may 8/REST

Today on my rest day, I updated my original training plan because it had a lot of errors. How had I not seen until yesterday that I had extra weeks in May and had added in two weeks of May 12? I also worked on two versions of a description of one of my classic running routes. One is a pithy and “straight” version, the other a creative story/set of directions for running the route:

FORD LOOP/5 MILES, 2 Versions

Version One:

Mississippi River road path south, Minneapolis side /Ford Parkway Bridge/Mississippi River road path north, St Paul side
/Lake Street bridge/
Mississippi River road path south

Version Two:

  1. Go south on the west mississippi river road for almost a mile and a half.
  2. Look for the shared path that travels up through the trees, just past Lock and Dam No. 1 and take it. Don’t worry it’s only a short hill and no one is waiting to jump out from the trees at you.
  3. Run on the bridge, over the mississippi and towards Highland Park in St. Paul.
  4. Either count the 101 concrete posts on the bridge as you run, like Scott does, or check the trees lining the river bank to see if they’ve reached their full color yet, like I do.
  5. At the end of the bridge, make a wide left and turn down the hill towards the east mississippi river road.
  6. Before crossing the river road to the path, check for cars. Don’t trust that car that has it’s signal on, it’s not actually turning left.
  7. Travel up the river, on the shared and sometimes precariously sloping path.
  8. Think happy thoughts as you hope your left knee doesn’t start hurting from the uneven grade.
  9. Watch out for the spazzy dog that lunges at you near the parking lot for the overlook. It looks like it could bite.
  10. Think about stopping to walk, but don’t, as you approach Stanford Avenue.
  11. Take the dirt path up above, instead of following the paved path as it dips down and slants precariously to the right. Just barely avoid tripping over the stone right before the dirt path converges with the paved path again even though you know it’s there and you’ve tripped over it before and reminded yourself repeatedly NOT to trip over it and hurt your foot like the olympic marathoner Deena Castor did in the documentary about marathons that you watched, when she stepped wrong on a pine cone in her backyard and had to run in the water for months and do tons of physical therapy.
  12. Brace yourself for the short but super steep hill near summit that you’re about to run up. Remind myself that “you can do this!!” But don’t get too distracted by pumping yourself up or you’ll step down wrong and hard on your right foot when you forget to veer to the left as the path slopes down by the entrance to the parking lot.
  13. At first, try to forget that you’re running up a steep hill. When that doesn’t work, tell yourself that it will all be over soon. And, when that doesn’t work, just grit your teeth, suck it up and focus on your breathing.
  14. Curve around the top of the hill on the weird part of the path where it follows the sharp bend in the river and triumphantly make your way down the other side, glancing at the faces of the runners struggling up on this side. Watch out for that nasty pothole and the point, at the bottom of the hill, when there’s a 3-4 inch drop-off, which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s enough to fuck up your ankle for weeks.
  15. Even though you used to cross over the river road and take the sidewalk up to the Lake Street bridge because it’s easier, run up the steps at the bottom of the bridge because you don’t want to get hit and killed by a distracted driver that doesn’t see you crossing in the pedestrian crosswalk, like the runner who was killed a few months ago.
  16. Reach the top of the steps and check to see if the eagle is perched on the top branch of the dead tree by the river again, like it used to be last year. It’s not. Will it ever come back?
  17. Head across the bridge, spending several minutes debating how you will handle the pedestrians you are slowly approaching who are cluelessly taking up the entire path: should you yell loudly “EXCUSE ME!” or, a little less forcefully, “on your left” or just clear your throat repeatedly?
  18. Opt for “EXCUSE ME!” and chuckle to yourself as the most clueless pedestrian jumps and awkwardly moves out of the way as you run by.
  19. Turn down towards the west river road, narrowly avoiding the large group of bikers biking up the sidewalk.
  20. Cross over and run on the path, towards home. The final stretch!
  21. Listen for the disembodied voices of those below you. Where are they? On the river, rowing? Hidden somewhere in the woods? Laughing on the river bank? You’ll never know.
  22. As the walking path nears one of your favorite parts of the path, by the old stone steps that take you down to the sandy beach on the river, check the progress of the leaves: how many are orange? are yellow? are red? are left on the trees?
  23. End at the 36th street parking lot.

may 7/5.15 MILES

51 degrees
franklin loop

Great run! Listened to headphones and my running playlist. Put it on shuffle:

Furr/Blitzen Trapper
Cheap Thrills/Sia
I’m Going to Go Back There Some Day/Gonzo
Skyfall/Adele
Hey Ladies/Beastie Boys
Another One Bites the Dust/Queen
Uptown Funk/Bruno Mars
The Best of Times/Styx
Don’t Dream It’s Over/Crowded House
Hot for Teacher/Van Halen
Baby/Justin Bieber
Learn to Fly/Foo Fighters
Pinball Number Count: 4/The Pointer Sisters

Running with a playlist can feel isolating; I can’t hear or interact as much with the world around me. But sometimes that isolation is necessary and liberating. Today, running with my playlist was great. It put me in this weird, dreamy state. And, when “Baby” by Justin Bieber came on around mile 4, I felt a huge smile spread through me, settling in the top of my head. As I ran, my head tingled, partly from my sweat mixing with the wind and partly from a euphoric feeling of openness and love. A runner’s high, of sorts, complements of Justin Bieber!

After my run, I had fun taking some of the lyrics from the songs on the list and turning them into poems. These are erasure poems, but I’m just posting them straight. For now.

1. Furr

wandered aimlessly
howling in song
listenin’ for the leaves
gently ushered in To a dream of running
through 
And
 Across ancient water

2. Cheap Thrills

Come on, come on,
dance
dance
have fun
high on the beat
love
love
love
feel
don’t need

3. I’m Going to Go Back There Someday

familiar,
Almost unreal,
far away
someday.

