Anti-Social

There’s no escaping the blank stare of the screen, the cursor’s impatient blink.
My hands settle on the keyboard. Left untouched for two agonizing days, the keys feel cold, unkind. Today, the words won’t come easy, if they come at all.

The unending story began six months ago, in the aftermath of the doomed 2012 New York City marathon, my first shot at a 42k race. Out of frustration, I made the boneheaded decision to register for the NY Endurance Challenge Series marathon, a technical trail race up and down Bear Mountain, NY. A marathon is a marathon, I remember thinking. And I figured it would take a perfect storm to flood a mountain.

I bought a pair of Salomon Mantra and home-cooked a training program entitled “Run, Not Too Fast, Mostly Trails”. Despite having a decent mileage base, I decided to start off with a 90 minutes long run, and work my way up to about 4 hours of continuous running. I sprinkled a few feel runs, speed work and hill repeats. I also aimed for a reasonable race goal based on my Bear Mountain Half-Marathon time from last year (2:13:27):

4:59:59

Then I went to work. I set up a Nikeplus account to go with my brand new GPS watch. I joined seven LinkedIn groups, and was voted top influencer twice. I commented heavily on trailrunnermag.com, posted frequent updates on Facebook, with links to my Tumblr. Daily. Often, twice a day. Sometimes more. I tweeted every workout, detailing bridge repeats (I’m live in NYC), speed sessions and tempo runs. @RickeyGates even favorited one of my tweets.

I choose to post my injury report on Pheed, so no one would know about it. Nothing major to hide anyway; a bout of plantar fasciitis during some stressful times at work, and a cracked laptop screen. I also struggled with my iPhone home button, but who doesn’t?

Over the weeks, I made hundred of “Friends”, some “Close”, some not so much. I gained over a thousand followers (while getting stuck following 976 of them). My circle grew. The CrowdRise page I supported benefited from the exposure. I raised $2’473 for an obscure Eastern African charity.
I even impacted Wall Street. I instagramed my muddy trainers so many times, no one’s saying it ain’t worth a $billion anymore.

Suddenly, there was meaning to my senseless running. Not only I ran, but also started to exist. I trained harder; tracked every mile, broadcast every step.

The social network had to be fed.

I won’t lie; knowing someone, anyone, was interested in my training made the strenuous work easier. Posting my pace on Twitter motivated me to push a bit more. Some days, I needed it. Despite the growing network, I always ran alone.

See, I’m a fully employed husband of one, and a dad of two. Finding four or five hours to jog every Sunday for three month (and report all of it on multiple platforms with multiple devices) required lots of bribing. And honestly, running hours in NYC isn’t always fun. The trails are few, and the fumes, the cars, bikes, tourists, stray cats and nasty rats are many.

Two days ago, I went for a bike ride. Just to move the legs, avoid the pounding. I wanted to keep the legs fresh for the upcoming big race. I rode around Brooklyn, to Clinton Hill, north toward Williamsburg, up the bridge into the City. Then, atop the Williamsburg Bridge, the chain snapped. My right leg gave awkwardly under my full weight. I flew off the bike.

Crazy bad luck.

The cursor blinks. Behind the screen, hundreds await, unseen but ever present, legions of insatiable gluttons waiting to devour my entire existence kilobyte by kilobyte. I’m sick of sharing my every thought, of being stalked, observed, and judged.

I’m not your friend. Nor am I a cult leader or the center of some circle.

The cursor blinks.

The monster must be fed.

I type: “Big race this weekend. Won’t happen. Torn hip labrum. Crazy bad luck…”

About Stephane

Stéphane Rodriguez est né à Genève en 1973. Après des études de science politique à l'université de Genève, et un bref détour par la place financière locale, il s'envole pour New York, où il travaille depuis près de 10 ans dans le domaine de l'Internet. Il vit à Brooklyn, NY, avec sa femme et ses deux enfants. "Les 7 Sages" est son premier roman.
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