dec 14/4 MILES

20 degrees
90% snow covered
mississippi river road path, north/south

Didn’t wake up planning to run this morning but when I took the dog for a walk and felt how calm and clear it was outside, I decided I better go. Who knows what it will be like tomorrow morning? I’m glad I did. Not too cold. Not too windy. Not too icy. After the turn around on my way back south, it started to snow. Medium sized flakes that got trapped in my eyelashes. More pretty than annoying. Listened to my playlist. Looked at the river. Marveled at how the snow just keeps coming, slow and steady. A few flakes at a time. Adding up to white everywhere. No green grass until the spring.

Last Tuesday, when the snow first stayed on the ground, I wrote a brief poem:

It happened.
Not last night but
the night before.
The snow came to stay
setting up camp
on the lawn
until the spring.
Goodbye green grass!
Goodbye bare forest floor!
I’ll see you in March.

dec 13/4 MILES

26 degrees
100% snow covered
mississippi river road path, north/south

It snowed again this morning right before my run. A dusting. Will this be the theme for all of winter or just December? Will Minneapolis Parks ever come out and clear the path? It wasn’t too slippery, just uneven on the path. Made for slower running. Probably a better workout for my leg muscles?

On my walk home, after my run, heard the snow lightly crunching under my feet. Love that sound. I want to figure out how to describe it and how to track the different versions of the snow–wet snow, soft powder, under the wheels of cars, mid-run, while walking…

dec 11/4 MILES

34 degrees
snow-coverage on path: 100%
mississippi river road path, north/south

I wasn’t expecting too much snow on the ground this morning, but there it was, covering the deck and the roads and the sidewalk. And when the sun rose more flakes appeared. Big heavy, wet clumps. I decided I would run anyway. The river road path wasn’t too slippery, just a bit sloppy and difficult to run on. I think my legs will be a little more sore than usual later today.

Walking through the neighborhood on the way to the river my feet made a delightful double crunch noise caused by the extra wetness of the snow. There was the quick crunch of my foot lifting off of the snow and then the deep rumbling crunch of my constant weight on the path. So fun to hear. I wish I would have recorded it.

It was a good run with negative splits. I didn’t care how fast I went just how strong I felt. I chanted “raspberry blueberry strawberry chocolate” again. Almost felt like I was waltzing at one point.

Before and after but no so much during my run, I thought about Minneapolis snow and how it seems to accumulate steadily through frequent dustings instead of amassing suddenly through big storms. It grows my inches, not feet. I decided to write about these snow dusting, first in free verse and then in ghazal form.

a dusting

it doesn’t come all at once
just an inch here
half an inch there
waking up in the morning
to yet another dusting
not much but enough
to keep the ground covered
until spring
first soft and fluffy
then hard and crusty
a pure white blanket
then a dirty gray bank
relentlessly present
not obstinate or malevolent
just always there
always cold
always covering everything
until it warms
or gets shoveled
but then
always covering again
with a light dusting
there’s something exciting
about a big storm
6-8 inches
a foot expected!
but “less than half an inch”
a dusting
is boring
bland
nothing
to dream about
nothing to wake up to
in wonder
only something to shovel

dustings

Never all at once, first it’s bare—a dusting—
an inch here, half an inch there—dustings.

It happens in the middle of the night
then waking up to white everywhere—a dusting.

Weekly inches adding up to feet steadily
crystals congregate in cold air—dustings.

Soon molehills become mountains, blankets banks
snow comes daily without fanfare—a dusting.

These flakes never shouting, “Winter is here!”
always quietly declaring, “dustings.”

Week after week after week after month
so boring so constantly there—a dusting.

Minneapolis—why no grand celebration
no big party? So many small affairs—dustings!

dec 8/4 MILES

26 degrees
mississippi river road path, north/mississippi river road path, south

My first run of the (almost) winter on ice and snow. The river road path was about 80-85% covered with lots of ice patches. My feet slipped on the ice many times but it didn’t bother me. Just great to be outside breathing in the fresh cold air. Last winter I didn’t pay attention, but this year I’m looking down at the floodplain forest and noticing the snow covering the floor and looking out at the river, watching the water flow and the ice accumulate.