Sun calls.
I belong
I know the way.
someday.

midair. flyin’ invisible
not a word
space, place?
just someday.

someday.

4. Another One Bites the Dust

the sound of feet,
To the sound of the beat
I’m ready, yes, I’m ready
two feet Repeat

5. Baby

whoa
my heart
I believe
And I wanna play anything
dream always
amazing
my heart
Yeah Yeah Yeah

UPDATE:I turned the poems with hidden lyrics. When you hover over the poem, you can see the lyrics. Read them here.

may 6/8 MILES

51 degrees
mississippi river road path south/lake nokomis/mississippi river road path north

Another great morning. Sunny. Not too much wind. Great air quality. Wish I could say the same about my run. Most of it just seemed hard. I couldn’t really focus on anything but how I didn’t feel the greatest. But I did it. There was a moment on the “moustache bridge” (called that because someone, at some point, spray painted a hipster handlebar moustache on it. It’s no longer there, but the name stuck with us–me, Scott and the kids) when I really wanted to stop. I could almost feel myself stopping, but I didn’t. I made it through the moment and kept running. Eventually, around 7.25 miles,  I did stop to walk for a minute. I’m fine with that. Hopefully tomorrow’s 5 mile ran will be better.

Part of my route today was on the Minnehaha Creek trail, from Minnehaha Falls to Lake Nokomis. When I lived in that neighborhood, I used to walk with my kids on that trail a lot. We named all the bridges: the duck bridge, the echo bridge, the step bridge, the hole bridge, the stinky bridge. A few years ago, I made a video about walking on that path:

may 5/4 MILES

59 degrees
mississippi river road path north

Yet another beautiful day. Sunny. Hardly any wind. Everything seemed to be moving gently, without hurry. Even the cars on the river road approached as if they were on a leisurely Sunday drive. Tried out my new running shoes for the first time. Excellent. Dependable. Cheap. Since I started running almost 6 years ago, I’ve worn Saucony Grid Cohesion shoes. $39.99. I think my first pair were version 4. Now I’m on version 10. An intense blue with coral stripes. Great for someone with a “neutral” (as opposed to pronate or supine) foot strike and a super wide (thanks, freakish bunions!) foot. I used to be envious of Scott and his fancy and brightly colored $100+ Nike shoes. Why can’t I find cool, high-tech shoes like that to fit my foot? But for the past several versions, my bottom-of-the-line basic Saucony’s have been available in more than boring white or gray. I’ve worn bright orange, teal and now a deep blue.

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about slow time and gave myself a task: write a poem using “syncing” unexpectedly. This morning, I started the poem; I finished it just after my run. It’s inspired by bits and pieces from Gros’ book and my experiences running.

how do you slow down time?

stop thinking
about things you must do!
right now!
before the day ends!
and the sun starts sinking
below the trees
and behind the garage.

start drinking
your coffee earlier
so that you can wake up
and get outside
before that cooing bird starts syncing
up with the rest of the chorus:
the barking dogs,
the rumbling cars,
the humming city.

move your legs.
first one, then the other.
head to a field or the woods or a path,
anywhere on the edge
of civilization.
maybe above a gorge or under a bridge?
walk or run,
both will work,
as long as you move
 without haste or urgency.

use your lungs:
breathe in deeply
through your nose,
with your diaphragm.
as your abdomen extends,
so does your invitation to the world
to enter and fill you
with wonder and gratitude.

feel your skin
as it absorb the trees,
the blue sky
the freshly cut grass
and releases toxic worries
through its pores.

Attend to the beauty of being
not doing anything but moving
,
listening,
looking,
feeling
time
slowly
drip.

may 4/REST

Last night, after his run, Scott said, “I think it’s time I get back to following my training plan.” I suppose I should too. I’ve been straying from my “official” plan for weeks. Adding extra miles, running on the days I’m supposed to be resting. So today my plan says I’m supposed to rest and I’m resting!

This morning, while searching for some other running-related topic–I think it was “writing a poem while running a marathon”, has anyone ever done that?— I encountered a poem by Rachel Zucker: Wish You Were Here You Are

wish you were here you are by Rachel Zucker

time isn’t the same for everyone there is
science behind this when you fly into space
you’re not experiencing time at the same rate
as someone tethered to Earth & someone
moving quickly experiences time at a slower rate
even on Earth so as I run through Central Park
at a speed not much faster than walking but slightly
I am shattering fields of time around me
& experiencing time differently from those I pass
last night I saw my son’s adult self &
in the same moment toddler self this really
happened he was playing “Wish You Were Here”
by Pink Floyd on his electric guitar & feeling it
he’s 11 & in between 2 kinds of time on the verge
of worlds I think we are too you & I who are old
young women it’s not all ‘downhill from here’ we are
here you are & I am & this beautiful moment our sons

There’s a lot that I’d like to think and write about this poem, but today I’m struck by her discussion of time while running. Recently, I’ve been thinking about running as almost timeless, when you’re able to access a space where “regular/linear” time doesn’t exist. You’re not experiencing or tracking time; you’re just moving through space. But that doesn’t seem accurate, partly because I’m rarely really not tracking time. Even though I’ve been trying to de-emphasize my pace, I still check it on my watch every mile or so (or more). And also because I’m giving a lot of attention to slowing down. Maybe timelessness is not what I’m aiming for, but a slowing down of time. A slower pace for a more relaxed space?

It’s interesting to contrast Zucker’s pithy portrayal of quick time with Frédérick Gros’ dismissal of speedy time in A Philosophy of Walking:

But haste and speed accelerate time, which passes more quickly, and two hours of hurry shorten a day. Every minute is torn apart by being segmented, stuffed to bursting. You can pile a mountain of things into an hour. Days of slow walking are very long: they make you live longer, because you have allowed every hour, every minute, every second to breathe, to deepen, instead of filling them up by straining the joints (37).

