march 7/4 MILES

65 degrees
ywca track

I’ve been trying to run in windier conditions but today’s 25 mph wind was too much. Decided to run at the Y track with Scott before lunch. Experimented with tempo, running fast and slow. I can tell my legs are getting stronger; the run felt good.

Early on in the run, a group of preschoolers were on the track. Tethered together with a rope, they walked the perimeter of the track. They were led by two caregivers and (mostly) stayed out of the way as I ran by. Sometimes when I run around the track in the evening, I encounter little kids who want to race me. A small part of me wishes I appreciated this and that I could enjoy running beside them, but I don’t. I find it irritating and try to avoid it. Most of me is okay with my grumpy attitude.

After the run, went to library and picked up for more books that I requested for this run! project:

So far, I’ve read a wide range of things about running.

what I’ve been reading, a list

  • personal narratives about why runners run
  • race reports
  • training tips
  • academic essays on running and philosophy/feminism/rhetoric
  • dissertations on running and identity/feminism/narrative
  • interviews about running habits
  • memoirs about learning to love running
  • popular books about running as sacred
  • anthologies of running stories
  • tweets and news reports about elite athletes
  • fictional accounts of runners
  • stories about pacing and/or coaching other runners
  • accounts of suffering injuries; accounts of recovering from injuries
  • essays about running and grieving.

These readings have come in many forms.

  • books, almost all of which were checked out from my public library
  • blog posts on online journals, running sites, individual runners’ sites
  • tweets
  • newspaper and magazine articles
  • online short stories in literary journals
  • academic articles
  • dissertation chapters

I’m trying to develop a reading/researching plan for myself, in the form of a syllabus. It includes weekly reading lists, assignments and running challenges. Not sure how well it’s working because I keep changing it up. I’m all over the place with my reading, but that’s what makes it fun and undisciplined.

 

march 5/5 MILES

59 degrees
mississippi river road path
15 mph wind

If my mom were alive, today would have been her 75th birthday. She died in 2009, from pancreatic cancer. She was a runner. Well, more like a jogger. She jogged regularly for decades, sometimes alone, sometimes with my dad. She was slow and steady and rarely ran in any races, just a few charity runs. She started in 1977, when I was 3 and she was 36.

I never talked to her about running, or if I did, I don’t remember any specifics from our conversations. Did she ever try to talk to me about it? Now that I’m an enthusiastic runner who loves to talk about running—where I run, who I encounter on my runs, how I feel on my runs, what parts of me hurt after my runs, what I listen to on my runs, what my times are on my runs—it’s hard for me to imagine her not wanting to talk about running and share her stories with me. Was I just not listening? Or, was she not as obsessed with running as I am?

Regardless of whether or not she talked with me about running, the fact that she ran was always there, a constant in my life as a kid, even as we moved from the North to the South and then to the Midwest. One of the ways I still picture the non-sick her–over 10 years after she got sick and 6 years since she died–is in her running clothes.

Random Running Memories of Mom, a list

  • She started running at the Paavo Nurmi Gym at Suomi College (now Finlandia University) in the 1970s. I remember tagging along (with my 2 older sisters) and sitting in the bleachers. I got my first kiss from Kiefer during on of her runs.
  • In the early 80s, she ran in rural North Carolina, after teaching all day at a junior high school. At least once, I tried to go out running with her. I couldn’t keep up, so she went ahead. Alone, on my way back home, I got trapped by a barking dog that was roaming the neighborhood.
  • In 5th grade, while biking recklessly on the road, I ran into a pick-up truck–I hit the truck; it didn’t hit me. My friend Sharla biked home and told my sister. She quickly got in the car and went looking for my mom, who was on her afternoon run. She rode with me in the ambulance, still wearing her running clothes.
  • My parents liked to go out running early on Saturday mornings. When they got back, they’d rush off again to go out for breakfast. I was rarely asked or allowed to go with them to the restaurant, which was fine with me because I hate breakfast food.
  • When we moved to West Des Moines, we joined a fancy health club: 7 Flags. My mom would run on the track while I used the rowing machine.
  • I went along with my parents only once on one of their runs. It was 1997, when I was 23 and they were both 56. It was on the recently redone waterfront in Houghton, Michigan. They ran; I walked. Their pace was slow enough that I could keep up while briskly walking.