Got a pair of Yaktrax to put on the bottom of my shoes for walking (or running) on snow and ice covered paths. Didn’t use them while running but they helped a lot when I was walking my dog. Instant confidence on the icy path. Walking without tensed muscles. So much better!

When the ice and snow returns memories of cold air, slippery/slushy/snow-covered paths, intense blue skies with sparkling white ground, frozen toes and lungs and snot in my nose return too. Winter in Minneapolis is such a contrast to summer. I always imagine myself as two Saras–summer Sara and winter Sara.

Wistful for clear paths yet
invigorated by the pure cold, the
new views to St. Paul, the bare
trees and the concentrated
effort needed to avoid slippery patches. Below me the
river still flows yet is beginning to

Slow
as the ice, gone for so many months,
returns
and accumulates on its surface.

dec 6/2 MILES

60 degrees
us bank stadium

Scott and I ran inside at the Vikings Stadium this evening. In the winter, the Minnesota Distance Running Association sponsors indoor runs. Pretty cool.  We were planning to run 4 miles but neither of us were really feeling it. Side aches + groin aches + knee aches = only 1/2 the distance planned. This was my first indoor run since mid April. It was cool to run around the new stadium but I definitely prefer running outside by the gorge.

dec 4/5.25 MILES

45 degrees
franklin loop with a twist

Technically this run happened yesterday but since it’s a run for this week, I’m adding it here. Ran with Scott in the afternoon on the Franklin loop with a twist. The twist? Briefly stopping our run to explore the lower path on the east side of the river that I had unexpectedly glimpsed a week ago and was hoping to check out before it closed for the winter. So cool! I had no idea that there was so much land and a paved path and even benches and picnic tables in the gorge on the St. Paul side of the Mississippi. We walked some of it and ran some more of it and then hiked under the Franklin bridge. Such a high bridge. On the west side, you cross under the Franklin bridge less than halfway down the hill but on the east side, you’re at the bottom of it. The path travels under the bridge and keeps going all the way to the U and East River Flats Park–which we didn’t have time to check out. A goal for spring? or next week if it still doesn’t snow.

After walking/running around for a while, we climbed A LOT of steps and ran the 2+ miles home. I really enjoyed combining hiking, walking and running. A nice way to mix up a run to make it more interesting. I enjoyed it so much that I had a flash of inspiration–how cool would it be to try and run more of the trails by the mississippi in minnesota? are any of them as amazing as this stretch of the mississippi between downtown minneapolis and minnehaha falls?

This morning—the day after running, I decided to write a quick poem about the moment of discovering the trail. Because it often helps me find words, I used the abecedarian form:

Lower East River Parkway Trail

After seeing the paved path
Beckoning me from below, how
Could I resist? How could I not
Descend into the
East River
Flats on the St Paul side of the
Gorge? I
Had seen the steps near the Franklin bridge before but
Ignored them
Just running by, never needing to
Know where they went. Never
Looking down to the river but only across to
Minneapolis.
Never stopping—if
Only for a moment—to
Pose the
Question, what is beneath me on this side of the
River?
Surely something more than
Trees and
Under that, sand and dirt and dead leaves, dwells below my
View across? I had never asked but on Monday, I looked down at the
Water of the Mississippi and saw a flash of something
uneXpected—a paved path
Yearning to be traveled,
Zigzagging through the floodplain—and suddenly I wanted to know everything.

dec 1/7 MILES

37 degrees
franklin hill turnaround + extra

7 miles on a beautiful morning. Next week it’s supposed to get much colder but not today.  Great weather for running! As I neared the big Franklin hill I decided to mix up my running rhythm and create a chant in 6/8 time with triplets instead of 4/4 time with straight quarter notes. It was hard to quickly compose sentences with this rhythm so I went for 3 syllable words. After trying out:

mystery beautiful mystical marvelous wonderful magical

I settled on a 4 bars of 6/8 with the words:

raspberry
strawberry
blueberry
chocolate

Occasionally I added in a fifth bar/word: delicious

This chant worked well for keeping me focused and steady. It especially helped me run up the Hill.

