dreaded foot? 


It's the coffee talking. And while we're on the topic of coffee, let me be clear right now: In spite of the fact that I do, for whatever reason, feel willing to vomit at some point with little or no embarrassment,  I will not, under any circumstances, be shitting in my pants in honor of such a momentous occasion. I don't care how epic it makes the story. I just don't want to. I don't want to crap in my pants, nor do I want to just take a pitstop and drop trou on the side of the road for a dump. I am not going to win, nor do I plan on being so driven that I will lose my faculties. Also, I plan to rise at 3:30 am to make sure there is plenty of time for all that to go ahead and ease on down the road before I even hit the pavement. So there is no reason for me to enter the annals of history, and I imagine you'll pardon the noun choice there, as an obscure Jewish lesbian who shit her pants for no reason at all. There will be no Radiolab episode in which I am celebrated or eviscerated. No one will do an expose on the extreme lengths I went to. I plan to just be an average lady, doing a somewhat insane thing, stopping demurely by a Port-o-Jane and retaining the dignity of her bowels for the duration. Thanks for asking. And frankly, I am dumbfounded by how many people have asked. 

My brain is a colander. I can retain exactly nothing anyone tells me or asks me. I feel agitated. I am anxiety filled and emotional. I am scared, small, pre-emptively apologetic, scattered and excited. The marathon is in 5 days. How did I become a person who even knows that fact, let alone a person who has to go pick up their number and their timing chip at an Expo on Saturday? 

5 days. 
I feel nuts.

How about another disjointed thought? 

My physical therapist friend Kevin suggested I do a plank pose for thirty seconds before I set out on my training runs. Then a plank on each side. Each of these to be followed by some calf stretches to help my weird foot. I know it seems strange, or it did to me, that doing a yoga pose before running would help, but I have found that getting my stomach muscles engaged and firing before setting out, changes what are usually a dreadful first 2-4 miles. These exercises have helped my body feel stronger, faster. I like that. Although, it doesn't make me warm to the idea of yoga any. 

And: tangent!

You know what I want to do? I want to re-join the gym when this is over and do water aerobics again. Noodles for everyone! I did it once with my friend Ali and it was so gaddamn fun. This lady stalked the edge of the pool with her whistle like a drill sergeant, blowing the thing up while all the gray hair bobbed in the pool. Gray hair, Ali's butch crew cut, and me. Those old dames really live it up, I tell you. 

Gear shift!

I can't wait to be forty. Fuck Old as Sucky. Fuck an age hating America. Fuck you America for putting women out to pasture so damn early. Fuck your impossible standards and your dumb ideas about the godhead of youth. I mean youth is great. Sure. Awesome. But forty? Shit, I been waiting 39 years for this. I always thought that when I hit forty, I finally had a shot at being really sexy. Like so damn foxy and so in my own skin and gray hair and wrinkly smile lines and freckles turned to age spots that I could walk in the world with my musculature all straight and tidy. I don't know why I waited to take care of myself until now, but that's just how it went. So be it. And forty's just right down the block and I feel like my power is waiting right there for me, all dressed up and ready to spin me around life like a goddamn prom queen. Or a gas station attendant. Because I wanted to be both. And now I am. 

Here I go.
Out into the fog and the wind.
Almost there.
To the starting line.
I feel grateful to be here at all
and more grateful still
to have my awkward gait
to carry me to grace.

Sara Elise


As Is - Yes Alexander

Good Morning, Uterus! 

I can't tell you how happy I am to see your sloughing today. All week I've been dreading the inconsistency of the red wave, knowing my hormones have been gathering in diabolical meetings, plotting an overthrow of my Sunday marathon. I believe I have a tiny bit of PTSD from the half marathon where y'all decided to commence a week before your "scheduled" arrival. Setting out in the rain that day, trudging all those hills amid a blanket of fog with cramps to top it off? No fun. So there's one fear off my back. 

Yesterday was my last long training run before the race. It was slow going, although, turns out it was the day before I got my period so that makes sense. The good thing about it was that every hurdle from this entire process showed up, and I kept going. 

Foot pain. 
"I can't" brain. 
Too many layers.
Hip spasm.
Weird hecklers.
(I KNOW. Running hecklers. Assholes.)
Knee pain.
Intense Panic.
Boring anxiety.
Body loathing.

