Thursday, May 31, 2012

Do We Really Need To Know If She Pooped?

Do we really need to know if she pooped before the marathon?
The Jade Rabbit has gotten many reviews, and I am grateful for all of them.  They range from, literally  “it's the best” to “it’s the worst”,  and “the author obviously understands his genre” to "it's easy to see the author knows nothing about running or training for a marathon."

I am thankful for all of them, and only wish I could have coffee with each and every reviewer.To respond to them is to risk sounding defensive and bitter, so all I can say is I’m thrilled I’m being read.

As someone who likes to write book reviews myself, it’s not a personal thing, and if we all liked and connected with the same material, what’s the point and what a boring world.

But, when someone asks this question; “do we really need to know if she pooped before a race or the entire menu of what she ate?”  about Janice, the main character and narrator of The Jade Rabbit, I felt the need to respond. Not as an author, but as a runner. Plus, the older I get, the more I need to talk about B.M.’s, so I can’t resist the chance to respond. (If the writer of this review is reading this, I think your discussion is awesome I thank you for your comment.) I can see why the discussion and detail had no artistic value, especially to this reviewer, but isn’t that really one of the two most important things when running a marathon? What did you eat? And, Did you poop?

We marathoners usually all know well in advance what our diet will be the days before the marathon, and have probably experimented many times with the best combo and timing of food that works for us. I can picture my last meal now, and I also fully know that I’ll be eating some afternoon fiber the day before the event (frosted shredded wheat) to assure a great meeting with the commode the next morning.

What goes in and what goes out is huge. I think the reason there’s always 50 people in line at each port a potty marathon morning is not because everyone has the urge to go, they just know they will feel so much better to purge themselves of any extra bowel-cramping material.  We've all been on runs when our intestines attacked, and to have this happen during your grand moment is simply tragic.

I know I’m not the only marathoner who wants to micro-manage all these little details, who eats at a specific time, and lays out my clothes the the night before, putting the body glide in my shoe so I don’t forget to lube up, and having sixteen alarms set and a wake up call, just in case.

Controlling these things reminds me of the way we try to control things and clean in never before cleaned places when tragedy strikes. We need routine and control when about to throw ourselves into the unknown hazards of a marathon than can metaphysically kill us.
Janice from The Jade Rabbit has her marathon evening routine mapped out weeks in advance, including the decision whether or not to have sex the night before the race. (She does, since studies have shown a high percentage of those who ran a PR did have sex the night before, and because it was essential for me that she did so that the rest of the climatic end could come to fruition.)

And then marathon morning my senses all seem so acute. Every last step I check off in my brain, coffee and eating and showering and pooping and dressing.  I do it methodically like some warrior putting on his gear to go for battle. This immediacy is something I tried to capture by changing the novel from past tense to present tense marathon morning, so you seem listening to Janice at the very moment the marathon is taking place

There is a general pattern to the reviews where runners wanted more running, and non-runners felt the running was too much. This was true when I got the novel into the hands of a prominent Chinese adoption writer and publisher.  She read it for the adoption theme and not the running theme, and was concerned that was there was too much running and she asked, ‘who is your audience?’ And suggested I write with more of an audience in mind next time.

Perhaps the problem was I didn’t have an audience in mind when writing it, and that the book was fully personal. As an adoptive father I wanted to immerse myself into what an adopted woman might feel and then to turn up the heat in her life, and nothing turns up the heat in your life like a marathon.  I wanted to demonstrate that when a runner is in the zone of their training, their life is their training and their training is their life, that battles fought in personal life are reflected in runs, and vice versa, so you can’t talk about running without talking about life.  Running is the background music we live by, and the volume slowly gets ramped up the closer the race day.  We bring our lifelong baggage with is during every training run, and hopefully return a little lighter or at least stronger to carry the load.

 As it is, I followed the adage of writing the book I’d like to read, as I pretty much cry every time I read the ending.

The novel is free today and tomorrow, June 1st, on kindle, as part of Amazon’s Prime promotions, and I invite you to read it.  

Oh yeah, spoiler alert. Janice wasn’t able to poop marathon morning as usual, but had to stop along the course to go, which, as you know can be devastating if you are trying to break a sub 3 hour marathon and shatter your already fractured life back into place.  Read all about it, and then give a shout back.  

