Mel Runs A Mile In Five People's Shoes

Part of what I'm doing for our brand-spanking-new fundraising campaign is dedicating one mile of running to every contributor over $10. And then I get to blab about it (as I am wont to do).

Today I ran five miles and dedicated them to the first five contributors: Heather and Martin Flanagan, Anonymous Contributor #1, Anonymous Contributor #2, Hilary Lorenz and David Goodwin. These were five amazing people to take with me on my run.

Mile #1: Heather & Martin
First off, you need to know this: Heather and Martin subletted my wee Calgary place when I first came to New York. They answered an online ad and literally made it possible for me to come here for my five-week (HAHAHA!) adventure in 2010. They played an incredibly special role in my life here and we've kept in touch ever since. 

So it's lovely that they were our first contributors and my first mile-long dedication. It was a fun mile, full of delights. There was a sprinkle of rain, as though the sky couldn't quite decide what it was doing, but the streets were wet enough that the cars on the BQE made that really satisfying spray sound as they sped by. At the very beginning of this mile, I passed a little girl who slapped her dad's midriff with both hands, yelled 'Your big fat belly!' and then ran away, laughing maniacally. Then I passed a beagle who had perched himself up on the guardrail so he could watch the traffic. And right at the end of that first mile, I starting thinking about how weird running is and I forgot what to do with my hands.

Which brings us to...Mile #2: Anonymous Contributor
I love Anonymous Contributor. This person is selfless, possibly a little shy and ridiculously generous. This person wants to make a difference and doesn't want to make a big deal out of it. And what a difference they make. 

Mile #2 was a very lovely, very green uphill mile. It began with a symphonic burst of birdsong from the trees near the lake. I don't know where Picasso used to go to "gorge on green," but it might as well be Prospect Park. All the first-mile jittery energy had mellowed out, so I was feeling centred and strong (and I pass that feeling on to you, dear, Anonymous Contributor). I remembered a post I read yesterday form someone who said that hills were speedwork in disguise (I pass this wisdom on to you, Anonymous Contributor).

And then, my sweet Anonymous, things got weird.

First, I got passed...nay, trounced...by a short-legged chick with a weirdly inefficient stride and a crazily bouncing ponytail (hello, Ponytail). She did not look like she should be passing me, but she MURDERED me! And then, from the opposite direction, came a shirtless, barrel chested Captain Ahab. He wasn't fat but there was a lot HAPPENING. I guess I'm just not used to seeing that amount of chest hair in the morning. I offer you, my most Anonymous friend, He Of The Gelantinous Pecs.

Mile #3: Anonymous Contributor #2
I have decided this was a couple. I have also decided that this mile was prophetic for Anonymous Couple's life. After the tough grind of Mile #2's hill, Anonymous Couple's mile was a welcome thing. Rolling, speedy, beautiful and quiet. The wind had picked up but it served to stave off the humidity that had gathered since the rain petered out. The hard part was over.

It's smooth sailing, Anonymous Couple. You've been through a lot, but things are good for the next stretch.

The second half of this mile had more people in it than the rest of my run and I had a moment of blissful convergence when all the people around me seemed to be part of the same body. All moving in their own rhythms and directions, but somehow connected.

Mile #4: Hilary Lorenz
This mile was a perfect Hilary mile. It was lovely and straightforward, just like her. She is one of the tribe of fierce runner women I have been lucky enough to gather around me in the past year. She's also an artist and one of the most generous souls I know.

Hil, this was your mile. This was the mile that, I hope, you take with you on your race this weekend.

It was freaking FAST. All downhill. The wind was a bit stiff, but it held me in check. I focused on foot turnover and in honor of Hil, I got my game face on. I adopted a race mindset and focused on staying present and alert. I pretended to be Hilary in her race: calm, fast, focused.

I blazed past the ghost finish line of the better of the two relays Hilary and I have run together and I declared that mile a victory.

Mile #5: David Goodwin
What better way to end my first dedication run by honoring a man named Goodwin? A man named Goodwin who is from the UK no less? It doesn't get better than this. And it doesn't get better than David himself who is not only the second tallest person I know in New York, but also one of the most spontaneously friendly and generous as well. He is a friend of Speedy Hilary from Mile #4 and I am proud to now call him my friend. He also introduced me to the Zombies Run app and every time I get chased by the undead, I think of him.

This was a perfect finishing mile! Another birdsong symphony. A stunning panorama of the lake. A Parks Department motorcade. Cars honking uproariously and another Captain Ahab spotting. Only this time I realized he actually looked like a 1980s topless squash club version of Ernest Hemingway. Prophetic? I hope so.

So ends my first five dedication miles. Because I am surrounded by more generosity than I can believe, there are already 17 more dedication miles to be run. You want one, too. You know you do.


