Put It On Paper

Steve lost the magic. 

I don’t know how he lost it. I don’t know how I know he lost it. In fact, I don’t even know who Steve is. But I know he lost the magic in 2008, and it’s been bothering me ever since. Actually, it’s been bothering me since 2010, two years after the misplacement of the magic occurred.

Let me explain.

For all the sentimentality of our memories, our forgetfulness is equally as wonderful and terrifying. For every recollection resurrected by a smell or a sound, five fade into nothingness. For every moment that leaves an indelible imprint, ten ricochet off the surface without so much as scratching the paint. The un-erasability of our memories is surpassed only by our capacity to forget. Big things. Little things. The good. The bad. The daily. Our experiences filter through our consciousness, sifting first into one memory bank and then falling to another. Some are too big to squeak through the cracks, and remain with us. Others slide through with startling ease and simply disappear. We find ourselves not so much choosing what to remember, but choosing what not to forget.

Date: 2/7/2008 6:35 AM
Type: Long
Course: Queeny Park
Distance: 14 miles
Duration: 1:48:02
Pace: 7:43 / mile
Weather: 31° F,  Overcast
Notes: Ran with Jake and Jason. Hilly. Very cultured run—discussed Shakespeare, Cooper, Dumas, and Dickenson, as well as the Civil War. First time I ever recited poetry on a run. Kind of fun. Might make a habit of it. Legs felt tired—felt harder than the 16-miler last week. However, Uncle Bill’s was excellent.

I had totally forgotten about the “poetry run." And it wasn't the first time.

The entry above is from the journal I used to document an eighteen-month span of training and racing between 2008 and 2009. That journal later became the foundation for my first book, The Lola Papers. I had never kept a journal before that. I never kept one afterwards. Not even as a young girl did I keep a diary.

And I did it then only because Jake made me.

You see, 2008 marked the beginning of my nosedive into serious distance running. I fell under the irreverent wings of two former collegiate runners, who promptly increased my weekly mileage and introduced me to track workouts. Jake strongly suggested I keep an online training journal so he could keep an eye on how my body was responding to the increased workload, even on the days we didn’t run together. How were my legs feeling? Was I recovering? It was supposed to be the runner’s version of name, rank, and serial number: distance, pace, and effort level. 

And it was. For, like, a week.

Somehow, in the midst of logging my miles and splits and perceived exertion, I began narrating the highlights of each run, down to the actual dialogue and sometimes to the point of quotes. 

Date: 2/22/2009 7:30 AM
Course: Creve Coeur Park
Distance: 16 miles
Duration: 1:55:15
Pace: 7:13 / mile
Weather: 28° F, Sunny
Notes: So, felt really good. Cool beans. Coach ran with me. Definitely couldn't have done it without him there. Thanks, Coach. He did make fun of me a lot, though. So I told him I didn't like him. Then he said he was crying inside, which is why he has to pee so much. He does have to pee a lot... 

Some entries were several paragraphs long. Some were short and direct. Either way, for a year and a half, I documented every. single. run. Every mile. Every split. Every location and start time and meteorological condition. I didn’t have to remember all the stories and conversations in The Lola Papers. I simply had to look them up.

JournalThat’s why I’m amazed by how much we forget. I lived the experience. I wrote about it. I forgot about it. I reread the journal. I remembered it. I wrote about it again. And then I forgot about it again. All those adventures. All those memories. All those moments that completely and utterly absorbed my life at the time. What if they had fallen through the cracks? What if, with every bump and shake of time, they had sifted further down? What if, one day, they were simply gone?

And some guy named Steve lost the magic. 

That’s how an entry dating back to 2008 ends. Four detailed paragraphs of miles and conversations, and then that. No further detail is given. No insight is provided into Steve’s background or what, exactly, constituted his magic powers. When I read that particular journal entry during the writing of The Lola Papers, I wracked my brain to figure out who Steve was. I called Jake. I called Jason. They, too, remembered that Steve had lost the magic, but couldn’t recall anything beyond that. For some reason, I had neglected to elaborate on that little anecdote. I think I assumed that, surely, I would remember.

I was wrong. 

It's terrifying to think of all the stories that could have been lost if Jake hadn't made me keep that journal. After finishing a run, I'd take the first chance I had to sit down at a computer and type as much as I could remember. Sometimes, even though only a couple of hours had passed, I’d have to call Jake and ask what was that thing that happened at mile ten? Or what did Jason say at breakfast? Or what was that story about the guy from high school? It was as though the second the run ended, the memories started falling through the cracks, and I had to catch them, clutching at them as they fell.

But that’s what memories do. They fall away from us. For all the talk about making memories, we don’t really make them at all. Memories make themselves. We simply prevent their escape.

Miles blur together. Faces grow hazy. Conversations grow dim. But we put in the miles anyway.

And sometimes, if we're lucky, we put them on paper.

Amy L. Marxkors is the author of The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures, and How I Became a Serious Runner and Powered By Hope: The Teri Griege Story.  Click here to receive Amy's weekly article via email.

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