Towards the end of the run I encountered by favorite person on the path: the Daily Walker. I always see him, all year round. He’s very dedicated with his walking.

nov 29/4.15 MILES

31 degrees
mississippi river road path south/minnehaha falls/mississippi river road path north

Listened to my playlist today as I ran south to the falls. Not too windy, not too cold. As I ran below the road at the part of the trail where the running and biking paths each have their own bridges I wondered when the snow would arrive, forcing me to run on the biking path and, when it got really bad, avoid running this direction altogether. In past years, the snow sticks around in early December–and doesn’t leave until March or April. It’s difficult for Minneapolis Parks to clear this part of the trail because it’s narrow–too wide for the plow.

Had a brief runner’s high at the end of mile 3. Felt momentarily invincible and euphoric. My head tingled and I could feel my smile slowly growing and spreading across my face, almost like the grinch when he realizes how to destroy Christmas, except my smile was from joy not wickedness.

nov 27/5.75 MILES

42 degrees
franklin loop

Ran the Franklin loop for the first time in a long time. Nice! Windy on the Lake Street Bridge, but not on the Franklin bridge. Crossing on Lake, the sun was shining brightly on the water–spreading light almost all the way across the Mississippi from St. Paul to Minneapolis. A bit blinding, but still beautiful.

Running up the St. Paul side of the river road towards Franklin and the U of M, I looked down at the gorge way below and noticed a paved path that I didn’t know existed. Pretty cool. I’ve run this loop at least 2 (3?) dozen times and have never noticed this path. I’d love to take it before it closes for the year.

As I ran I thought about how in late fall and early spring the gorge’s mysteries are briefly revealed–the bones of the woods, the forest floor, the sandy flats by the river and secret trails–before being concealed again by leaves or snow.

Near the end of my run, I began slowly gaining on a woman running ahead of me. It looked like she was wearing a tank top, but I could never quite tell. She was always too far away. I kept wondering if she was cold.

nov 25/6.2 MILES

33 degrees
downtown minneapolis
moustache run 10K race

A great race. Slow but successful. Ran the whole thing with Scott. Biggest accomplishment: running the big long steep windy hill without stopping! also, finishing with a big smile and sense of accomplishment. Not too bad considering I’ve only been running for about a month since my injury.

Beautiful sun.  Not too cold although I recall saying to Scott about a mile in that I had cold fingers, hot hands and a burning face. Not quite slipped on ice a few times. There were patches of it near the cracks in the road. Tried to distract myself from the BIG hill by focusing on the ice patches.

Favorite spectator: the women standing at the top of the hill congratulating us for having run up the hill and saying “That hill sucks but you did it!”

Least favorite pacer (for the 1/2 marathoners): the women who called out 1/2 mile into the race “only 12.5 miles to go!”

Least favorite bro-runners (brunners?): the guy who said to his friend, just in front of us, right before we passed them, “I like running the half, more time to look at runners’ butts.”

Second least favorite bro-runner: the guy very near the end who was walking and then suddenly yelled out “are you guys ready?!” and then started to full out sprint like a spaz.

Least favorite road on the route: the Cobblestones!

I hate these cobblestones.

A post shared by Scott Anderson 📎 (@room34) on

nov 23/4 MILES

33 degrees
austin, mn

Did a 4 mile run with Scott on Thanksgiving morning. Not sure why, but it was difficult. Hard to breathe. I never wanted to stop but I was glad when it was over. It was a nice morning. Sunny and calm. I especially liked running by the creek for a few minutes.

I’m working on collection of tankas (100 of them) about running. Here are two about difficult breathing:

the first breath always
hurts sharp icy too pure too
fresh too cold but soon
it travels through nose and mouth
enters lungs and warms slightly

muggy buggy &
heavy not quite air but soup
hard to inhale or
exhale no inspiration
just jagged and labored breaths

nov 20/5.25 MILES

35 degrees
franklin hill turn around

My knee felt a little sore this morning so I almost skipped running today. But when I checked the weather for tomorrow and saw that it would be 23 mph wind, I decided I better run today. I’m glad. It was a good run. No headphones.