ENDURE 2012: Leveraging Hope

We've got some catching up to do! The last thing I wrote was that ENDURE was named one of the Most Memorable Theatre Moments of 2011 by The Calgary Herald. About a month before that, in early December, I got up off my butt after three weeks on the couch recovering from the most intense year of my life: an artistic ultramarathon of writing, traveling to Sweden, rehearsing, performing, touring to Canada and remounting the show for seven weeks in Brooklyn last fall.

I got off the couch and I went for a lot of walks and did a lot of staring into space. I thought about our plan for 2012. I thought about London. I thought about the Olympics. 

I couldn't stop thinking about the Olympics. How they only happen every four years and if you've got a show about marathoning just hanging around, well. 

Wouldn't you take it to the Games? 

I'd had this thought before. I brought it up in production meetings in the early fall and my team smiled and nodded in that 'there goes Jones' kind of way.

Then Calgary, my hometown, got selected as the Cultural Capital of Canada for 2012. And $3.5 million bucks for arts and culture came with it. There was a grant program supporting artists from Calgary who want to bring work abroad. Then there's Calgary's own Olympic legacy and, well.

Wouldn't you apply for that grant?

In applying for that grant, I had to hustle up a plan. Some way to present my show in London during the Games. And someone said, 'While you're over there, why not go to Edinburgh?' Which I'd never thought about and which scared the bejeezus out of me, frankly, but I mean, yeah. Why not? 

It turns out that going to Edinburgh is a great way to get your show to London. I connected with two venues who have theatres in Edinburgh and London and when I pitched the Olympics/sport connection and bringing the show to both cities, well. 

Wouldn't you present my show?

Then I entered a phase of my life I like to call Negotiating. It's lasted almost six months so far and I'm not finished yet. At the peak, I had three presenters interested and was facing down big moral/ethical/philosophical dilemmas because the people who offer you the moon are sometimes not the people you want to be working with. But it takes a lot of soul-searching and integrity-probing to understand that.

So I let go of the moon, and as my friend Jon likes to say: I landed among the stars.

I got that crazy grant. And I got another grant from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts who invested in the original creation of ENDURE and I'm so proud to have their support as we take it to the next level. I've entered another phase of my life I like to call Asking For Large Amounts Of Money. That phase hasn't ended yet, either. Nor will it, I suppose.

I suspect these new phases are actually just me graduating up as an artist and a producer. The lessons get bigger. The stakes get higher. It's like that part in ENDURE about training and how you're getting stronger, but you don't feel stronger because the workouts get harder and the long runs get longer.

That's what's happening over here.

This Olympic idea was my dream. And if you want your dream done, you have to do it. It won't get done for you. So you just step into uncertainty and count on the ground to be there. And you push off that little bit of ground and step out again. You just leverage hope against hope, and keep doing that. Over and over until you get there. 

Sometimes my friends see me go down into the gopher hole and then three months later I pop back up and I'm six miles from where I started. And they wonder how I got all the way over there and what the hell happened down there anyway and I don't know what to tell them except it was lonely and hard and worth every second.

So that's pretty much how it's been.

There were three solid months of very alone this-is-impossible work when all I had was this idea and this unshakable conviction that it had to be done. Gradually, incrementally, pieces started coming together and now, it seems suddenly, I have presenters and dates and a crew and plane tickets and how did this happen I'm going to the UK.

And, don't worry, you'll be hearing a lot more from me now.

You'll hear season announcements. And that tickets are on sale. You'll hear about fundraising campaigns I'd be honoured if you'd support and spread the word about. You'll hear about media coverage. You'll hear about sponsors, and maybe that will remind you of someone who would LOOOOVE to sponsor this and you'll email me.

But mostly, you'll hear how it's going. How the show has to change and we have to change with it. What new muscles we're working out and the funny, dorky stuff that happens when you leave your comfort zone (again!) and start something new. 

We'll be leveraging hope, putting one foot in front of the other and trying to take you with us as we do. It's great to be back.



Ending 2011 with a WIN!

I was just dragging my suitcase to the door. Just about to say goodbye to my family after a miraculuously drama-free family holiday. Just about to board THE LAST red-eye flight I WILL EVER TAKE (ecause they really, really suck) when the news came in.

My friend Charles, who runs this theatre company with my friend Mark, posted a link on my Facebook page asking, 'Have you seen this?!?!?!?!?!'

I clicked through and saw this headline: A Year At The Theatre...Plays That Took Centre Stage. I felt my heart jump. I read the first paragraph. There was the word ENDURE. I read more. There it was again. I turned to my mother and blinked at her a number of times. Then I pressed 'print' and wordlessly handed the pages to my father. Then I pulled a bottle of champagne out of the refridgerator and said, "We need to drink fast or I'll miss my plane."

