Sunday, August 28, 2011


Last year, I wrote about the experience of running a half-marathon as a profoundly feminizing experience. So now that I have run my first (and sweet Jesus, possibly last) FULL marathon, what kind of a feminine being have I ended up? Am I now twice the girl I was since I’ve run 26.2 miles in 3 hours and 55 minutes?

In the three weeks since I’d run the San Francisco Marathon, I’ve tried to think through what the experience has meant to my self-sense of femininity. But because the overriding sensory perception of the experience was pain, all I could think of was...childbirth. The four tenets of this metaphor:

ONE: Near the end, with about a mile to go, having already run 25 miles, I felt ready to give up and die. But there was a thing inside me that said KEEP PUSHING.

TWO: After the race, my nipples were completely engorged with blood. Dark blood curdled under the thin skin of their tips.

THREE: Also, my skin had become a dangerous shade of grey.

FOUR: I know I’ve accomplished this kind of amazing thing with my body, but at the same time, I feel utterly defeated by my body. I made my body undergo the most strenuous thing I’ve ever attempted, and yet I feel that somehow, my body is completely beyond the control of my mind.

Of course, this metaphor is not only inadequate, but totally ridiculous. Holding for nine months a fetus that nourishes itself into a baby by sucking up your energy and flesh from within, then spending hours (days?) forcing the bugger to come out of an impossibly stretched vagina or a slice in your belly...that is clearly not even close to moving your legs and breathing hard for 26 miles over a few hours’ time. Yet the narratives can overlay one another because the tenets are evocative of one another. This is why metaphors suck, and I am really beginning to hate them. Because running the marathon DID make me feel more feminine, yet to say I felt feminine because the physicality of it, the utter defeat I feel at the hands of my own body, seems not only regressive but incorrect.

I am constantly trying to stretch the boundaries of my body by trying to get beyond a dependency on metaphors. All I can do is dive into the materiality of my physical experience: the feelings that give it its curves and stance.

I kind of wish my chafed nipples had burst open and their blood seeped through my t-shirt.

My mouth, drained of blood and caked with dead skin, reminded me of white lipstick like 1960s Priscilla Presley.

Those same lips was kissed by my gentle boyfriend. He met me at the finish line and licked my grey arm. He tasted salt left over from the evaporated sweat and said he liked it.

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