The Yankees clinched a playoff spot over the weekend, a few days before the official publication date for Murder in Megara so, as a baseball fan and writer, it has been a good week for me. When I read about the Yankees' clubhouse champagne celebration I recalled the last time I had champagne, on the first of January, outside in the cold and snow, at Mendon Ponds Park in Rochester, New York. The C.A.T.S. running club put on a New Years Day 10K race. Beyond the finish line, in the icy parking lot, folding tables held boxes of bagels and plastic cups of bubbly.
The park terrain was formed by ancient ice sheets so we ran up and down a confusion of hills and hollows, puffing steam, our procession gradually lengthening as fast runners pulled away from those of us laboring behind. There is one particularly steep incline curving around the hill into which ancient ice gouged out a kettle pond called The Devil's Bathtub. I can still see clearly that challenge rearing up in my path. Heavily bundled, early morning dog walkers gave us perplexed stares as we passed, warmed only by light sweats and our own efforts.
I loved running. There's a camaraderie in getting together to do something pointless and stupid simply because you can. It's exhilarating. In retrospect. At the time, at the five mile mark, where the route turned out of the park onto a slushy highway exposed to a raw north wind, I wondered what the hell I'd been thinking to sign up for this.
That was a long time ago. Longer than it seems because after my back decided I could no longer run I kept making sporadic attempts and held out hope. Now it has become obvious that running is a chapter that's finished. It was one of my favorite chapters.
Running is simple. It rewards your efforts. If you put in the miles you improve. Unlike the arts where efforts can go forever unrecognized. Nor is there the subjective quibbling artistic works are subject to. At the end of the race the clock gives each competitor the objective, inarguable truth. There's no room for critics. Blowhards can't change reality or promote themselves into prominence.
These days my endeavors are limited to activities which do not require healthy of spinal discs. Things like writing. Today Murder in Megara is out. It is always exhilarating when a new novel appears. The writing itself can be grueling. With each bend in the plot a writer is confronted by new challenges. And towards the end, when we're already exhausted, rewriting feels like running an endless straight-away into a bitter north wind. Now that the finish line has been crossed maybe we should break out the bubbly.