After the 2010 Philadelphia Marathon I promised to never run again. Not just another marathon, or long run, but even if I was chased by a bear.

For the most part I’ve managed to keep my word in the three years since. Sure, I cheated here and there in Tampa, taking a few brief leisurely runs along Bayshore, but they were never serious. It was merely a fling.

But I started running again last Friday. Immediately after I wrote my whole, “hey, I’m writing again” post. Which – considering how the two have been tied in the past – is probably not a coincidence, though I won’t pretend to understand the correlation.

Thinking back, I’m not even entirely sure why I stopped.

Yes, I was tired. And towards the end there, it really did take up a lot of time. Plus there was the decision to run on a wonky knee, since I had already trained too much to not run it, and, hell, I’m young and stupid and modern medicine will have a solution for my cartilage-less right knee in twenty years. And if it doesn’t, well that’s future Justin’s problem.

But I’m afraid I tainted my own opinion on running with my incessant need to downplay even the most minor of accomplishments. “The marathon? Oh, it’s not nearly as big of a deal as you’d think.” What a prick, right?

Or – I don’t know – perhaps I was just in the quitting mode. I did, after all, quit on my home state of Delaware a week after the marathon, spontaneously moving a thousand miles away.

Who knows?

But despite whatever reason I manufactured to stop running three years ago, I’m back. And it’s actually kind of great.

Not my performance, of course. I can only string together three ten-minute-miles. But I’m enjoying it. I can’t complain about the scenery – through the marina and up to Crissy Field (world famous for it’s appearance in the hacky sack portion of Nintendo’s seminal “California Games”).

And I have the occasion to listen to all my running music. I can escape from the old sad bastard tracks that, let’s face it, I love, but I could use a bit of time apart from now and again.

So I’m making playlists with Hellogoodbye, fun., Bishop Allen, Tullycraft …

Plus – and I really don’t know how I forgot about this – running makes you feel awesome. It does. It releases endorphins into the brain, almost like my body doesn’t want to spend the evening lying in bed staring at a laptop screen.

And so I’m four runs into my comeback, with eyes on running at least the 10K at the Berkeley Marathon in ten weeks.

Not that a 10K is a big deal or anything.


My second-hand taped up laptop

It was purely circumstance that found me at Obama Campaigns Florida HQ with a staff badge on my chest.

It was proximity – my apartment was just miles from the Ybor, Tampa office. It was timing – I had just walked away from my job as a catchall web handy man at a small eCommerce site. And it was probably a little desperation on their end – when my boss hit send on that initial email at 2 in the morning the sound she heard was the scrapping of the bottom of the barrel.

But mostly it was my hand-me-down Lenovo Thinkpad laptop. That’s the only explanation that makes any sense.

See, when I showed up at the office to just volunteer (the same day as that email, and a mere four hours after a short phone conversation) I did what just about everyone does first – I hit the phones, making call after call after call. Recruiting more volunteers for some new program.

On some staff iPhone somewhere is a photo of me, phone in hand, placing the first call of the program. And if it looks like I didn’t quite know what I was doing, well, it was because I didn’t quite know what I was doing.

In front of me in that photo is my brother John’s old Thinkpad laptop. I brought it with me to record call data in a google spreadsheet. Part of the casing around the screen was cracked and being held together by scotch tape, and the battery life was somewhere around 27 minutes fully charged. But it got the job done.

And as coincidence would have it, it looked quite similar to the newer model Thinkpad that the campaign handed out to staff members.

As a volunteer, I showed up early and worked late. I sat where I could find space – sometimes in the walkway, sometimes out on the office balcony. And with so much going on, with people coming into HQ and people heading out, and with everyone too busy to wonder who I was and what I was doing, and that laptop sitting in front of me – I don’t know, maybe I didn’t look like a schmuck with no idea what he was doing. So when I said I could to do something – like stumble through managing the programs small MySQL database (after the big step up from the Google Spreadsheet) – they actually let me. And things just went from there. I mean, I was showing up there. I might as well do something, right?

Who knows? Maybe they just needed warm bodies at that point. But when I got the offer to come on as staff it opened to door to work around unbelievably awesome people.  And to, on election night at some firehall in Jacksonville after having been up for 40 straight hours, be able to (unofficially) celebrate Florida’s crucial 29 electoral votes going to the President. And I can’t help but think it was mostly my second-hand taped up laptop that got me there.

I am writing again

That’s a weird way to put it, and I guess I did it on purpose.

I write for a living, but that’s something else. That’s copy. And sure, I’ve written a thing or two for the company blog that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing. And yeah, strewn across my room I have half a dozen notebooks strewn with beginnings and tidbits. But I haven’t really been writing.

No, I’ve been that guy that makes a big process out of running a couple miles every other week. That’s not running, and what I’m doing isn’t writing. Not until I get back to the point where I’m routinely knocking out five miles a day. And not until I’m writing without mixing and completely over-extending my metaphors.

I really don’t even know when I stopped. I mean, I stopped writing a personal essays a few years back because I just didn’t like what I was writing. I couldn’t take the navel gazing any longer. It wasn’t even good navel gazing.

Then after a couple years of low-level freelance writing about anything but myself – some pieces I mailed in, others I’m still proud of no matter how insignificant – I started copywriting for a steadier paycheck. And maybe you’d expect me to second-guess that decision, like somehow that’s when it got off the track. But I don’t. I’m no martyr. I just compose semi-coherent sentences, and think it’s pretty cool that people pay me to do it.

It was the first narrative thing that actually got to me. I was self-conscious.

I remember reading a particularly enthralling magazine profile of some big shot music producer. It was real, and it was enlightening, and it was written in the first person without being all about the writer. Then I went back and read the last few pages of my notebook and found that it was – like this – narcissistic ramblings. I cringed, and I just stopped writing about myself.

I now realize this was a poor decision. Not because the writing wasn’t bad. Trust me, it was. But because twenty-somethings are bad writers. Sure, there are exceptions, but generally even the better ones aren’t that great. Mostly, because writing is hard. It just is. But also because you just have to write out the bad ones. I think the only reason I’m even a decent writer is because of all the bad writing I did in the past.

It’s like a golf swing. Mines awful. I just couldn’t get it down. I used to play a bit back when my buddy lived on the second worst 9-hole course in the state of Delaware. But I was just flailing out there – no two swings actually resembling each other. And so I never found a consistent enough swing to start tweaking and improving. I just found different ways to miss the fairway.

That’s basically my writing. I need to write every day to find my voice. Even if it’s not that great of a voice. Because at least if it’s consistently bad in the same ways I might be able to identify the problems and test out solutions.

So I’m writing every day again. Hopefully about things other than myself. Hopefully some things that I’d actually like to read. But every day – even when it’s neither of those. And even when it’s not much. A few decent words is more than enough to be proud of. Better that than a thousand bad ones – though I’m sure there will be a few of those as well.

And I start this project realizing at some point a future Justin will burn it to the ground. Just as a previous Justin did to his previous blogs. But I’m okay with that. I just have a lot of bad writing to get out.