It's funny how 8 1/2 miles became a short run in my mind. Oh I only have to run 8 1/2 miles today, says the weird delusional woman, as though she is walking to the post office. I forgot that 8 1/2 miles is a long fucking way to run. 26.2 miles is an INSANE amount to run. I have gotten lost in a bizarre perspective here. Only Eight Miles. That's not even useful in real life. But here, here in One Week Until The Race Land, that's exactly what's going on. I finish my run and think, Next week I'll still have almost 18 more of those to go. Actually at first I think 15 because I am so tired, I can't do remedial math. I am then treated to an Izee's Grapefruit soda by my friend Jenny Tender who has met me at the Ferry Building. She goes to give me a hug and is immediately grossed out by the soaking wet shirt. Who can blame her? I'm gross

Anyhow, back to the run. Let's call it Promenade with Demons. The length of the course was mentally and emotionally like a medley of hit songs, a mash-up of flashbacks or a montage. But instead of seeing things or hearing them like in songs, I felt them. The realm of the physical began with the heel as it always does. I focus on how my left heel is never going to make it. How the thing is just a surface of green and purple bruised meat and every step is pound pound pound. I also notice by mile two that I have adjusted to the feeling and it's irritating, but totally bearable. I also know that mile 15 is a whole different story when the dogs bark louder, the hips begin to give out  taking the brunt of the weak heel pressure. The lower back snarls its protest, and my mind, at the helm, attempts to assuage the pain of all parties, including itself. Mile 15. Still 11 after that. And then .2.

You can see how the anxiety enters. If I feel pain and doubt at mile 4, at mile 8, and begin a limp at 15, how do I rise above? How do I, a mere couch potato in a sausage outfit masquerading as an extreme person, continue to put the one foot in front of that other foot? Somehow yesterday's shorter version of this crisis brought me some hints. I hit reset on my brain a lot. I had to corral the thing into the present moment, do body scans to see how really, I was ok. Sludgy and uncomfortable, but ok. I had to pull back from all the mind's failure fantasies, my friends gathered at the sidelines as I walked by them, the sobbing sausage. I pictured Gus, and how in an open field, he runs away, free and happy tearing at full tilt to some invisible outer edge, then pulls his sleek muscled body around in a wide circle, herding me to him, and then off in the sun and the wind again. That's like my mind. It's just doing the thing it is born to do. It's thinking. It gallops away because it can, because that is the design of the spaghetti thing in there, it stretches and bends and projects. It's doing its job. Then I go get it and ask it, like Gus, Sit. Stay. Take in the sights. Count to 8. Then 16. Then 24. 32. 40. 48. Just get to 88 and then you can go away again. But the mind doesn't listen. It does it's thing, and at 64, I forget where I am and start over. I got nothin' but time, right? 

Sometimes instead of counting numbers, I'll feel an urge to give up and instead I will catalog all the people who didn't. I start with Caster Semenya. Beautiful Caster Semenya. I work my way through a photo montage from my friend Rose Hill, a performance artist I met in school who fought cancer for a third of her life to Dr. King. I think about Michelle and those stacks of papers she totes to a cafe in her fabulous Jeremy Scott bag. The books don't write themselves. I see Harvey Milk and sometimes even those monks on fire in the streets of Beijing. I watch my brain conjure Dr. Hawking and Ashley from The Biggest Loser. She didn't quit. There's the drummer from Def Leppard who didn't quit, there's Helen Keller who didn't quit, there's Renee Richards, Muhammad AliMarina Abramović, Bernice Johnson Reagon, and Ellen. If they didn't quit their whole lives, I can make it 8 more steps. 16. A mile. Four. Build it. 

But it's been so difficult to get to a place of peace. I've been there so I know there's a path to it, but the closer I get to race day, the more elusive that calm feeling is. The place I need to find where any outcome is okay. Where there is actually NO outcome at all, there is only the moment in which I step, and then step again. There is only the street and my sneakers and the sun. There is the sweat and there is my breath. The bridge. The city. This is my life right now. It is more and more difficult to arrive there for me, and I pray that along the 6 hour or more route, at my pace, I will find it again and again, because for this to really work, that's the peace. I will not win. There is no winning. There is only trying. 

Yesterday my friend who studies in the Zen tradition reminded me that my inexperience with this process is a great gift. Shunryu Suzuki says In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert's, there are few. And so it must follow that in the beginner's run, there are many possibilities, and one of them must be joy. And so I remind myself, on 3rd street out on the long stretch of desolate pebbles, that my race will contain attending moments of joy along the course, with the pain I am assured. I will have what I have, and while I cannot know, imagining only the struggle is well, horseshit. And wanting the race to be without pain or struggle is just dumb. Here I am, I have brought myself to the brink of a freefall, and I have made enough mistakes on this journey to not make them twice, and so, I will either find new mistakes, which are nothing if not interesting, or I will not. But regardless, I have made up my mind to try. It would be helpful to bring that spirit not to the entire race, but just to each step. 