Slow time is different, Gros adds. “Slowness means cleaving perfectly to time, so closely that the seconds fall one by one, drop by drop like the steady dripping of a tap on stone (37)”.

I want to do some more experimental writing about slow time. Maybe a list of things that are slow? or a poem that involves using syncing when you expect sinking, like the sun was syncing?

may 3/3.15 MILES

54 degrees
mississippi river road path south

What a beautiful morning for a run! I reminded myself, before leaving the house, to listen today. Birds. Cars, Crunching feet. The most unusual sound was a group of kids singing…what were they singing? Some popular song that I almost, but can’t quite, remember. They were on the other side of the river road, near Minnehaha Academy. I’m not sure what they were doing, other than being loud and joyful. Oh…I also heard water emptying out of the sewer pipe, just below the path. It wasn’t quite gushing, but was doing more than trickling as it traveled down the slope of the gorge. The water probably didn’t look too pretty–sometimes it’s a ghoulish green–but it sure sounded pretty. Like a waterfall. (note: several hours after writing this, I happened to walk by this pipe. I was much closer and slower than when I was running, so I got a better look. It was very pretty and the water was clear.) Tried running faster for 9 minutes and then stopping and walking for a minute. It was somewhat successful, but my hamstring was still getting tight. I better start doing some core exercises today.

After returning from my run, I sat on my deck and read a few chapters of A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros. I just picked it up from the library on Monday. I can’t remember where I found out about it. One of the many sources on walking that I looked at last week, I guess. I’m really digging it. I love walking almost as much as I love running, but for different reasons. I’m interested in pushing at what those reasons are and how running and walking are beneficial and harmful to me.

In Gros’ first chapter, “Walking is Not a Sport,” he defines sport, mostly negatively, and contrasts it with walking. I feel inspired to play with his prose. In the first part of the following experiment, I’m using his actual text, but replacing “sport” with running. In the second part, I’m offering my own response.

Walking is not Running/Running is not Walking

Walking is not running.

Running is a matter of techniques and rules, scores and competition, necessitating lengthy training: knowing the postures, learning the right movements. Then, a long time later, come improvisation and talent.

Running also obviously means cultivation of endurance, of a taste for effort, for discipline. An ethic. A labor.

Walking is not running.

Walking is the best way to go more slowly than any other method that has ever been found. To walk, you need to start with two legs. The rest is optional. If you want to go faster, then don’t walk, do something else: drive, slide or fly.

Running is not walking.

Walking is a matter of moving without a useful purpose. Meandering. Wandering. Getting lost.

Walking, especially when done at the glacial pace best suited for paying close attention, doesn’t demand endurance or require too much effort. It’s undisciplined and prone to unruly wandering off the path, dawdling.

Running is not walking.

Running is the best way to deplete excessive energy and restlessness that I have ever tried. Run for only 30 minutes, not even that speedily, and your body feels grateful for having been used.

To run, you need to start with two legs and a urge to fly, not fast, but free. The rest is optional. If you don’t want to fly, then don’t run, do something else: sit, watch or sleep.

may 2/5 MILES

46 degrees
mississippi river road path north

As I ran, I tried to keep thinking about poets, intense feelings, whether or not living “like an engine with the governor off” is a good thing and how this relates to running. I couldn’t. Not because I don’t have any thoughts about these issues, but because I was distracted by an impulse to monitor my pace, heart rate and running form. And preoccupied with thoughts of leg injuries and how I probably need to strengthen my core.

What else do I remember? There was wind in my face as I ran north and at my back, helpfully pushing me along, as I turned around and went south. The Franklin hill wasn’t too bad. My pulse seemed to go slower as I went faster. The trees at my favorite part of the gorge are covered in leaves, making it hard to see the floor of the gorge. I think I encountered 4 or 5 dogs and about 15 humans, some walking the dogs, some walking alone, some running and some biking. I smiled at several of them, but didn’t speak. Neither did they. I don’t remember hearing a single bird or the wind rustling or the gravel crunching or traffic moving.

Even if I don’t remember thinking about poetry and intense feelings, I’m sure I did, at least fleetingly. And, even if I didn’t think about it consciously, the ideas were there, hovering around me as I ran, inspired by the discussion I started about George Sheehan in my log entry yesterday.

Sheehan argues that we should try to be poets, “responding to everything around us and inside us as well,” like engines with the governor off. Then he adds: “The best most of us can do is be a poet an hour a day.” And laments: “There are times, more often than the good times, when I fail. I never do pierce the shield. I return with a shopping list of things to do tomorrow. The miraculous has gone unseen. The message has gone unheard.” His words got me thinking and inspired me to create:

A 60-minute Poet

George Sheehan claims that,
for an hour a day,
while we’re running,
we can try to be poets.
Feeling everything intensely and without restrictions.
Like an engine with its governor off.
We can try.
But we’ll frequently fail
A thick smog of obligations, worries and regrets
makes it harder to breathe.
And to see.
And to feel.
And to remember to let go and let in
more air,
more ideas,
more of the world.

A Deep Core Workout for 60-minute-a-day Poets?

60 minutes a day of intense feelings seems like a lot.
How can we train ourselves to feel deeply for that long?
What sort of strength and stretching exercises do we need to build up our “deep core” feelings?
To prevent hyper-awareness related injuries brought on by overuse or improper form?
To help us stretch our imagination?
Limber up our ideas, so we can bend, twist, contort them?
Strengthen our resolve against the worries and regrets that distract us?
Lengthen our vision to extend farther, beyond our myopic preoccupations?
Quicken our reflexes for faster responsiveness?
Attune our senses to the too-often invisible or ignored encounters?

