Slate.com decided to mercilessly make fun of Beto O’Rourke’s recent post on Medium about his morning run in the snow. Dude just came within a couple of percentage points of beating a Republican incumbent senator in Texas, so he’s got some deep thoughts to share. “In short,” Slate writer Heather Schwedel says, “if this guy were in my college creative writing seminar, I would be roasting him in a group text message with every woman in the class.” He documents getting up early in the morning (if you call out the door at 7:45 “early”), running along the mall in the snow, and stopping to read and contemplate the text of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, sculpted into the North Wall of the Lincoln memorial. Schwedel writes, “[T]he stream-of-conscious sentence fragments all build toward a pseudo-profundity that screams both ‘19-year-old boy discovering the world’ and ‘social media post you will quietly and ashamedly delete in a few years.’”
I have a hard time being so bitingly critical of Beto, though, because I have had those runs, too, and I have written about them. I have shared some of those writings, and I have kept most of them to myself. I once spent a full 5 hour period, uninterrupted, trying to write about the feelings I feel when I run, how big the world seems to get, the massive importance of every thought going through your head. If I were pondering an election loss and my role in the world and my future, I would probably go out running in order to do it best. And I would probably return home brimming with revelation to share. And if I were as famous as Beto O’Rourke is right now, I might well publish my zen diary on the web and boost my fit-but-tender-guy image.
None of this makes the quality of a person’s published writing above criticism, and Schwedel isn’t wrong to point out that “so many of the details—the waking up early, the running even though barely anyone else is out because of the weather (‘There were in some places no tracks, mine were the first footprints down in the new snow,’ lol), the stopping to contemplate America and democracy (double lol)—paint him as a particularly corny, self-conceived political hero.”
But that’s the thing about running (though, again, I will not call 7:45 AM early) on a snowy morning and thinking deep thoughts: it does make you feel like a hero. So while I can chuckle a little bit at the biting criticism’s of Beto’s blogging, I also feel like a blogger in a glass house who prefers to put down the stones and hope instead that the guy keeps doing whatever gives him the will and the optimism to stay in politics.