april 22/3.3 MILES

54 degrees
greenway bridge turn around + extra

Bare legs this morning! And I wasn’t even cold. Decided to run for 30 minutes to earn the apple watch “earth day” achievement. Was able to run almost the entire time on the walking path. Saw the Daily Walker from a distance. Greeted some other runners and walkers. Encountered some annoying runners taking over the path–warmer weather always brings them out. Saw some rollerbladers. No roller skiers. Some bikers. Hardly any dogs. Listened to my breathing. Felt my strong legs moving rhythmically on the un-puddled path.

april 21/3 MILES

47 degrees
greenway bridge turn around

Another beautiful morning. Don’t remember much because I was listening to my headphones. I think I saw my shadow a few times in the bright sun. Saw lots of runners, alone and in groups. A few bikers. Walkers. No roller skiers. No puddles. No ice, except for under the lake street bridge. Ran faster and felt the joy of working harder. I definitely need to do some more speed work to get used to pushing myself.

Encountered a wonderful poem that reflects my feelings about the slow arrival of spring:

april 19/4 MILES

45 degrees
5% snow-covered
mississippi river road path, north/south

Spring is coming! Spring is coming! High of 50 today. 60 this weekend. So much snow still on the ground and the walking path, but the sidewalk and the bike path above the river were clear. And the sun was burning bright. And the birds were chattering.

Before heading out to run, I reread Jamie Quatro’s wonderful op-ed about Running as prayer. I wanted to think about what happens to the inner and the outer as we run. What is the relationship between the inner (soul? mind? thoughts? imagination?) and the outer (other people, landscapes, the air, the path, trees, the river, the gorge, etc)?

Quatro writes about a deep layer of consciousness that we can access during long runs:

a state of prayerlike consciousness. Past the feel-good vibes, past the delusions, my attention moves outward: I’m intensely aware of the cadence of a bird’s song, cherry blossoms weighted-down after a rain. Things light up and I experience an interior stillness that somehow syncs me more profoundly with the exterior world. It’s a paradox: only when I’m fully present in my body do I begin to experience the absence of myself.

I read the op-ed with the intention of thinking about inner/outer while I ran. In the first mile, I did. I kept thinking about how porous my skin is and how I inhale and exhale the outside air and how my feet strike down on the path and how the inner and outer work with and against each other. And I wondered about what it means to be a self moving through a landscape–when are you just admiring the view, looking down at the river while perched on the edge of the gorge, and when are you a part of that landscape? Am I part of the Mississippi river road path more than the person driving their car next to it because I am moving through the outside air, feeling the path, smelling the melting snow? I want to shout Yes! but why is it the case? Looking down on the river today, I felt connected and removed from it, like I was admiring the scenery. Does my self dissolve in these moments of moving, becoming a part of the path, not feeling anything, just moving and being?

All of these thoughts came to me about 5 minutes in. I tried to hold onto some of them–and maybe I did, fleetingly–but other thoughts about how fast I was running or whether or not my left thigh was working as well as my right one or if I should try to catch up to and pass the runner ahead of me or how to slow down my breathing kept creeping in and taking over. On most of my runs, which last around 36 minutes, I would guess I spend 10% on deep thoughts, 25% on smells/sounds/textures/interesting images and the rest (65%) on mundane running things: form, breathing, pace, possible injuries, how sore my legs are, how to avoid people or debris or other animals on the path. Is that accurate?

Anyway, that was how I started my run. What else do I remember? Mostly the wind was fine, but occasionally, when the path curved slightly, I ran straight into it. Yuck. There was no ice on the path. Few puddles. One or two dogs. Less than 5 other runners. No Daily Walker. I smiled at people, but didn’t greet anyone. Heard some geese down below the Lake Street bridge. Saw lots of bikers. I encountered one biker coming from the other direction who was playing music on a radio. As they passed, the music warped–must have been the Doppler effect–and I couldn’t recognize it. Another biker, this time a fat tire, slowly creeped up from behind as we were both climbing a hill. They were biking so slow I was almost able to keep up. Then they crested the hill and disappeared. Running north, with the wind in my face and the sun on my back, I was pleasantly warm. Running south, I was hot. No wind. Bright, burning sun. An extra layer of clothing that I couldn’t remove. After my run, as I walked back home, I noticed all of the melting. Water slowly streamed down the alley into the street and also dripped down from the gutters. I think this is “The Great Melt, part 4”.