I’m thinking about “core” workouts lately because so many things that I’ve been reading recommend core exercises for preventing injuries. A strong core stabilizes your bones, joints, muscles and internal organs. I’m terrible with scientific/medical terminology–I can’t seem to retain the information that I read or hear–but I’m fascinated by the names and some the descriptions of the “deep core” muscles, especially the multifidus.

The Multifidus

The multifidus
pronounced: mull tiff a dus
The muscle consisting of a number of fleshy
not flashy or flesh-eating or flesh-colored or thin, but plump and succulent
 and tendinous
sounds like tenderness or tendon-less, even though it means “consisting of tendons”
fasciculi,
pronounced: fa sick you lee or fa sick you lie, depending on if you want to rhyme it with an old oak tree or a key lime pie
which fill up the groove
the groove in the dirt trail, winding through the gorge? the groove of a Funkadelic album? what you’re in when it’s going well?
on either side of the spinous processes of the vertebrae,
not a process but a bony protrusion where the muscle attaches to the vertebrae
from the sacrum
pronounced: say crum, as in, “say crumb, why don’t you hop into my mouth?”
to the axis
aka C-2, aka epistropheus. Contains a bony protuberance, another fun word to say, on which the C-1 vertebrae rotates.  

may 1/REST

Another day of rest, partly because of the cold/rainy/windy weather and partly because I want to give my legs some more time off after the race. Thinking about what I read last week: an excerpt from George Sheehan’s Running and Being that I first encountered in late January.

Sheehan writes about what he tries to do when he’s running: “I must listen and discover forgotten knowledge. Must respond to everything around me and inside me as well. Poets do this naturally. A really good poet, wrote James Dickey, is like an engine with the governor off. And it’s no good for people to say that life should not mean that much to a poet. The really good poet, said Dickey, has no choice; that’s the way he is (3)”.

I was curious about his reference to Dickey and the “engine with the governor off” because I don’t see feeling life this intensely as healthy. At least not for me. I become too lost, too overwhelmed and too much for myself and the people I love. I looked up the phrase, and found two instances of Dickey using it. In the first, found in Sorties, Dickey reflects on his writing process. In the second, found in Self-Interviews, he discusses James Agee. Hover over the quotes to reveal the erasure poem.

“…working like an engine with the governor off it, not only during the conscious portions of the day, but during sleep as well…Twenty-four hours a day the mind is associating so quickly, ideas are occurring and recurring so frequently, things are cross-fertilizing each other in such an amazing variety of ways, that the human body cannot really bear up under the associations and the thought processes of a “normal” mind. But there is nothing more exhilarating or exciting. It is the thing that makes middle age worth it all, for, as the result of long discipline, I know what I am doing, and I know, pretty well, what to do with what my mind gives me. Not with absolute certainty; that is of course impossible. But with a fair degree of predictability. And who on earth ever has that, besides artists?”

“he did have this quality of complete participation, of commitment of the self to whatever it was he contemplated. I think this commitment is tremendously important to a writer. It’s because of that writers are so unstable. Emotionally at least, a really good poet is like an engine with the governor off. It’s no good for people to say that life shouldn’t mean that much to a poet. By god, it does mean that much, and people will just have to accept it. The really good poet has no choice; that’s the way he is.”

april 30/REST

It’s the day after the race. Time to rest my sore legs. It’s also the last day of April and National Poetry Month. Time to craft another poem. In honor of my race, here’s the first version of an abecedarian poem about some moments before yesterday’s race:

Before the Race, some moments I remember, others I imagine

A line-up of cars, waiting to park
before their drivers can head over to the building to
claim their race bibs and
donate their used running shoes. Afterwards, the drivers
exit and mingle with their
fellow runners. Some talk about the weather, others
get advice about parking challenges.
Half-heartedly, they wish each other good luck
in the race and in snagging a close parking spot tomorrow.
Jogging before the race, underdressed runners
keep warm. They stretch their
legs and frantically
move around the park,
narrowly avoiding crashing into each
other and the agitated racers waiting in line at the
porta potties.
Questions hover in the air, circulating amongst the
runners: Will I
survive this race? Will
today be the day I smile and look
up when the photographer takes my picture at the finish line? Will I
vanquish the shadow that taunts me and tries to get me to stop and
walk? Will I aggravate my bad knee and need another expensive
x-ray to determine if my bone spur is any bigger or more jagged?
Years of training and planning and wanting reach their
zenith in these moments before a race.

I’m not sure about the y and z here. Does it fit? I’ll keep thinking about it.
note: I kept the y and z, but changed a few other things here.

april 29/6.2 MILES

44 degrees
get in gear 10k race
mississippi river road north (msp)/lake street bridge/mississippi river road south (st. paul)/ford bridge/minnehaha falls

I think that this post-race picture of me with my tongue sticking out about sums up my feelings about the race right after it was over:

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

It might be my slowest 10K ever. The time doesn’t bother me that much. I’m trying to go slower and my average pace in the race was still about 45 seconds faster than training runs. What bothers me the most is that my hamstring started giving me problems around mile 4. It became difficult to lift it up and the rest of the race was hard. There’s a lot more to say here, I’m sure, but I’ll leave it alone for now. 

After a little more distance from the race, I began remember things about it that didn’t involve my pain or failure, like standing in the corral just before the race started and looking at everyone’s running shoes. As we stood there, I mentioned to Scott that I love doing this: so many intense colors and I can stare at people’s feet for a long time while I try to process what I’m seeing without it being too weird. How many times have I made this same remark to Scott? Too many to count, I’m sure. Yet, as I say it, it always seems like a new revelation that I’m communicating about my quirky vision and how I struggle to focus on images because my central vision is scrambled. At this race, my favorite pair of shoes were an intense blue with lime green stripes and laces.