12 comments:

Peter Rosch said...

write the book you'd like to read. awesome advice, easily forgotten when trying to figure out how best to appeal to a target. the pooping advice is good too.

Cait the Arty Runnerchick said...

my opinion has become that any runner who's been at it long enough is not shy about talking poop and GI issues...i think then if readers don't 'get it' they just haven't been there. but for the people who do get it then they will relate that much more. i kno i always stress about my potty habits pre-race and i think if i read about a marathoner who wasn't worried then it would be odd by omission. :)

Greg Strosaker said...

Hi Mark, found your blog through Salty Running (perhaps we are the only two men who read it). I couldn't pass up the chance to get your book for free, looking forward to reading it and reviewing it on my blog. Though I'm undecided as to whether I'll cover the topic of BM's.

Mindi said...

Mark - I found your site through Salty Running and I have to say that I LOVE this post. It is so true. In fact, the issue of whether a marathoner is able do her thing in the morning before the race is HUGE. It can truly make or break a race. I happen to love your writing style too, so I just downloaded your book (thanks). I look forward to reading it next week while I am traveling. Mindi aka Mint over at Salty.

Mindi said...

Mark - I found your site through Salty Running and I have to say that I LOVE this post. It is so true. In fact, the issue of whether a marathoner is able do her thing in the morning before the race is HUGE. It can truly make or break a race. I happen to love your writing style too, so I just downloaded your book (thanks). I look forward to reading it next week while I am traveling. Mindi aka Mint over at Salty.

Mark Matthews said...

Thanks Mindy! Hope you find the book to your liking. And yes, showing up race day with a full, active, or irritable bowel is one of those major race day fears - right along with pouring rain, getting lost on the course (I have this re-occuring dream) or forgetting your body glide. Nice Wisconsin run and enjoy Chicago!

Mark Matthews said...

Thanks Greg, hope the book is to your liking and you picked the perfect day to download it. I am looking for your blog now, but for some reason can't find it. I can only see the one you follow, Run Like A Coyote. The Salty Runner is a great and unique blog, and I like the different posters rotating. Stop by again and leave your link. Thanks.

Mark Matthews said...

Wait, found it, http://predawnrunner.com
Great, meaty stuff.

jinger said...

Will be checking out the book. The adoptive piece intrigues me! And congrats on the comment of the week!

Jill Stivers said...

OMG! Of course we want to know if she pooped! That's one of the most important thing before a marathon!

I freak out if my pre-marathon diet did not produce the result I hoped for. You worry about what part of the course you'll need to stop and whether it'll be near a porta potty with no line or if you'll have to hold it and start cramping before you can take a break.

This is especially important for us females who are less inclined to run off course into the bushes to take care of business. And since the main character is female, it's even more important to know if she pooped. Duh.

My husband and I are both runners. Our Saturday morning pre-run routines always include one of us asking, "Did you get a good poop?" And the other responding adding a hopeful, "And you?" If both of us answered in the affirmative, a rousing "Woo hoo!" followed by a high-five occurs. And we take off on our run happy little poopers. Because when you're a serious runner poop matters. It just does!

Mark Matthews said...

Thanks Jill! (and thanks for making the trip over from your goodreads comment.)
If I had been even more blunt and honest, my conversation would haved looked much more like yours. I love your line,"Because when you're a serious runner poop matters. It just does!"

Sara said...

Mark! This post is perfect! I loved reading your thoughts about Janice and her marathon schedule. I think as a runner, I was not deterred by all the details of her training and racing, and instead found myself immersed in it and comparing it to my own. I can see, though, if you are not a runner how all of those details may seem unnecessary. This post would certainly explain to me why those things were such a necessity to include. I really enjoyed it so thank you for writing it.

THIS is my favorite part, "When a runner is in the zone of their training, their life is their training and their training is their life, that battles fought in personal life are reflected in runs, and vice versa, so you can’t talk about running without talking about life. Running is the background music we live by, and the volume slowly gets ramped up the closer the race day. We bring our lifelong baggage with is during every training run, and hopefully return a little lighter or at least stronger to carry the load." I'm putting it on my FB page today. This is exactly what I needed as I yet again battle the unexpected fight that life has thrown my way. You said it perfectly!! It's so true, and I cannot wait until I am able to run and train again to experience it.

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