I am currently training for the NYC Marathon. Bizarre! If you knew me in one of my past lives, you would think this was very, very surprising. I recently saw my oldest friend, the one who told me once, ‘you know, you can never surprise me, because whenever you say that you would never do something, I know that at some point down the line you’ll flip and do that very thing.’ Even she can’t get over it.
It’s surprising to me too. I’m doing things I never expected myself to do, like buying sports lube; waking up at 5:30 am so I can fit in 8 miles before work; taking an ice bath (cold!); rolling my thighs back and forth on a large tube of styrofoam. And other exotic pursuits.
I plan my week around running. I plan my work around running. I have more running shoes than any other kind of shoe. My cat is happy, as he really enjoys rubbing his face in a nice stinky running shoe, so the more of those around the house, the better.
I run very slowly, which is good in this case, because you supposed to run slowly when you run for several hours, especially the first time. And what I think prepared me for running long distances slowly is letterpress. No, really! I’ve developed this ability to put together larger things very slowly and patiently out of smaller things. Like setting metal type by hand, building up a form out of small pieces of type and spacing and leading, troubleshooting, testing, resetting, adjusting, proofing, adjusting again. It’s just like training: starting with a shorter distance, gradually building over time piece by piece to a longer distance and then another longer distance and then another longer distance after that. Delaying gratification. Developing a longer attention span. Trying one thing, realizing that kind of shorts makes you chafe, trying another, eating gels, regretting eating gels, trying those chew things instead. Stretching and resting. And eating! Did you know you can’t print letterpress on an empty stomach? It’s just asking for trouble if you’re hungry and trying to get something that finicky just right. Eating is an important part of both letterpress printing and endurance sports.
“Practice” is a word that gets used a lot in craft as a verb, and in art as a noun, so much so that I get tired of hearing it. But the actual practice of practice, I can’t get enough of. I’ve built a life made of small pieces of practice: running in the morning, carving blocks at night, setting type on the weekends, administering the heck out of the arts the rest of my waking hours (which is a whole other topic). I like the structure of it. This week has been eventful so far, in ways that perhaps aren’t so great for me, but that structure at least is something to fall back on.