Addendum: Just discovered this amazing short film. Wow! I want to write about this soon. So fascinating. I love the music and poetry that accompanies it.

april 17/7 MILES

32 degrees
35% snow-covered
washington ave bridge turn around

Before leaving the house for my run I decided to try and focus on the different types of water that I noticed. But, how much would I be able to focus on this task? It’s hard to hold onto thoughts when you’re running–or walking. As I walked to the river, it started out well enough. I made note of the drip drip drip of melted snow trickling down from a roof gutter. I thought about the particular sound snow that has partly melted, turned into a slushy mess, and then refroze over night, makes when it crunches. So sharp. Almost like walking over broken glass. But then, I noticed how that crunching sound mixed in with the chirping birds and all of the wind chimes. And then I heard the wind passing through a pine tree. I had to stop and record my thoughts on my iPhone. Here’s what I spoke:

The sharp crunching snow. Almost like walking over broken glass. The small drops of water slowly melting, mixed in with the birds chirping and the wind chimes and then: I finally get it. I heard the wind through the pine trees and I understand why there are so many poems about the wind and pine trees (I think my idea about pine trees comes from this article which also introduced me to a word for wind moving through the trees: psithurism).

Shortly after this revelation, I started running. So bright! So white! The snow sparkling, my shadow leading me on the path. The river was ice-free and a beautiful blue. I greeted the Daily Walker. Ran down the Franklin hill and into the flats. Heard the water gushing down the gorge in a spot fairly close to the site of the mudslide that shut the river road down for 2 years. Saw a lone goose, standing motionless in the snow, looking pissed that it was spring and there was no grass. Running back from the Washington bridge I had this strange feeling that I had dreamed about running this stretch recently. Had I? How much of it was a dream and how much of it was forgotten thoughts from the last time I ran this stretch a month ago?

I didn’t experience any euphoric moments–no runner’s high, but I felt good for most of the run. Happy with a slow, steady sense of joy and gratitude for being outside and moving.

I thought about the Boston Marathon and how so many people suffered from hypothermia. How, with the wind, it felt like 20 degrees while they ran in pouring rain, their teeth chattering only a few miles in. I thought about the layers they wore and how it must have felt to run soaking wet and miserable. Then I thought about my own layers and how soft my warm, dry shirt felt next to my skin.

About 30 minutes into my run, I hit some strong winds. Looking ahead at my shadow, I could see my pony-tail swishing vigorously in the wind. Later, heading back, I could feel it dripping tiny drops of sweat.

I heard a shovel scraping somewhere, probably trying to get the last layer of slightly melted but mostly shard-like snow off of the sidewalk.

As I neared the end of my running, feeling tired, I forgot to look down at the river. It probably had a shiny, sparkling spot or two.

Running back, into the sun, I saw more puddles. Nothing deep, only shallow spots spreading across the path.

My thoughts about water were scattered and unexpected: rain-soaked skin, a sweaty pony-tail, slushing snow, a forgotten river, shallow puddles. I guess that’s how my running brain works.

 

april 16/4 MILES

32 degrees
50% snow-covered
mississippi river road path, north/south

This weekend it snowed. A lot. Almost 20 inches. 2 inches an hour, at one point. It started late Friday night and didn’t stop until Sunday morning. But then only for a couple of hours. before starting again. Difficult to run in. So much snow that school was cancelled for the kids. In April. This is very wrong and I am over it. Thankfully, the path was clear today and I was able to run. In some spots, the path was completely clear. In others, there was only a thin strip of bare pavement. On my way back, I encountered more puddles and big chunks of snow that the plow on the road had kicked up. It felt good to be outside running after several days of being trapped in the house. What do I remember for the run? The wind in my face occasionally. Then, beside me. Then, at my back. The dull crunching of the snow when I ran over it, then the soft thud of my feet on the bare pavement. The cars rushing through puddles and splashing up water. I wondered if the water would hit me (it never did). The running felt good, strong. I felt like I was springing off the path.