Admired the floodplain forest as I ran by and thought: Empty of green/ and filled with brown/leaves once above/now on the ground. Okay, not that thought exactly, but a version of it. I’m struck by how much I can see of the forest floor and the river and the tree trunks and their branches and the trail winding through the woods and the variations in browns–deep rich mocha, almost milk chocolate, creamy tan. For over half of the year, I mostly just see green. The only variations come in the different sounds that rise up from the river.

The run felt good. Coming up the hill that bottoms out below the Lake Street bridge, I encountered another runner, turning on to the path from the street. We ran alongside each other for a minute, then split off. She ran on the bike path that curved towards the road, I ran on the walking path that hugs the gorge and above the rowing club building. I tried not to pay attention to her but I wondered as the path began to come together whether we would still be going the same pace. We weren’t. I was slightly faster. Ran down and up the Franklin hill without stopping. A big victory! The past two times I’ve tried it I’ve had to walk the last bit of it. As I ran up the hill, I chanted: I am climbing up a hill now/I was running down a hill then.

nov 18/6.2 MILES

35 degrees
st anthony main/boom island/mississppi river road/stone arch bridge

Ran downtown with Scott on the race route for next week’s 10K. Felt really good! Even with the wind. This is the longest run I’ve done since the day of my injury at the beginning of August. My knee was a little sore at the beginning of the run but it mostly felt okay. It was beautiful by the river. Sunny. Really blue water. Had to dodge a lot of goose poop on the path near the flats. Also had to wait for a train to pass on Nicollet island.

nov 15/4 MILES

37 degrees
wind: 16 mph/gusts up to 25 mph
mississippi river road path, north

Windy. Dark. Gray. Cool. Before leaving the house, I could see the trees swaying, so I knew it would be windy. Decided to not wear headphones and pay attention to the wind instead. How many versions would I be able to name? Remembering to pay attention to the wind was difficult. I kept getting distracted. Another runner creeping up on me. I could hear their feet strike the grit on the path. Tried slowly down a little–or did I unwittingly speed up?–to let them pass. They must have turned off at Lake Street. The few remaining orange and gold leaves stubbornly clinging to the branches, refusing to concede to winter. The faint beeping of an alarm–beep beep beep beep beep–coming from a car driving by. The uneven path just past the railroad bridge, waiting to twist my ankle if I stepped wrong. But even with these distractions, I noticed the wind.

versions of the wind

  • Muted wind, made gentle by a hood covering my ears. Roars becoming whispers
  • Sneaky wind, hiding from me, tricking me into forgetting about it until the path twists and it rushes at me, full force
  • Thoughtful wind, generously clearing the leaves off the path right in front of me
  • Teasing wind, playing with my hood, moving it onto my shoulder where it bunches up annoyingly
  • Helpful wind, pushing me along, enabling me to go faster, feel freer in the second half of my run

The sounds and textures of the wind blended in with other sounds. Was that the wind rushing at my back or a car whooshing along the river road? Wind blowing turned into cars traveling into a bike wheel turning, its chain clanging into wind shivering into a leaf blower blowing into jagged breathing into grit crunching. So many noises, one flowing into the next, never starting or stopping just shifting form.

As I ran, I thought about form. How I’ve been taking writing classes on form–unconventional forms, finding the right form, using different forms to provoke and inspire–and thinking about my running form. I’d like to write a poem or a hybrid essay about form, weaving together ideas about writing and running form. Maybe include one of my favorite lines by a poet about how form is a way of conserving energy–“energy soon leaks out of an ill-made work of art.” Forms: the shape of the wind, bare oak branches, sloping hills, relaxed shoulders, slightly bent trunk, twisting path, winding river, flowing sounds, scattered leaves piled up on the path.