I am. BEYOND. Delighted. And honoured. And blessed. And thrilled.

And I have all of you to thank. Thank you for making 2011 the best year to bring this show into the world. We've got HUGE plans for 2012. Huge. I'll be crowing about them soon. But in the meantime, I'm gonna crow about this.



This is the FINAL WEEKEND OF ENDURE. I am not kidding.

Dudes. It freaking SNOWED last weekend. A blizzard of epic, biblical proportions. Not that blizzards featured prominently in the Bible, but you get my drift. (Drift. Ha.)

And this? This weekend right here? IS OUR LAST WEEKEND. For real. ENDURE is going into hibernation as of about 5:20pm on Sunday evening. And me? I am going into a nice, warm glass of whiskey.

I know, I know, this eight-week run of shows has been one of those things where you think you have all the time in the world and you forget to get tickets and then there's a rainy-ish day and maybe it's your cousin's birthday and then POOF you missed the whole damn thing.

You don't want to miss this.

There is a long, cold winter of dark, lonely mornings where it will be just you, your excuses and that way your running shoes look at you, all forlorn-like, when you talk yourself out of another workout. This show is a weapon. This show is a teeny, tiny pearl of inspiration that you get to keep in your heart through the darkest, coldest, most I-don't-wanna days of winter training. This show will keep you warm.

I'm not joking here. 

This is fuel. And you will never see this show, this particular version of this show, again. We are going into a major re-development phase as soon as we close on Sunday.

This is your last chance to see the original production of ENDURE: A Run Woman Show

AAA! I'm going to lose my mind if you don't come. Read the latest reviews. One is from the NY Daily News. One is from the Huffington Post. One is from a woman who wants you to buy your tickets before you even read her review

Trust these people. I did not pay them to say any of this. ENDURE is bona fide badass. Giddyup. There are, like, a handful and a half left.


ENDURE Endures! We're Extending For Four More Shows

In celebration of the New York City Marathon and the fact that fall 2011 has gifted us with some of the most beautiful weather of all time, we've extended the show through November 6th!

We're performing two shows per weekend – Saturday and Sunday at 3pm this weekend (Oct 29, 30) and next (Nov 5, 6). Get tickets here.

Last weekend was bloody amazing. Not only did ENDURE's amazing composer Christine Owman come all the way from Sweden to grace us with her presence at two performances, she did a performance of her own at Big Sky Works on Saturday night.

Last weekend was also all about the groups – we had a bunch of folks from Pivotal Labs out, we had our first-ever ENDURE birthday party for the amazing Hilary Lorenz and we had another contingent from the New York Harriers join us on Sunday.

Coming as a group with your racing team or running buddies is a BRILLIANT way to experience ENDURE. The sense of inspiration and community the show encourages makes it the perfect pre-marathon motivator. Our blogger friend Tracy even thinks the show would be great for the day before the big race.

Me, I'm starting to feel really nostalgic.

Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of arriving to NYC to begin full-time work on ENDURE. I was injured at the time and struggling to maintain perspective in the midst of chronic pain. I woke up with pain and went to sleep with pain. Every day I grappled with the sheer folly of writing a show about running while being unable to shuffle around the block without searing spasms ripping through my right hip.

I didn't think I could do it. The thought of performing this show almost paralyzed me with fear. I'd risked everything to be here and to make this show and there was no guarantee that I could do it.

The real risk, then, was to step out in faith. To believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that it would all work out.

Looking back now on the past 12 months, I can only shake my head with awe and gratitude. What this show has created is beyond my wildest expectations. It's both a testament to endurance – of keeping on even when all seems lost – and to the community of audience members, artists, supporters and friends who have rallied around me and this show.

ENDURE could not keep going without you.

The impact of the show is now really starting to hit home. We just got a message from an audience member who took the audio with her to the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco. "I can do 42! Your voice on my iPod helped me finish even with my knee injury," she writes.

Meanwhile, some runners have taken their pearls (come to the show to find out what that means!) with them on long runs. And our friend from the Huffington Post is even sewing hers into her race-day singlet for the NYC Marathon. (That one made me cry.)

And one of the biggest honors and blessings of my life has been the emails and messages I receive from people who have experienced the show. Most often they thank me for the level of honesty, intimacy and vulnerability I was and am willing to share. 'You made vulnerability okay,' they tell me. 'I didn't know it was okay.'

Because that's the big lesson I've learned about endurance. It's not about gritting your teeth and gutting it out. It's about having the faith to move forward when nothing is certain.

And in the waning days before the New York City Marathon – that huge test of fortitude and faith – I'd like to invite you to share ENDURE with me. Arrive to the start line as filled with inspiration as you are with glycogen and electrolytes. There are four more shows...you won't regret it.