the circular runner

What Some German Movie About Running Taught Me About Running and Writing and Why I Should Stop Eating Sweets

In humor, life, observations, writing on December 14, 2011 at 1:21 am

So, if you’ve been reading my posts lately, you’ll know that I’ve been struggling with a script that I should’ve had done last week. I’ve tried everything including writing on this blog about the problem, which should be good for something the way I figure it. I’m communicating fears, sharing my thoughts, etc. But it’s all been for naught. The truth is that I’ve been sucking it big time, and if I don’t stop, I’m going to become a butterball. Yes, I don’t know why, but somehow in my head I seem to think that if I fill my face with enough coffee and sweet things, I’ll get my mojo back and tackle this script.  Sugar and caffeine are great for a lot of things, but they don’t do fuck-all to make me write. They just jack me up, which makes my self-hate tick up a few mental decibels and no doubt, in the very near future, they’re going to make me gain weight, which, in turn, will make me angry at myself–angrier is more like it.

But then this morning, I decided to shake things up. I decided that telling myself I suck and then announcing it repeatedly on this blog was not the way to go. Instead, I said, screw it! I gave myself the morning off. I didn’t let myself look at the clock. I didn’t tell myself I had to go to Starbucks to write before starting the rest of my day. I pushed all of it out of my head. And what did I do? I watched a movie about running.

I love sports-movies—let me say it now! This, like my negative views on holiday parties, makes my wife sad, so most of the time, when I watch sports-movies, I do so by myself. I will also admit that sports-movies make me emo, as in weep-my-butt-off emotional.  Dramas don’t usually cut to my heart and comedies hardly ever make me laugh, but watching someone overcome some kind of adversity, which is the basic formula for the sports-movie, makes me weep and/or glow with excitement. At this moment, I’m trying not to think of the theme for that amazing and Oscar-overlooked movie, Rudy.  Just thinking of that film makes me…Oh no….man-tears…adams-apple flexing….

A moment…sorry, I’m just…Ok, one more sec… …..just one….

OK, OK. I’m better now. That movie was greatness. I can also recommend Hoosiers, Without Limits, American Flyers, Rocky up until the one when he goes to Russia—that one sucked. The Karate Kid (I think we can include martial arts as a sport, though I would not do the same for KK 2, 3, or 4 or Karate Girl—as with any good fighter, the Karate Kid franchise should’ve hung up the black belt before it became a dementia-laden mess.

As you can see, I like sports-movies, but of all sports movies, I like running-movies best. That reminds me, Running Brave was great. OH,  and there’s also Chariots of Fire, though I hate slow-mo scenes. AND there are some great running documentaries. (If you’d like, send me word, and I’ll make you a list.) So, it’s the running-movie that makes my heart beat fastest. Partly, it’s because I run. I’m not a runner, but I have gone out to run 3-4 times a week since high school. I love the way real runners look when they’re doing their thing. It’s so basic to who we are. It’s what people have been doing since the beginning of people.  And so this morning, without much thought, I put in a German movie called The Robber. It’s based on a real-life story about some Austrian marathon runner in the 80s who not only set national records, but also robbed banks on his free time. I don’t know if the movie is truthful to the real story, but if it is, then the reason that the runner robs is the same reason he runs: he wants to push himself beyond usual limits. As a bank robber, he wants to push his adrenaline-levels, and as a runner, he’s trying to do the same. In one scene, he pushes himself so hard in a race that he collapses at the finish line. If it wasn’t for the fact that there was 30 minutes left to the movie, I would’ve assumed that the German director was making an ironic point: a robber who dies not running from the police but  from himself. What’s the German word for DEEP? And yet, this movie is deep. It’s a F’n sports-movie, after all. So what do you expect?

I know a lot of people don’t get this—not the sports-movie thing, but the running-thing. And there are a lot of sports-lovers who don’t think long distance running is exciting. But I do. There is an adrenaline to long distance running—it’s not the adrenaline you get jumping out of a plane or kayaking down a river, but it’s a slow kind, a personal kind.  The question a runner doesn’t ask but always has to face is: can I do this, can I finish the race and do so before anyone, before the clock winds down on whatever record I’m trying to shatter? Basically, what is my limit? Runners don’t ask that of themselves but the question is always there in their minds, and that question raises the stakes. I’ve never been brave enough to go all out while running, to risk my physical health. Even as a high school runner, I’d start my races worrying that I wouldn’t be able to finish if I went all out. Like any sport, you’re dealing with physical limits, and part of me was scared to face mine—I also am man enough to admit to my fear of physical pain.  The runner in the German movie faced the same question, but both as a robber and as a runner, he chose to push through and risk himself.

I know the old joke that the only good reason to run is if you’re being chased. Maybe that’s true. Maybe runners are chased by something in their make-up. I don’t know. I don’t think I care. What I can tell you is that there is something wonderful about being out somewhere moving through space, powered by your legs. There’s something lonely about it, and brave, and maybe, sadistic. The runner in the movie certainly had a sadistric streak in him.

For me, and how all of this relates to the script, I’d say that I’m stalling for the same reason I’m not a real runner: I am in fear of finding my limits and of the pain of effort required to even get to that place. In the end, that’s what I’m left with. So I either accept this fear and enjoy my life drinking coffee because I want to and not because I’m trying to avoid something, or I get off my butt and go for it. Balls out! No Limits!

Jesus, can you hear the Rocky theme playing in the background? I can. I can. I can.

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