I also remember the National Anthem. This happens at every race right before it starts. They play a recording or someone sings–frequently it’s one of the racers. Occasionally they have live musicians. My favorite National Anthem was at the Get in Gear race two years ago when a brass quartet from the Minnesota Orchestra played it. After that, they played the William Tell Overture as we began running through the starting gate. Pretty cool. I have some serious problems with patriotism and nationalism and how they’re used to regulate behaviors and maintain an “us versus them” mentality, yet I still appreciate the playing of the anthem. I enjoy anticipating which version it will be: the standard recording with the crashing cymbals?, a super cheesy recording with a choir? Someone who can sing? Someone who can’t?

I remember walking around and seeing people stretching. Leaning up against trees. Sitting on the ground. Swinging their arms. Swinging their legs. Jumping, running and swinging. Lots of swinging. It can be dangerous. I almost got hit by someone’s leg as they swung it back, stretching their hip.

Check out the runner just behind me, stretching with the tree:

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

And I remember waiting in line for the porta potty. The guy ahead of me was nervous or impatient or just a jerk, I couldn’t decide. As we waited, he kept trying to direct  the people ahead of him, pointing out which potty he thought was open and telling them to go. He was always wrong.

april 27/4 MILES

34 degrees
mississippi river road path south

Cold today. Brrr. It was 59 degrees in February, now 34 at the end of April. Sounds about right for Minnesota. Didn’t mind too much. I like running at this temperature. I could have done without the wind, though. When I looped back at the halfway point I was greeted by a stiff 15 mph wind, blowing directly in my face at first and then off to the side later, almost like a not-so-gentle nudge to move along.

Thinking about the weather, I’m reminded of a great blog post about walking and poetry that I read a few days ago by the poet Edward Hirsch titled My Pace Provokes My Thought. I made note of a few lines that I especially liked in the essay, including:

the inner and outer weather

The full line is: “Wandering, reading, writing–these three adventures are for me intimately linked. They are all ways of observing both the inner and outer weather, of being carried away, of getting lost and returning.”

Here are a few more lines that I particularly liked:

Cool Lines, a list

  • my thoughts modify my pace; my pace provokes my thoughts
  • Saunter off into the unknown,
    heading into strange terrain.
  • It had dignity. It wasn’t overly familiar. It kept its privacy, its wit
  • it turns out that I like my alienation mobile, fluid, transformative
  • walking meant “to roll about and toss,”
  • to turn what is transient into something permanent, immutable
  • Walking is so common
  • It disappears in plain sight, too pedestrian (i.e., commonplace) to notice.
  • a type of dream-work, a form of associative thinking
  • An aimless meandering intermingles with–it is transformed into–a type of intentional and revisionary thinking

I also responded to a few lines. Hirsch’s lines are italicized.

a poem often starts as a daydream
so does a run, or rather, a run enters into a daydream, starting as a task.

one moment you’re following a leisurely trail; 
the next you’re staring into the abyss.
The run is mundane. Routine. Focused on mechanics and efficiency. Then something happens. Not always, but sometimes. An awareness of life beyond the fluid surfaces of my body breaks through. I hear more. I feel more. I am more and less at the same time.

a walk made out of words.
Is it possible to capture the rhythms and feelings of a run in words? How?

april 26/3 MILES

80 degrees
ywca track

Most likely the last indoor run until next October, which is fine with me. I don’t really enjoy running inside. It’s dry, often crowded and repetitive. Before running at the track, I said goodbye to both of my kids who were leaving on school trips: the 11 year-old went 90 miles north for two days, the 14 year old went across the Atlantic to Budapest, Vienna and Prague for 10 days. It’s exciting, strange and a little scary. I also spent time crafting a poem in terza rima form (3 line stanzas with an aba, bcb, cdc, ded, etc rhyming scheme) about the single most important running advice I’ve tried to take, and have to repeatedly remind myself about: slow down!

Running Advice

Here’s a trick: at first, run slow.
Don’t start with too much speed.
Try to find a rhythm, a flow.

Let your shadow take the lead.
You should really stay behind
because that is what you need.

If you ignore this advice, you may find
that your pulse will become elevated.
This can put you in a terrible bind.

Too much lactic acid is created.
Muscles ache and you’re exhausted.
Hitting the wall, all energy has faded.

At this point, you’ve lost it.
You feel very sick.
But, you know what’s caused it.

You took it out too quick,
and forgot what I suggested:
go slow, that’s the trick!

Even if you’re invested
in training for a PB,*
this method has been tested.

Running slower, experts agree,
is good for preventing pain
and avoiding injury.

Running creates a strain
on various parts of the body,
like your joints, the experts explain,

and the tendons surrounding your knee.
So much pressure with every stride!
But slowing down could be,

when properly applied,
a way to reduce some of these tensions.
How slow? Here’s a guide

to a theory that gets lots of mentions:
Take your 5K per mile pace
and add at least 90 seconds.

So since you run 8 minute miles in a race,
your training runs should be in the range
of 9:30, or even 10, in case

you decide that you want to change
your pace and make it even slower.
The slower, the better! Sounds strange,

but it might make your finish time lower.
That is if your running form stays efficient and neat
and you mix in a few tempo runs or

intervals or maybe some mile repeats.
But only once in a while.
Speed work is something you treat

as a small portion of your weekly miles.
Slow, easy runs should be the biggest part
of what makes up your training percentiles.

Take this advice that I impart:
Sara, remember to go slow!
Or don’t. But you’ll be finished before you start.

*PB = personal best/your fastest time recorded.