Watched the Boston marathon this morning. Such miserable conditions–38 degrees, lots of rain, strong head wind. Des Linden was awesome. Had fun cheering for the persistent underdog.

Not much else to write. This weather is crushing my creative spirit.

april 12/6.4 MILES

40 degrees
franklin loop + extra

Felt much warmer than 40 degrees. Was it the sun? The lack of snow? The belief that spring was coming? Had a great run. Decided to try a variation on my franklin loop route. Ran north on the west mississippi river road, crossed the franklin bridge, ran south on the east mississippi river road past the lake street bridge and up the somewhat steep hill to Summit. Turned around, ran down the hill, over the lake street bridge and then south on the west mississippi river road. I liked it–even the hill.

What do I remember from my run? Lots of birds chirping. Turning on the river road just behind a runner who, after passing the parking lot, held up 4 fingers in one hand, 1 in the other. Why 5? Was he signaling to someone? Reminding himself that he had just run 5 miles or 5 loops or what? He was running faster than me–not fast enough for me to catch him, but fast enough to make me run a little faster too. I never found out what he was doing and by the time I had been running for 10 minutes, I forgot all about it. Greeting the Daily Walker. Greeting a runner I was passing who said “good morning” to me first. Deciding to run onto the Franklin bridge instead of below it into the west river flats. Running on the bridge and noticing the east river flats. Passing a few more runners. Smiling. Deciding to keep running past the Lake street bridge and run up the steep hill to Summit. Running close enough to the trees by the bridge to almost reach out and touch them. Turning around at the top of the hill and thinking about how I would be running up this hill in 2 weeks for a 10k race. Checking to see if the eagle was perched on the dead limb of a tree. Feeling good, relaxed. Loving how clear the path was and wondering how covered in snow it would be after the winter storm hits on Saturday. Looking down at the floodplain forest: a little bit of snow, bare branches.

At the end of my run, I stopped at an overlook to take in the beautiful view of the river and to listen to the birds, especially the woodpecker. Here’s a recording of some sounds:

april 11/4 MILES

38 degrees
minnehaha falls loop

It may be only 38, but it feels like spring outside. Sunny. Birds calling. Paths clearing. Water flowing. I am ready! Last night, I finished the (hopefully) final poem about the crunching snow that I will write this year. I’m ready for a new subject.

Recorded the sounds of spring as I was walking back home, at the end of my run:

april 9/4 MILES

33 degrees
50% snow-covered
mississippi river road path, north/south

More snow. An inch or two. Much of it melted by the time I started running. The rest of it–either soft grains that were fun to run through or slick, icy patches to try and avoid. Last year it was 57 degrees on my April 9th run. This winter has been much longer. Still, it was a good run. Encountered a few runners. The Daily Walker–passed him twice and then we turned off the river road at the same time. I thought about introducing myself, but then didn’t. Noticed the cars rushing by quickly, their wheels whooshing through the puddles on the road. The word for today’s run? Wet. Not too many big puddles on the path but lots of slick, shiny stretches. Wet roads. Big drips of melting snow that dropped off the bottom of the bridges and onto my face or my back or the brim of my hat as I ran under them. Dripping eaves. Gushing gutters. The big melt, part two–or is this part three?

Walking back home after my run, I recorded some wet sounds:

I love water. I’d like to read more water poems and maybe write some myself. Here’s an excerpt from a water poem I read last month that I want to remember (ed bok lee, water in love):

Worship, splash, guzzle, or forget
It clears any difference
Stone washer and mountain dissolver
that will
outlive us, even the memory of
all any eyes touched

april 8/4.4 MILES

32 degrees
10% snow-covered
almost Franklin hill turn around

Took several days off from running because my kneecap seemed liked it had displaced on Friday night, while I was sleeping. I was certain that I would be out for another month but suddenly, it felt better. Still sore, but much better. Very grateful. Whenever I injure my knee, I don’t worry as much about running as I do walking. Running is great, but walking is necessary.

