Conquering the 19th Century

It’s interesting how training for a marathon teaches you to take one day at a time.  I don’t need to worry, on every run, whether I could do a marathon right then. All I need to do is focus on what my job is on that day, and do it.

I started the year Lincoln was born, 1809.

I started the year Lincoln was born, 1809.

The flip side of that, of course, is the old “what have you done for me lately?” Yes, I may have run 15 miles on Friday, but I then took two days off from both running and a sensible diet, culminating in a Super Bowl bender that left me feeling sluggish during Monday’s 5-mile ice-crunching Yaktrax run.

By Tuesday, I was desperately in need of both mileage and confidence. Realizing I’d let myself get psyched out on lap running and the “time machine” visualization technique I was hoping would keep me sane during the race (see this week’s News-Sentinel column for more lap-counting strategies), I headed to the Jorgensen YMCA determined to put in 80 laps (10 miles).

I decided to start on 1809 – the year both Lincoln and Edgar Allen Poe were born — and end at 1889, the year that Oscar Wilde met Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a critical plot point in   White Fire, the latest Agent Pendergast thriller by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Though I’ll need to eventually make it to 2014 to complete the race, I wanted to count my way through the 19th century since I hadn’t attempted that yet.

By the time I was done, Teddy Roosevelt had just become president.

By the time I was done, Teddy Roosevelt had just become president.

It took me a long time to get going on this run.  My stride felt jerky and I had to keep speeding up and slowing down to deal with track traffic,  which prevented me from settling into a smooth (slow) pace.  Mentally, though, I got settled in on the passing of the “years” without worrying about whether I had anything specific to associate with them. I liked noting the slow but steady passage of time, and discovered that, as in life, the years seemed to go by more quickly as they accumulate.

As I got closer to 1889, I got to thinking it wouldn’t be all that much farther to go on to 1901. That appealed to me because Teddy Roosevelt, my favorite president, took over for the assassinated McKinley that year. But more importantly, it would take me into the next century, lap-wise.

For this run, the mileage (11.3) wasn’t as important as the years covered.  It feels huge to have “conquered” 1809-1901. Yes, there was still a long way to go at that point – more than a century to complete the marathon, now less than three weeks away. But for the first time, I could sort of visualize my destination off in the distance. Another 10 “decades” to 9/11, and I’d be almost home.

I think I can. It won’t be easy, but I think I can.

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1 Response to Conquering the 19th Century

  1. tischcaylor says:

    Wilde and Doyle met at the Langham Hotel in London’s West End. They were brought together by an American publisher, J. M. Stoddart, who happened to be in England commissioning material for Lippincott’s Magazine. Interestingly, this meeting factors in another one of my favorite mysteries, “A Death of No Importance” by Gyles Brandreth, who went on to develop an entire series around fictionalized versions of these two historical figures.

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