I also noticed the colors. Oh, the colors of late fall! Not as showy as October’s glowing greens and yellows and oranges and flaming reds, but achingly beautiful. Dark dark brown, tan, steel gray, pale blue. Flashes of rusted red and burnished gold. All muted colors, nothing bright to hurt my eyes, nothing too intense to disrupt the calm that has sunk beneath the surface of my skin.

One final memory: Running on my favorite part of the path where it dips below the road and close to the top of the gorge, my shoe squeaked as it landed on wet leaves.

Today’s run has given me so many writing ideas! Lunes about the wind. An anaphora about color. A pantoum about the shifting shapes of sound.

update: here are the poems I just crafted after writing my log entry:

versions of the wind, mostly haikus, a few lunes

1.
muted wind, softened
by hood covering cold ears
roars become whispers

2.
sneaky wind, tricking
me into thinking it left.
still here, just hiding.

OR

the sneaky wind hides
making me think it has gone
it waits near the gorge

3.
thoughtful wind
clearing leaves off path
as I near

OR

the thoughtful wind clears
the pile of leaves off the path
before I approach

4.
teasing wind
playing with my hood
annoying

OR

near the bridge
the teasing wind plays
with my hood

5.
running fast
and feeling freer
wind at back

OR

helpful wind, pushing
me to run faster, freer
it is at my back

OR

the wind helps me to
run faster and feel freer
when it’s at my back

Not an anaphora about color, just free verse

Oh, the colors in November!
The closing credits of fall
after October’s big show
so subdued in their splendor
nothing bright or intense to disrupt
the calm that sits
on the surface of my skin
dark brown
light tan
steel gray
pale blue
rusty red
burnished gold
I stare at the gorge
my eyes grateful
for the rest.

a pantoum

Running log, november 15, 4 miles
today I’m paying attention to the wind
but it is not the only sound I hear
the wind mixes with other noises

I’m listening closely for the wind
but I’m confused—is that the wind or a car coming?
the wind mixes with the noise of whooshing wheels
one sound blends into the next

I’m confused—is that the wind or a car coming?
or is it the wheel of a bicycle, its chain clanging?
one sound blends into the next
the rushing wind becomes whooshing car wheels then a whirring bike wheel

A bike wheel, its chain clanging, becomes the wind again,
shooshing, sounding like brushes softly hitting a snare drum until
the wind becomes the distant hum of a leaf blower then my quick breaths as I run
sometimes jagged, sometimes smooth

sounding like wind that roughly rushes near the bridge or softly sifts through the tall grass
so many noises, one flowing into the next
never starting, never stopping
wind car bike leaf blower runner the shifting shapes of sound

nov 13/5.4 MILES

33 degrees
franklin hill turn around

Ran the hill again today. Ran down all of it and up most of it. Then walked for a few minutes to recover. Felt pretty good. Listened to music because I felt like I needed it but now I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to try running without headphones. Beautiful light this morning, especially filtered through the bare trees and across the gorge. The muted tans and browns and golds make me happy. My shadow led me today and I enjoyed watching her run. Sometimes I marveled at her form, other times I imagined she was my mom. She followed me on the way back, after I had warmed up and was feeling strong. Every so often, when I turned back to see if anyone was coming, I noticed her.

nov 10/5 MILES

15 degrees/feels like 3 degrees
mississippi river road path, south/minnehaha falls/mississippi river road path, north

5 miles without stopping! 15 degrees, felt like 3! Wow. I didn’t even notice the 15 mph wind. I love running in the cold. No snow or ice, just dead leaves. Running along the mississippi towards the falls, I had some amazing views of the gorge and the river. No leaves in the way today. Color palette: gray, brown, grayish blue, white, burnished gold, dark green. The falls were falling in a big gush, surrounded by ice. I wonder when the water will freeze? November 10 is early to be so cold for so long. It’s already snowed 2 or 3 times and it’s been below freezing for days now.