I am making an attempt to be kind to myself in this week leading up to the marathon. Ginger is out of town on a family/photo adventure along the Gulf Coast, safely distanced from my PMS/neurosis combo meal. Good for her, I say. I can't wait to see her pictures. I digress. I am here at the house with my friend Gus and neither of us talk at all. It's quiet here. I make lists. I need to because I cannot retain anything in my head. 

Fold laundry.
Get coffee thing for Sam.
Plan Birthday Party.
Write up Photo show opening.
Pay bills.
Sweep and Mop.
Pillow for couch.
Drink more water.
1/2 and 1/2.
Plan solo trip to Kabuki.
Get marathon shirt.

It's too much to have it all swimming around loose, a bunch of thoughts like twirling hippies at a Dead show. I need these things more tailored, some in smart suits if I'm get get a goddamn thing done at all. Ginger gets the 1/2 and 1/2. I had to have a latte this morning with milk for Christ's sake. The clothes are in the basket waiting to be folded and Gus walks around them each time looking at me saying with his eyes, Come on, just fold the damn things. It'll only take like 5 minutes. I need to keep things normal and also have something to look forward to. 

Which reminds me... I got my marathon shirt! That's right. I went ahead and got myself a sleeveless running shirt for the big day. It meets all my needs besides branding. It's the right material. It doesn't have a flimsy "bra" built in that really stops being helpful after 3 miles, it's just a shell. It's mostly mesh so it's kinda like wearing nothing, but I don't have to actually run in just a jog bra, from which my ego would surely crumble. And it was on sale. So other than being not of the Adidas family, it's perfect. 

And so the days wind down.
One week.

At least my period will be over.
Mazel Tov.

Sara Elise


Comfortably Numb-Pink Floyd

I don't think my being a middle aged lesbian is the sole reason I like to retire around 9pm. This is America, and in America, we can go to bed whenever we damn well please. Plus maybe if you are lucky enough to have a j.o.b. in America, you might have to get up wicked early to make it there on time. Let's say 5am. Thereby putting you cradlebound by 9pm if you want to get the 8 hours of suggested slumber we hear so much about. 

Sleeping 9-5, 
what a way to be unconscious

What if Dolly Parton came over and sat there at the foot of my bed just tellin' stories and humming a tune so I would fall asleep? That would be nice. 

Well, as you can see by my razor sharp wit here this morning, I did not get the required amount of sleep because I was not free to go for a run until 9pm. This is the latest I've ever gone out for a run. The first mile was kind of crap, and after that I really liked it. Even with heel barking. 

There are ten days until the marathon. TEN DAYS!!! I feel nervous. I feel upset about the heel. I feel afraid I will not make it. It's been difficult for me to get back into my mindset of Hey, I'll just do my best and that's all I got. I showed up, I did the training, and the race is just some endpoint. The journey has already been the point. This state of mind, this calm, pink-auraed, open-hearted, accepting and peaceful state of mind has been an elusive little bastard running up on the end. The hormonal pandemonium isn't helping matters, and the five hours of sleep I got feels sorely lacking. 

And speaking of sorely lacking... where are my Deep Thoughts? Where is the part where I remember beautiful things from my run to write about besides some painfully misguided man slurping kisses out the window of an old Malibu? When do I get back to the part, or forward, where I move through Golden Gate Park and relay all the things that I saw, following them up with historical oddities and lush anecdotal delights? Or what about regaling the keyboard with a play by play on the preparation for seeing the new gynecologist today, the public transportation trip clocking in at about one hour, making the departure time about 7am, hauling my uterus up to California Street for a palpation fiesta first thing this morning? Do I write about how my monthly bill has been a haphazard cornucopia of arrival times? How there have been high thread count disasters after all these years (although they have been met with my discovery later in life that a direct application of liquid non-chlorine bleach, composed primarily of hydrogen peroxide eats right through the red plague, setting the sheets free as if there had been no sanguine assault)? That the schedule of my red clotted friend has been an irritating fluctuation from 16-42 days since I took up this training, and my attitude has responded in kind? Do I write about how the bloating has arrived in full glory here at the ten day mark, the anxiety, the short tempered banshee like responses to anything at all, and the compulsive purchasing impulse as salve is squarely in place, with yesterday's purchases including an assortment of mismatched blue hued pulls for the cabinets in my office where presently boring white ceramic ones live, boring me to tears, and a set of delightful measuring spoons featuring accented in gold?

Please stick with me. We're almost done here.

Sara Elise