Sunday, April 10, 2016

man up.

I was told, after a brief post about my 35k run on Strava, to 'man up.'

It took me aback at the moment, and has continued to bother me on several levels. 

This is an open letter to English Language Learners on 'Manning-Up' and all the other shit that one might have to learn before calling someone out on such a prospect.

The run was a 35k training run designed to build endurance and durability for my upcoming attempt at a marathon run in under three hours. This is a massive feat that has eluded me ever since I started running marathons, and would be a massive benchmark for an untalented amateur such as myself.

The pace was designated as 'easy' by my coach. That meant running each kilometer in a time of 4:30 to 5:00. No faster. No slower. Easy, in this sense, was referring to the pace. And, as anyone who runs any distance would know, as distance increases, so will perceived effort, and 'easy' will, inevitably, become 'not easy'.  Such was my long run last night. It started into a sunset and cold northerly wind. It ended in utter darkness and a cold northerly wind. The pace averaged out to within seconds of the slow end of 'easy'. The effort, by the end, was far beyond 'easy'. And the triumph of the day was finishing the mileage to lie in the fetal position on the warm floor of my kitchen before eating a nutritious and delicious meal fixed by my supportive, intelligent, beautiful partner, while our wonderful children slept soundly upstairs.

In our society, this is all a 'man' could possibly quest after or ask for. Partner. Offspring. Physical accomplishment in the face of hardship. Satisfactory completion of a day.

I mentioned a bit about the run on my Strava post. I mentioned that it was a long run and that easy became not easy. I mentioned the wind and the heart. And that was about it. It was brief to the point of being poetic. It was certainly beyond literal.

Then a kid of nineteen commented on it, stating that 35k is never easy. Fair enough. I agree. It's the longest training run I've ever done, and ended up being about the same amount of time I hope to run 42.2k in a couple of weeks. Then he said it: 'Man up.' I was incensed. What in the hell does a nineteen-year-old kid who easily runs a 2:49 marathon know about manning up?

Man up is a great saying. It is comprised of two societal interpretations that result in a hybrid euphemism in the English language that demand the recipient of the request gather himself into the best expectations of masculinity and use them to rise to an occasion. This is good. As it rests, the 'man' portion of 'man up' assumes that the societal norms imposed upon the man gender are ones of perseverance, resourcefulness, tenacity, audacity, and a willingness to pursue for good. The 'up' portion of the phrase refers to other idioms, such as 'rise to the occasion' and 'step up (to the plate/line/etc.)'. These are key in the 'man up' phrase, as they further outline the necessity of putting oneself beyond one's current status, particularly in the face of adversity, and moving into an equal state with the confrontation or issue presented (regardless of previously assumed inadequacies of physical, social, economic, etc. nature). Thus, to 'man up' would be to act like a man and rise to the occasion; to be all one can be and present it in the face of a challenge. Such would be a beautiful thing. Such is not the thing to be demanded by a talented runner of nineteen years of age with no context whatsoever regarding the run or runner in question.

'Man up' is not something he can say.

If the runner in question spent the entire day cheering and hoping and emoting for his children at a track meet, after he had cooked for them, before he had cooked for them again, and made sure they bathed, and sent them to bed after they read books he bought for them, perhaps he had already manned up. If the runner in question had made a good life for himself and others, and found an amazing partner with whom to share in it, perhaps he had already manned up. If the runner in question had already mastered enough of the English language to write it in published prose or teach it to the next generations for the last decade, perhaps he had already manned up. If the runner in question had no talent whatsoever for sport, yet continued to will his inadequate body through kilometer after kilometer of hopeful training, despite an old body and phantom injuries that resurfaced at the worst of times, perhaps he had already manned up. And if, throughout all of this, the runner in question understood that there are things that young, brash, language-learning kids have yet to learn about respect and context and the way the world can work in some circles, perhaps he had already known about manning up.

And unless you have done all of this and understood it deeply, unless you know what the fuck you're talking about, do not dare to ever tell someone else to 'man up'.