Maybe running a marathon is a terrible waste of time, but I sure hope it isn’t. I start my training for the New York City marathon this week, which means that the Slate Anti-Marathon launches as well.
A quick refresh: The Slate Anti-Marathon is everyone’s chance to apply the training one devotes to a marathon to a project of your choice. Ideally, this project is a something you can’t do right now, but there’s a tangible goal that you’d like to be able to do a mere 18 weeks from now. Training will require a few hours a week (three to four hours to start, four to six by the end), and I’ll be posting my running schedules below so you can match up as closely as you like.
Here is my training schedule for the next six weeks:
Slate staffers have jumped on board, and many will be training for Anti-Marathon projects. Here are a few that are in the works, to inspire you as you pick your own:
Laura Anderson, associate editor
Project: Learning to play piano.
Motivation: I played piano as a kid, and a couple of years ago I decided to reclaim the 20-year-old electric piano that had been languishing in my parents’ basement, move it to my apartment in New York, and become proficient at tickling the ivories again. I accomplished the first two things but not the third. I’d like to get serious about practicing piano again because it’s very satisfying to be able to make music and because I think my brain and body will be happier if I spend less of my leisure time staring at screens.
Goal: To be able to play a French pop song … I chose a to-be-determined French pop song as my goal because I’ve been listening to a lot of French piano pop recently and it just sounds si beau and I guess in my fantasies I would like to be a French cabaret pianist, so why not?
Shon Arieh-Lerer, video production associate
Project: I will be training to lucid-dream. My training will involve sleep-journaling, practicing “reality checks,” and various meditation, visualization, and contemplation practices that draw from Tibetan dream yoga as well as contemporary Western methods.
Motivation: In certain Tibetan Buddhist traditions, dreaming is thought of as its own liminal state of existence. Such states are called bardos. At the moment of your death you also enter a bardo that acts like passageway between the life that just ended and your next reincarnation. If you maintain awareness during this bardo, then you have a chance to determine your next reincarnation and even exit the process of life and death altogether. Some Tibetan Buddhists practice maintaining awareness during the sleep bardo (lucid dreaming) as preparation for maintaining awareness during the death bardo.
Goal: My long-term goal for the Anti-Marathon is to control my own rebirth when I die and go into the bardo. If I succeed I will let you know by reincarnating as a check mark.
Jeff Bloomer, associate editor and video producer
Project: Learning how to play chess.
Motivation: I recently worked on another editorial project related to chess, which I have never played even once. The complexity of that culture made me want to be part of it.
Goal: Competence when I square off against a seasoned stranger in the park, as well as the ability to understand all the great chess writing out there.
Chelsea Hassler, deputy audience engagement editor
Project: To eliminate procrastination entirely from my life, or at the very least, eliminate it a little. The Anti-Procrastination Anti-Marathon!
Motivation: It’s the last step towards adulthood as I round the corner to 30 in December.
End goal: To have a routine in hand to block my routine behavior and become more of a productivity machine in my laziest hours.
Dan Kois, culture editor
Project: I am training for the Spanish language.
Motivaton: I picked this project because I will be in Costa Rica for three months next year writing a book, and I need to start cracking now!
Goal: By the end I hope to be conversational in extremely terrible Spanish.
Seth Maxon, home page editor
Project: Playing “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy on piano.
Motivation: I am not good at piano, but I have played casually for a long time. As a kid I took classical lessons but quit at 10 for several years before learning some jazz and playing some rock songs with bands at a few high school talent shows. The only song I really know well these days is “Someone to Watch Over Me,” but I like messing around and improvising, and I often wander over to my keyboard to play. I would feel really good about learning a long piece that sounds difficult for me, especially one I love like “Clair de Lune.” I haven’t read and learned how to play a song in its entirety in many years, and I think I would feel a sense of accomplishment as well as more confident to read and learn more songs afterward. While part of my motivation for this is about playing piano specifically, to be honest I’m probably more motivated by building up my own discipline when it comes to goals outside of my job.