Today’s run was wonderful. Cold and windy, but I didn’t care. I got to run without pain or uncertainty. Listened to my running playlist and blocked out the noise of the wind rushing past my ears. Didn’t encounter too many runners or walkers. What do I remember? I noticed the runner with the bright yellow shirt and thought about how my orange shirt was just as bright. I smiled a lot and almost spread my arms wide in a big hug. Encountered several runners going fast. Thought about running all the way to the bottom of the Franklin hill but decided to stop just under the bridge and turn around. Noticed that my right knee was a little sore and wondered if it would be a problem when I finished (it wasn’t). Was able to mostly run on the walking path instead of only on the bike path. Didn’t see any bikers or roller skiers or big packs of runners. Twisted my foot a little on a patch of ice.

A few days ago, I discovered a new poetic form: contrapuntal. I decided to write one about 2 sounds that crunching snow makes when I walk on it.

Here are my notes:

First, I noticed the noise: a crisp, sharp, snap. Delightfully dissonant, cutting through the quiet and the soft settling of my foot on the snow-covered path. Did I like it partly for its grating, grinding quality?

Then, I noticed its counterpoint: a soft, steady crush of crystals that never ceased. Sometimes creaking, occasionally squeaking. Always there, buzzing, humming under the other noises—birds chirping, planes rumbling, a car door slamming.

Before I had only made note of the noise and how it shattered my idea of snow as silent. Now I wondered how the different noises fit together. Why two? What was causing the multiple melodies? The crack crack crack with the crushcrushcrushcrushcrush?

Then, I understood. The two sounds traveled, trading off between my feet. As one foot cracked, the other crushed. Right crack left crushcrushcrush left crack right crushcrushcruch. The biomechanics of a step amplified! My body singing through snow!

And here’s my poem:

april 4/4 MILES

17 degrees
95% snow-covered
mississippi river road path, north/south

It snowed. 9 inches total. Didn’t bother me at all. What a glorious run! So beautiful–a bright blue sky, powdery perfect white snow, my shadow beside me. Checked the “feels like” temp before I went out: 6 degrees. It didn’t feel cold at all. Actually, I was warm for most of the run. The path was plowed and mostly packed with a narrow strip of almost clear pavement. Not too much wind. Passed the Daily Walker at the beginning. Heard birds chirping, cars rushing by, snow crunching, snowblowers blowing, plows plowing, a few dogs barking.

Recorded the crunching snow (hopefully) for the last time:

april 2/5.1 MILES

30 degrees
franklin loop

In a few hours, it’s supposed to snow again. 1-3 inches today. 1-3 inches tonight. 1-3 inches tomorrow. Wet, heavy snow. Yuck! I decided to get out and run before the path was covered again. Was able to run most of the way on the walking path instead of the biking path. Had to stop and walk twice because it was windy and I was running too fast. Listened to headphones. What do I remember? Hearing some sort of howling or barking or moaning down in gorge that I could barely hear over my music. Thought about taking off my headphones to listen more closely but didn’t. I wonder what it was? Tried to focus on keeping my shoulders back and my chest forward, with my arms swinging straight back, relaxed. Looked to see if the eagle was perched on the dead tree by the bridge. They weren’t. Saw the Daily Walker. Admired the beautiful Mississippi as I ran over the Franklin bridge. Noticed that it felt humid and hard to breathe. Glanced down at the east river flats and thought about how hidden they will be once the leaves return to the trees–will I ever try running down there alone? Probably not. Took note of the paved path leading down into the gorge, towards the Lake street bridge–it’s much closer to the road down to the east river flats than I thought.

Read a poem by Mary Oliver earlier this morning and encountered the phrase, “deep, moist summer.” I don’t like how summer is moist. I also don’t like the word moist. I hate humidity and I don’t like how overwhelmingly green and thick with vegetation summer is, even as I love so much about the season. I will miss winter running–so quick, crisp, sharp and slick.

april 1/2.1 MILES

60 degrees
ywca track

A quick run on the indoor track. Cold outside. Most likely wet, slushy snow tomorrow and the day after that. Where is spring? Read a headline from the MPR weather guy–Will we skip spring and go straight to summer? Nooooooo!!!