Before running, started working on a poem about my running shoes. It needs some work:

Running Shoes

Cheap Dependable Sauconys
pronounced sock-a-knee
not sah cone ee or saw co knee or nike
thirty nine ninety nine
if you find them on sale
which I always do
online
Been wearing them for 6 years
6 different versions
6 different colors
white and gray then white and green
hot pink
bright orange
teal
now bright blue with orange swishes
or stripes or checks or whatever
you want to call them
they’re my bottom of the line basics
getting the job done
working with my wide feet
even when I run too fast
or too long
or on an uneven path.

nov 8/4 MILES

31 degrees
mississippi river road path, north

A great run with negative splits again. I love the colder air. It was sunny and a bit windy. Don’t remember too much. Saw only one dog. Very few bikers. No cross country skiers on skates. Less than 5 runners. Encountered one runner twice, going the opposite direction. Almost twisted my ankle on an uneven bit of the path. Sporadically practiced rhythmic breathing, in 3, out 2. Listened to headphones. Heard the Violent Femmes’ singing “Add it Up” and finally realized, after listening to this song for almost 30 years, that the lead singer says “When I take a bow and say good night.” Of course! This makes more sense than what I thought it was: “When I think about it and say goodnight.”

nov 6/5 MILES

28 degrees
the franklin hill turn around

No headphones today. Noticed that my favorite oaks, the ones that welcome me at the start of my run, lean in different ways. One leans back with its arms out, almost as if to say, “Heeeyyy!”.  Another leans in, whispering to me to have a good run. Others stand at attention, straight and perpendicular to the ground. After running through them and closer to the gorge, heard the scampering of squirrel feet on the bare branches. No rustling, just clicking. And the thumping and cracking of acorns. Busy. Preparing for winter. Cars rushed by, busy too, racing to work. About 1.5 miles in, I began chanting to keep myself going: This is the path/that I run/when I want to/have some fun. Then: This is the path/with a hill/I run down it/for a thrill. Then, running up the hill again: This is the hill/I must run up/I must go slow/or I’ll throw up. Not the most amazing chants, but they helped. A lot. Stopped once to walk for about 2 minutes near the top of the hill. Then finished with my fastest mile.

nov 4/3 MILES

37 degrees
humidity: 91%
mississippi river road path, north

Humid again. Didn’t bother me as much this time. Kept up my plan of doing each mile faster than the last. Listened to music. What do I remember from my run? Running behind someone dressed all in black. I followed him as he stayed on the bike path instead of traveling below the road on the part of the path that travels right above the gorge because I worried that it might be too slippery. Slowly creeping up on and then passing another runner dressed in black pants and white jacket.  Wondering how far ahead of her I was getting. Encountering her again, once I had turned around at the greenway trail. Feeling mostly good with only a few fleeting flashes of doubt and desire to stop.

Kept working on my sonnet assignment when I got back home. Came up with 2 versions. Don’t quite like either.

Attention

is the beginning of devotion
devotion, the beginning of prayer
prayer, undertaken while in motion
motion, gliding in and through outside air
a prayer that is given with lungs and feet
inspiring trees and absorbing the ground
a letting go to a steady beat
desiring nothing but to hear the sound
of time slowly dripping like the drops of sweat
that fall from my face and sit on my skin
cooling me down as they evaporate
counter-clockwise time, moving out, not in
I listen and imagine I can hear
my Self—a slow steady release into air.

Attention

is the beginning of devotion
devotion, the beginning of prayer
prayer, undertaken while in motion
motion, gliding in and through outside air
a prayer that is given with lungs and feet
inspiring trees and absorbing the ground
a letting go to a steady beat
desiring nothing but to look around
and count the leaves or catch a fleeting glimpse
of river, near the stand of mesic oaks
and to witness time as it slowly drips
like the sweat off my face that slowly soaks
my shirt and evaporates from my skin
my sense of Self moving out and not in.

nov 2/2 MILES

38 degrees
humidity: 96%
mississippi river road path, south

Decided to run today even though I ran yesterday because it seemed calm and dry and not too cold. It was too humid. Hard to run in such thick air. Yuck. Ran 1.5 miles, walked for a few minutes, then another half mile. Not much fun, but it was beautiful, staring across to St. Paul. A few trees left, with grainy mustard yellow leaves. The river, a blueish gray.