Goal: Be able to play the song in its entirety, feel more confident about sight-reading and playing classical in general.
Abby McIntyre, copy editor
Project: Writing a novel.
Motivation: Like most avid readers and humanities lovers, writing a novel is something I’ve longed to do but never imagined I’d have the time for. A dedicated writing schedule should help me flex my creative muscles and reach the finish.
Goal: Complete and publish (or self-publish) my novel.
Ayana Morali, executive producer, Slate Video
Project: Becoming fluent in Hebrew. Which I was once. It was actually my first language, but I lost it. Long story.
Motivation: It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a few years, and this project seemed like a good way to actually be accountable and maybe, actually, finally … follow through.
Goal: Be able to have a conversation with my grandmother that isn’t translated through a third party. She’s lived a crazy life, and I’d like to hear about it and ask her the million questions I have, directly.
Rebecca Onion, staff writer
Project: Feldenkrais method: ease in movement.
Motivation: In the past four years, since I started working at a desk full-time, my body has gone to shit! My feet are numb all the time, my legs and knees hurt, I have sciatica and a pinched nerve in my neck. It is a dramatic turnaround from the general good health I always enjoyed before then, and for a while I have been trying to fix the different areas one by one. In the last year I have become ever more convinced that what’s needed is a more holistic solution. I already do tons of yoga and have been doing it for 15 years, and that hasn’t helped. I have been meeting with a Feldenkrais practitioner once a month, and the few exercises she has done with me have felt amazing, and the philosophy of the discipline makes a lot of sense to me, but I haven’t been able to get myself to commit to a program of doing the exercises consistently, because they’re not a “workout” in the traditional sense and I am sheepish about putting time toward lying on my back and moving my leg back and forth; at the same time I can’t really do workouts in the traditional sense because my body feels like shit! So I want to use the Anti-Marathon time to try it for real and see if I can feel better by the end.
Goal: I want my back and legs and feet to feel more easeful. I want to be able to get to the end of a working day at my desk without feeling like death.
Dawnthea Price, copy editor
Project: Conditioning and practicing aerial arts (anti-gravity yoga, silks, lyra, etc.).
Motivation: I was part of a circus/aerial arts club in college, but the training didn’t mesh with a full class schedule. I’d like to see if training in this art takes more, less, or about the same time as training for the New York marathon.
Goal: By the marathon, I hope to be able to comfortably perform as an aerial artist, complete with the massive amounts of upper body strength necessary to keep myself aloft in silks or a hoop.
Heather Schwedel, copy editor
Project: I will be trying to become a better knitter and crocheter—I’m currently more or less at the beginner level.
Motivation: I picked this project partly due to some anxiety about not having a hobby and also because I think making tangible things is valuable and I would like to do more of it.
Goal: There’s no specific project I want to accomplish yet, but hopefully by the end I will have made something (or several things) more complicated than a scarf.
Katy Waldman, words correspondant
Project: My project is to play the piano.
Motivaton: I used to love the piano and play it all the time! I started when I was 5 and kept it up in some form or another through college. Then I stopped, cold turkey. For my project, I’m going to revisit some of my favorite classical pieces, brush up on my technique, and hopefully do some improvisation and songwriting.
Goal: Maybe I will write an Anti-Marathon song, if another Slatester agrees to sing it.
Megan Wiegand, copy chief
Project: I’m going to teach myself basic code by taking CS50x, Harvard’s introduction to computer science class available online through EdX.
Motivaton: I’ve been trying to teach myself to code for years, but I stick with it for a day or two until Netflix wins out. I’m hoping the Anti-Marathon project will motivate me to finally make progress. I’m not sure how much time the course will take, so I plan to supplement it with Code Academy lessons if necessary.
Goal: I don’t have a specific goal for the end, other than being able to grasp the basics of the few coding languages the course introduces.
See you at the finish line—and many more times in between. We’ll check in about how it’s going in a few short weeks!