Note: I have added an edited version of this poem to the my running stories section.

april 25/5 MILES

57 degrees
mississippi river road path north

Another great morning for running. Intended to ruminate on the differences between running and walking in terms of how I think and generate ideas for the entire 46 minute run. It didn’t happen. I can’t really remember much of anything that I thought about. Devoted most of my attention to my running form and keeping my pulse steady.

Running Form

Keep it slow
don’t start fast
Keep it steady
find your rhythm
Breathe     i       n
Breathe     o  u  t
Check your pulse
Lift, lift, lift the knees
squeeze the glutes, squeeze the glutes
breathe in, 2, 3
out, 2, 3
drop your shoulders
lead with your chest
relax your arms
loosen your hands
roll an imaginary pencil between your thumb and fingers
l   e   a   n  forward
lift, lift, lift, lift, lift, lift the knees
raise your eyes, stare blankly at the top of the bridge
check your pulse
keep it steady
don’t lose your rhythm
breathe in, 2, 3
out, 2, 3
lift, lift, lift, lift the knees
slow it down
squeeze the glutes, squeeze the glutes
relax your arms
drop your shoulders
breathe in, 2, 3
out 2, 3
check your pulse
lift
lift
swing
swing
pump
breathe in out in out
pump
pump
lift
lift
breathe in out in out
in out in out
in out in out in out
FLY
l  e  a  n
lift
breathe i       n
breathe o  u  t
relax your arms
slow your pace
stop.

april 24/REST

This morning I took a long walk with my dog. We walked the 4 blocks to the river and then down to the Winchell trail for about a mile. Heading back, we left the trail and walked on the wide expanse of grass between the river road and Edmund boulevard. It was wonderful. Peaceful. Relaxing. Restorative and generative. I had a lot of ideas about walking and running.

Here is a transcript of a few ideas that I recorded into my voice memo app while walking:

“I’m interested in the difference between walking and running and how I experience and pay attention and what I process, and thinking about that maybe as an entry point into discussing those various walking pieces and then maybe even some poetry around the tension between walking and running.”

When I listened to the voice recording, my thoughts didn’t seem so unruly. But when I wrote them up, I noticed how they ran into each other, one idea after the next in a relentless flow. When I think about the differences between running and walking, I’d like to record myself walking and running and play with the different rhythms and sentence structures. My running seems to create poetry, with pithy statements and breaks for breathing. In contrast, walking seems to create lyrical prose that flows endlessly with rambling questions and tasks to pursue. To prove or disprove this hypothesis, more fun experimentation is necessary!

As part of this experimental work, I’d like to do more research on walking. For starters, here’s a reading list that I’ve created: Walking, not Running.

 

april 23/3.15 MILES

51 degrees
mississippi river road path north

Another beautiful morning. A nice run. Can’t really remember that much of it. Ran each mile faster than the last by about 30 seconds. No hamstring pain. Could it be that my “deranged” experiment with injury terms helped? Even though I know that’s not possible, I’d like to think so. The power of poetry!

april 22/10 MILES

57 degrees
mississippi river road path south/lake nokomis/mississippi river road path north

Beautiful. Sunny. Hardly any wind. A perfect spring morning for a long run. Focused on lifting my knees and “activating my glutes.” It helped. My left thigh felt a little sore, but not heavy and I was able to run the entire 10 miles without any problems and without stopping. This is one of the main reasons why I’ve been working so hard these past couple of months on my running. So I could run today for a little over 90 minutes without pain or doubt, on the paths that I love. The Mississippi River Road path, the Minnehaha Creek path, the Lake Nokomis path.

Shortly before leaving for my run, I looked over some notes that I took a couple of months ago about writers who run. The writer/runner Rachel Toor discusses the state of vulnerability that both writing and running create:”When I think harder about it, what I believe running and writing have most in common, at least for me, is the state of vulnerability they leave you in. Both require bravery, audacity, a belief in one’s own abilities, and a willingness to live the clichés: to put it on the line, to dig deep, to go for it. You have to believe in the “it,” and have to believe, too, that you are worthy.”

I wanted to reflect on this statement as I ran. For the most part, I didn’t. I was focused on keeping my breathing steady, making sure I was using my legs properly and enjoying watching the creek as it gently flowed towards the falls. But, about halfway through the run I started having some dark thoughts about my son’s upcoming trip to Europe that he’s taking with many of his 8th grade classmates. He’ll be gone for 10 days. It’s his first time away from home for that long and his first time on a plane. I haven’t been too worried about him. He’s a confident, relaxed kid, so I was surprised that worries about what might happen on the trip were suddenly erupting in my mind. Would the plane crash? Would he get sick? Would something happen at the airport? Then I remembered this notion of a “state of vulnerability.” Running makes you vulnerable. Toor understands this as an opportunity to prove your mettle, to “put it all on the line.” Today during my run, I saw the state of vulnerability as an opportunity to be open, to allow the feelings that I’ve been hiding from myself to surface and be addressed. In the past, my inclination would have been to quickly tamp down my dark thoughts, to dismiss them as ridiculous or overly dramatic. Today, I let myself experience them, allowing them to linger beside me for a few minutes as I ran by the main beach at Lake Nokomis.

In an interview about their documentary, The Runners, the filmmakers talk about the purpose of their project of filming random runners in a park, while asking them serious questions mid-run:
“We were trying to understand what goes on in the minds of runners as they charge through the streets. What does it do to them and what can we find out about ourselves by interrupting them at this moment of vulnerability and clarity?”

I feel like now, almost 400 miles into this project, I’m finally using running to tap into my own vulnerabilities and being willing to acknowledge and accept them.

