I’m convinced my friends are among the smartest and most compassionate on the planet when they, year after year, go to Disney World to run their half-marathons and 10Ks and don’t invite me.
What on this earth would a thirty-something desk-fat workaholic do on an exer-cation in the middle of February? The answer is fall deep-and-ugly behind in the thick of editing season and probably develop a raging case of hives from the student emails piling up in the meantime.
Yes, death could happen. If not a literal death from exer-shock (it’s a thing, I’m sure), then a certain albeit metaphorical death of embarrassment would follow my attempting either of these races, and my friends love me enough to spare me that kind of struggle.
Either that or this is their days’-long free pass to talk trashy trash about me without fear of a digital trail.
I choose to believe it’s the love. The dirt I have on them wouldn’t be worth the risk. And, like I said, I have smart friends.
Still, the anomaly me wonders what a marathon-ish thing would be like for the lovely literati among us. We deserve this kind of hubbub that makes us our own tutu’d princess-celebrities for a day so that we, too, can bask in the glory of all that is the Instagrammed Dole Whip and the famed Mickey head on a stick.
What if readers were like runners? Here’s my to-do list on how to prepare for a literary marathon and, perhaps in the process, avoid the apocalypse.
- Plan and interval train. Seuss, limericks, acrostics, and a haiku or two are the regimen for week one. Minimalist short stories like Raymond Carver’s “Popular Mechanics” are up next before moving on to that awe-inspiringly efficient first line of Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour,” which contrasts as a novel on a page. It’s a warm-up, work-out, and cool-down in one. It really teaches you to breathe. It models proper form. These are fundamentals, like stretching or breakfast.
- Get your interest piqued with Tina Fey, David Sedaris, then Flannery O’Connor. Transition into drills with Salinger and Twain, setting Dickens’ Pickwick Papers up like obstacle course tires before working up to the longer stuff. By month two, we’d add incline excerpts from Joyce and Faulkner and then tackle Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, depending on the humidity, time of day, and our elevation.
- Hashtag yourself into Dewey Decimal oblivion, advertising your literary jaunts on social media ad nauseum.
Totes crushing on Don DeLillo today and Virginia Woolf has got me bawlin’. #predictable #DestinLibrary #fictionisforlovers #turndownforwoolf #RIPSeptimus
- Take pictures of yourself pre-read and post-read, like “About to get my read on!” and later, “Whew! My eyes are tired. That. Was. Some. Readin’! #sweatintothetranscendentalists #workitwhitman.”
- Start checking in at places called things like “Read with It” and get book covers fitted for your reading level and attention gait, picking up impulse buys like extra reading lights for your book bag, nonskid finger socks for mad page-turning that just won’t quit and LitBits that track your every literary move.
- Explore new places to read and go for extra long reads on the weekend, disappearing for four or five hours to test your endurance.
“I sat and sat and sat on the floor in the poetry section, but I hit a wall at page 200. I just had to walk for a little bit, but by 203, I was back at it…sitting there.”
- Get all bumperstickered up.
26.2 boxes of books in my attic
Keep Austen weird.
- Ask around for additions to your reading playlist.
“Yeah, but which ones really get you comprehending? I tried Mumford, but I’m thinking I just need to stick with, like, a Wes Anderson soundtrack.”
- Get a glass case for your bookmarks.
- Blow up your library card to shirt-size and pin it to your front. Make another copy. Repeat on the back. Just in case, Sharpie your borrower ID number on your arms.
- Talk about reading problems online and swap secrets about technique.
“I start the first page slow, then I just book it for about ten pages, then slow down for a page, then book it again. That’s basically my method.”
12-99. Use your weekends to drive to another city, sometimes far enough away to stay overnight in a hotel, and pay the event organizers money to let you read in pack of people who are…you guessed it…ALSO READING! You will receive a T-shirt (and also possibly be pelted with colorful dirt.)
These will be your only rewards.
100. Work up to 26.2 books in a row, which is basically reading until your fingers blister and your eyes bleed, but then you will TRULY have done it, friend!
And there, too, I’ll be at your finish line, that last chapter, that last page, cheering for you—because the only thing less sane than wanting to read a marathon is wanting to watch someone else do it.