The track was crowded with an irritating walker who stubbornly refused to follow the rules (that were painted on the track) and walked in the center lane, making it difficult to pass on either side.

 

march 30/3.2 MILES

30 degrees
mississippi river road path, south/north

Cold but clear. Hardly any snow left. Felt pretty good. Wish I could remember more. Saw my shadow for a few minutes but then it turned gray. Encountered some dogs and runners and, after a long absence, a roller skier! Spring is coming. More evidence? Saw the U of M rowers out on the river yesterday.

march 28/6.7 MILES

42 degrees
the washington bridge turn around

Birds! So many chirping birds. And sunshine. And clear paths. And the feeling that spring is coming sometime soon. Ran down the franklin hill in the flats, all the way to the washington avenue bridge by the U and back. Felt strong and relaxed. Walked most of the way up the hill on the way back, but didn’t care (well, not too much) because it was still a good run. Started my run by getting to greet the Daily Walker. Encountered several runners and a few bikers. Saw my shadow–she was beside me today.

The wind was strong on the way back home and I had to run right into it. This wind was a wall. I hit it and happily stopped just a few tenths shy of my goal: 7 miles.

 

march 27/4 MILES

35 degrees
mississippi river road path, north/south

About 5 minutes into my run, I noticed my nose was bleeding. I always bring a kleenex but, of course, I didn’t have one today. Thought about turning around and going back home but I didn’t. I wanted to keep running. So I pulled over, looked at the river, hoped my nose would stop and then started running again. I tried to remember to keep my head tilted slightly up as I ran. My nose used to bleed a lot when I was a kid. In high school, it would often start while I was in the pool for swim practice. I’d have to get out and do dryland exerices. So annoying. Today, it wasn’t too bad. I’m glad I kept going. I don’t remember too much else about my run. Listened to headphones. Got to be on the walking path for awhile. Passed a few runners. Greeted the Daily Walker. Don’t think I saw any bikers. Maybe one dog. No puddles. No big ice chunks or snow banks. Ran into the wind at the beginning and had it at my back at the end. Saw some grass, not just snow. Wore less layers. No more bulky gray jacket or gloves. One pair of running tights. No buff. Spring will be here soon!

march 25/4 MILES

36 degrees
downtown loop

Scott and I started at the Guthrie, ran next to the beautiful, extra blue Mississippi river under the Hennepin Avenue bridge and over the Plymouth bridge through Boom Island and Father Hennepin park over the Stone Arch bridge and then back to the car. At the start of the run, I noticed so many intense shades of blue. The sky a purplish blue clashing with the steel blue river and the royal blue biking/walking signs on the path. Then I noticed the wind–such wind!–almost taking our breath away. 15 mph with strong gusts.

Scott stopped to take a picture on the Stone Arch bridge and I asked him to include me in the picture:

march 23/5.2 MILES

34 degrees
franklin loop

Wore less layers today. No headphones. Heard lots of grit scraping scratching shifting rubbing on the path under my feet. Right near the welcoming oaks, the path was covered in a super slick layer of ice. Not sure what happened–it wasn’t just melted snow that had refroze. Very slippery. Felt good on the run. The river was beautiful from the bridge–especially the Franklin bridge. Later, I noticed the sunlight had created two big spots on the water’s surface. Bright and sparkly. A few days ago, after listening to the line from one of my poems about how beautiful sparkling water is, Scott suggested that maybe I saw it differently–more sparkly?–because of my macular degeneration. I wonder, is that true? Do people with healthy vision not see the sun shining on water–the way it blinds and undulates and flashes, almost swims–as impossibly beautiful? Or, is it just Scott who doesn’t see it? Encountered a few walkers, a few runners, a few dogs and the Daily Walker. Heard something, I think it was a dog, down in the gorge on the St. Paul side and then a few minutes later, also heard a few people trying to hike up the side of the gorge. Noticed the trail in the east river flats was pretty clear. Also noticed a trail that seemed to lead below the Marshall/Lake Street bridge. Next month, Scott and I will have to check it out. At the end of my run, I saw a little kid with an adult, driving one of those annoying motorized kid cars. It made this irritating buzzing, grinding, not quite humming, sound that contaminated the calm quite river sounds that I had been (and hoped to continue) enjoying.