Hover over the entry to reveal the erasure poem.

april 21/4 MILES

47 degrees
mississippi river road path south

A beautiful morning. The run started and ended well. Somewhere in the middle, after running up and then down a steep hill by Lock and Dam #1 and Wabun Park, my right thigh started to bother me again. It never really hurt, it just became harder to lift. Then, when it became harder to lift, my right calf tightened up too. For 2 or 3 minutes, it was a struggle as I tried very deliberately to lift my right leg, focusing on my glutes and hips. By the last mile, I felt better and was running much faster than I had at the beginning of the run. Strange.

When do you take aches and pains seriously? When should you rest? Tough questions. I’m extremely cautious with my running; I’ve never tried to push myself too hard. It took me two years to build up to running 10ks, 4 years for a 1/2 marathon and now, 6 for a marathon. I have only had one substantial injury.

The Injury, first version

My first big injury happened exactly a year ago in April 2016. I had been struggling with running all winter. Had even taken half of February off–about 2 weeks without running, the longest I had gone since starting in June of 2011. March was okay. But then on April 2, while doing a flip turn at the pool, something suddenly hurt. When I got out of the pool, I was limping. Within a few days, I couldn’t bend my right knee. It was so strange. I forgot how to walk. My leg and my brain couldn’t get the motion right. The most I could manage was shuffling for a block or two. It sucked.

I didn’t know what was wrong with my leg, just that it was not good. Googling medical and sports websites convinced me that I had a meniscus tear (don’t know what is? don’t google it; blissful ignorance is underrated). I went to a sports medicine doctor to verify this diagnosis and discovered that I had a much less catastrophic injury: a bone spur in my knee. A jagged little knob on the inside of my knee. The bone spur wasn’t directly causing my problem; it was the tendon that, after repeatedly rubbing over the spur, had become inflamed. The area around my knee had swollen and I couldn’t bend it properly. The solution: lots of ibuprofen (9 pills a day), lots of ice (3 xs @20 minutes a day) and physical therapy for about 6 weeks. No running, barely any walking. I was able to swim and bike some. I can’t quite remember when I was able to run again–early May? I do know that my first 5K was on my fifth runniversary, June 2, 2016.

A few months after all of this transpired, a friend, who also runs, asked: “Will the bone spur go away?” I didn’t ask, I said. I was so freaked out about the injury and spend so little time in doctor’s offices that I didn’t think to ask. I’ve looked it up online and still am not quite sure. Sometimes spurs dissolve and sometimes they don’t. It hasn’t bothered me since.

Notes:

This is the first version of an account of my injury. In working to express how it feels to run, I’d like to develop this account to more effectively express my emotions surrounding this injury. Right now, it’s pretty boring and lifeless. That might be partly because I don’t like thinking about injuries–it’s my biggest fear. It might also be because I’m uncomfortable describing my experiences, which seem so trivial and ordinary compared to the physical struggles of other people I know.

Where to start on pushing this version?

  • Expand on “it sucked.” So many feelings crammed into those two words! Fear, frustration, anger, resolution and more. Push at these emotions.
  • What does it mean to forget how to walk? What does that feel like?
  • Say more about this: “The solution: lots of ibuprofen (9 pills a day), lots of ice (3 xs @20 minutes a day) and physical therapy for about 6 weeks. No running, barely any walking. I was able to swim and bike some.” Maybe write a list of what I know about running injuries?
  • Write some more questions and answers in response to this: Will the bone spur go away?

Update: After reading this post, I decided to experiment a bit with thinking/writing about injury. The experiment I did today was all about trying to lose some of the fear that haunts my thinking about injury.

 

April 20/6 MILES

40 degrees
mississippi river road path north

A great run. Took it a little faster than I probably should have, with my fastest mile being up the Franklin hill! Stopped and walked to lower my pulse for about 20 seconds midway through mile 4. That was a good idea. Finished strong with hardly any hamstring pain.

Had a lot of great thoughts about the runner’s high and the piece of writing that I had started working on right before my run. I’m including it below. Versions 1-5 were written before my run. Versions 6 and 7 were written right after returning from the run.

The Runner’s High, 7 Versions

Version One

Sometimes when I run
I breathe in deeply.
As my chest rises
so does my heart
and my head
and my shoulders.

I feel vast
expansive
generous.
I am open
to love
to joy
to possibility.

I want to spread my arms wide
and embrace the world.
But I don’t.
It takes up too much space
and would alter my gait.
Instead, I shape my feelings into a smile
that spreads across my face
and extends all the way to my toes.

VERSION TWO

Sometimes when my run is going well, a sense of euphoria spreads through my body. As it extends to the tips of my fingers and to the pit of my stomach, I feel an urge to spread my arms wide, throw back my head and run without fear.

VERSION THREE

Sometimes when I run, I am transformed into someone who feels joy first, not fear. Who is open, not closed. Who wants to spread their arms wide, embracing the world. When I feel like this, I smile to myself. A smile so deep that it reaches all the way to my toes.

VERSION FOUR

What does the runner’s high feel like? It feels like Love. Joy. Generosity. Possibility. An open door. A vulnerable body, stretching out and dissolving into the vastness of the world.

VERSION FIVE

The runner’s high. Feelings of love, joy, generosity and possibility that transform vulnerability into openness, enabling the body to stretch out and dissolve into the vastness of the universe.

VERSION SIX

I want to spread my arms wide and embrace the world. But I don’t. It takes up too much space. It would alter my gait. Besides, when running, you don’t fly with your arms, you fly with your feet. And you don’t embrace the world with a hug but with a breath.

VERSION SEVEN

To be combined with Version One. 

Other times when I run
I breathe in deeply
I fill my lungs with the world
while rhythmically pumping my arms.

I feel strong
fluid
effortless.
I am flying
over the path
above the world
under the dazzling blue sky.

I take in everything and become nothing
as I breathe in          and out                        .

april 19/REST

Resting my left hamstring today and reflecting on this story project, which I’ve been working on for almost 4 months. This log entry is my 87th one.

What I’ve Done (and Run) since January

In that time, I’ve run almost 374 miles in the rain, snow, sunshine, fog and wind. I’ve run when it was 2 degrees but felt like 6 below in January, 59 degrees in February and more temperatures in-between. Haven’t experience heat yet, but that will come soon enough.

I’ve run in 2 races: a 5K and a 10 mile, both in Minneapolis and both part of the build-up to the marathon next October.

I’ve run at an indoor track, in the US Bank Stadium, north on the river road, south on the river road, and on both the Minneapolis and St Paul sides, on and under the Franklin Avenue, Lake Street and Ford Parkway bridges, over part of the Stone Arch Bridge, around Lake Bde Maka Ska, by Minnehaha Falls, on the Minnehaha Creek path to Lake Hiawatha and then around Lake Nokomis.

I’ve run up and down the 1/2 mile Franklin hill, the steeper and longer I-35W hill, the steeper and shorter Summit hill, the Marshall Avenue hill up to Cretin and a handful of other hills, some steep, some long, some barely noticeable as hills.

I’ve run on icy paths, cobble-stone paths, snow-covered paths, muddy paths, leaf-covered paths. Paths with tons of pebbles that get wedged in the treads of my shoes, paths with gritty sand that makes a satisfying crunch when you run over it and paths with big puddles that are impossible to avoid.

I’ve run without headphones, listening to birds chirping, dogs barking, squirrels shrieking, geese honking, kids howling, women cackling, ski poles clacking, conversations starting, runners breathing, car horns blaring, motorcycles revving, bicycle wheels spinning,  traffic moving, water flowing, wind blowing, feet shuffling and the zipper pull on my jacket clanging.

I’ve run with headphones, listening to cheesy anthems with swelling melodies, catchy pop songs with quick tempos and loud rock songs with driving beats. And I’ve heard podcasts that make me think, feel, cry, remember, forget, wonder and laugh, sometimes out loud, in spite of myself.

I’ve run with a sore right knee, a sore left hamstring, sore feet, aching legs, tight calves, cramped toes, a stuffed-up nose, watering eyes, fuzzy vision, a burning face—from the cold, from the heat, from the wind and from the salt that I was sweating out. Plugged up ears that echo in my head whenever I try to talk or breathe. GI distress that makes me panic and frantically search for a porta potty. Stiff shoulders and a tingling arm that was almost numb from the angle at which I was carrying it. And a smile so big and wide that I was sure that anyone I encountered was wondering what I was on and how they could get some.

I’ve greeted strangers, waved at fellow runners, yelled at clueless pedestrians, glared at path-hoggers, snorted at reckless drivers, giggled at funny dogs, whistled, hummed, sang, softly, and talked to myself, with and without my voice memo app.

I’ve felt too hot, too cold, too tired, too fast, too slow, too joyful, and too far from the end of my run.

I’ve focused on my breathing, raising my head, relaxing my shoulders, making sure my pulse stayed low, leaning in when running down hills, lifting my knees when running up them, keeping my feet straight, keeping a steady pace and keeping out any doubts about whether or not I can run the entire long run.

I’ve run by myself, with my husband, with the shadows that haunt me and playfully taunt me and with my memories of my mom, as a runner, as a kindred spirit and as not dead and not yet dying from stage four pancreatic cancer.


Wow, that was fun. I’m sure that I can keep adding to this list. I realized, as I was writing it, that it’s inspired by Roger Hart’s great story about running which I wrote about in one of my early assignments for this project.

Note: I’m not turning this entry into an erasure poem. The list almost seems like a poem already.

april 18/3.1 MILES

54 degrees
mississippi river road path north

Ran in the rain. Didn’t mean to. Thought front had passed. It hadn’t. At the start, everything was just wet, still dripping from the heavy drizzle that had been going on all morning. Feeling the water on my nose, thought it was more dripping, then realized it had started to rain again. I don’t mind running in the rain, especially when I have on my favorite baseball cap and a jacket. Then I hardly notice it.

Not too far from the start of my run on the river road path, the walking/running path dips below the road, down to the ridge of the gorge. In the summer, when the leaves have returned to the trees, it’s a sea of green and nothing else. But from late October until mid-May, the trees are mostly bare. You can see how the earth steeply slopes down to a small bit of woods, with a floor of dirt and dead leaves and a worn path that leads to the river and a sandy beach. You can reach this path by walking down some stone steps that are closed during the winter. I remember the first time I finally noticed this section of the path. It was during early spring a few years ago, after the snow had melted but before anything had started to grow again. It was early morning and a fog was lingering on the tree branches. It was eerie and beautiful. A month or so later, my daughter discovered the steps, which had always been there, in plain sight, but I had ignored, and we hiked down them to the river. Now, it’s one of my favorite places. Today, there wasn’t fog there, just a soft, steady rain, but it was still beautiful. The grayish light made the colors of the early spring trees more intense: a rich brown mixed with vibrant shades of light green. It reminded me of some of the illustrations in one of my favorite books as a kid: Oh What a Busy Day! by Gyo Fujikawa.

Mundane things to note from the run: maybe due to the rain, my watch stopped tracking my run 1.26 miles in. My left leg started to feel heavy again, towards the end of the run. I probably should take at least two days off to let it rest. The wind was bad, about 17 or 18 mph. Running north, it was at my back. When I turned around, it swirled around me and then pushed the rain in my face.

Hover over the log entry to reveal the erasure poem. For more on this poem, see An Unexpected Erasure.

note: The walk down the steps to the river is featured in a short digital story that I created a few years ago.