march 21/4.1 MILES

37 degrees
mississippi river road path, south/north

Today’s run felt difficult. Was it because I ran in the afternoon? Or because I ran a 10K yesterday? Not sure. But I ran the whole thing. Ran right by Minnehaha Falls. So loud, with the water rushing down to the river. Didn’t feel much wind. Did feel overdressed. Too many layers. As I looked down at the gorge, with the trees bare, I thought about how the number of layers I’m wearing is inversely proportional to the number of leaves on the trees. I’m ready to not be wearing 2 jackets and a base layer + running tights. Heard lots of birds. Felt the sun on my face. Spring is definitely coming! Anything else? Oh–a woman was walking a big white fluffy dog–or was the dog walking her? Hard to tell. Several people were admiring the falls. One person was taking a picture of Minnehaha creek. Kids were out playing on the school playground. There was lots of grit on the path making a nice scratching sound. Ran through a few puddles, over one or two patches of ice.

march 20/6.2 MILES

29 degrees
70% snow-covered
franklin hill turn around + extra

Snowing this morning on the first day of spring. A wet heavy snow that will soon melt. Decided to run slow and keep going past the bottom of the hills and toward the Bohemian Flats. A nice run. Gray. Humid. A little windy with snow in my face most of the time. Will this be the last snow of the season? Probably not. Speaking of snow, yesterday I turned one of my early morning poetry fragments into a concrete poem:

What do I remember from my run? I thought a lot about keeping my pace relaxed and wondering whether or not my knee would start hurting. Also wondered which direction the wind was blowing–would it be in my face even more when I turned around and ran back home (yes)? Noticed the river flowing down in the flats–a graying brownish blue. The snow wasn’t too slippery, even under the bridge. It also wasn’t crunchy–at least I don’t think it was crunchy–I had headphones on. I was able to run on the walking path–instead of the bike path–for most of my run.

I wanted to start thinking about the differences between walking and running, but I forgot. I started thinking about running and walking last year–I even gathered together some resources and wrote a few creative essays. With spring coming and a desire to be outside more, it seems fitting to walk more and then think about how walking differs from running. A few days ago, I stumbled upon a brief essay about running and how it differs from walking:

But the act of running gives me something I cannot get from a walk, and that is total mental freedom. I agree with Kierkegaard that walking is objectively better than sitting, in terms of feeling good. But it is not always sufficient. And although the day-to-day business of writing is closely connected to walking, the business of being a functioning person – for me – requires something else. Running demands that you concentrate on something which requires almost no conscious thought at all. It is a particular kind of thinking which is all about the next few seconds and entirely pragmatic: mind that low-hanging branch, is that dog on an extendable lead, am I about to get mugged by a flock of Canada geese (the nightclub bouncers of the bird world). It also proves that you are more, or at least other, than you think.

I like her idea of running as offering a particular kind of thinking and I agree that much of running time is taken up with mundane, immediate thoughts about branches or cracks in the pavement or how deep a puddle is, whether or not the runner I’m approaching will move over, etc.. But, what I also like about running is that flashes of insight happen too–I have really great thoughts. Because of the effort I’m making and my need to pay attention to my surroundings, I can’t ruminate slowly and obsessively about those thoughts. The best I can do is try to record them in a voice memo or write them in a log entry after I’m done. Why is this a good thing? I’m not sure that I can express it right now–maybe something about a need to correct my tendency to overthink things or my love of imposing limits on my creative process?

march 18/5.25 MILES

43 degrees
franklin loop

A great run with Scott this afternoon! We went slow and walked for a minute after every nine minutes. Very easy. Almost effortless. Wet with lots of puddles. Not much ice. Not much else that I remember. No eagles perched on the dead tree near the Marshall/Lake Street bridge. A rowing boat–I think they’re called a shell?–on top of car driving up from the Minneapolis rowing club. An annoying black standard poodle–is there any other kind–was barking on the path ahead of us. I’m so glad that we ran!