Mom stopped running sometime in my 20s, years before her pancreas shut down and she had to have surgery and then chemo that only temporarily saved her life. It was also years before I started running. I never got to talk to her about how it felt to run for 20 minutes without stopping for the first time. Or experience her joy in witnessing the return of the physical Sara, the Sara that, in my late 20s, had been replaced with the intellectual Sara who thought too much and moved too little.

I wanted to take her on my run today. To imagine her beside me as I traveled on the bluff, above the Mississippi River. I couldn’t. My mind kept wandering back to the mechanics of my run–how was my heart rate? is my right knee doing okay? am I going too fast? But, that’s okay. I don’t need to imagine her beside me; she’s already always there. Not so much as a running partner, but as one of the reasons I run. I run because it’s something that I can share with her even though she’s dead. And I run because I know it would delight her and make her so proud that I’d found my way back to the physically confident Sara I had once been.

march 4/10 MILES

34 degrees
mississippi river road path

My second week in a row running 10 miles. This one was a little rougher than the last. Halfway up the big hill near Franklin, I had to stop and walk for a few minutes. Partly because I had already been running for over 7 miles, including about 2 miles directly into the wind, and partly because I was running about 30 seconds too fast per mile. I’m pretty sure I know why I was running faster. At the beginning of my run I entered the river road path just ahead of two women running with a dog. They were really LOUD and they seemed to be hovering behind me, not fast enough to pass me, but fast enough to always be nearby so that I couldn’t block out their annoying voices. The next time something like this happens, I should stay slow and just turn up my playlist, letting the Foo Fighters drown them out.

march 3/5.25 MILES

19 degrees/feels like 8
mississippi river road path

No headphones again today. Enjoyed experiencing the quiet calm of running by the river, but even though it was calm, the path was still teeming with life and activity. I’m struck by the abundance and variety of sounds.

Variety of Sounds, a list

  • Birds that pecked, cawed, squawked, chirped incessantly, honked, cooed and rooted around in the dry underbrush on the edge of the bluff.
  • Cars that plodded, swooshed, revved, thundered, puttered and hummed as they ambled on the river road or passed overhead on the bridges I ran under or rushed hurriedly on the freeway that I could only faintly hear at the halfway point of my run.
  • Branches that thrashed against the iron fence when I accidentally hit them. That cracked under my feet as I ran by. That rustled vigorously when a squirrel climbed on them in the tall tree across the road and more gently when the wind caught hold of their dry and brittle leaves.
  • Critters that barked, screeched, thumped and noisily plodded through the vegetation near the riverbank.
  • Sandy debris that crunched under my right foot and rubbed against a small pebble that had become lodged in the slightly worn tread of my shoe as I ran up the small hill, just past the Lake Street bridge and that cracked under the heavy wheels of the cars that drove over it. Mulched debris that absorbed most of the sound of my striking foot, converting its usual sharp thwack into a dull thud.  

How much of my run was occupied with listening for these sounds? Not as much as you might imagine. I still managed to think about whether or not I was going too fast, why my nose was running so much, if it was better to do a snot rocket or blow my nose into my buff (didn’t have to think about that one too long; I’ve only tried shooting snot once and it was a gross failure) and how to swing my left arm in a way that loosened up the tension in my shoulder but that didn’t make me look like the woman that passed me running down the Franklin hill who had good form–a nice kick and arms that swung by her sides, but still managed to be a spaz.

march 1/3.1 MILES

34 degrees
mississippi river road path

It snowed this morning but by the time I went out to run, at noon, it had already mostly melted. I listened to a playlist–as a distraction from the cold wind (14 mph). Felt pretty good. The best moment of the run was this:

Running on the path, parallel to the river road, a gray car came barreling by, way faster than the 25 mph speed limit. Maybe 50 or 60 mph? They hardly slowed down at one of the four way stops. Just as I was thinking about how fortunate I was that I hadn’t been near the stop sign that they ignored and lamenting how they probably wouldn’t get a ticket, a police car drove by. “Yes!” I quietly exclaimed before I could stop myself.

feb 28/XT

40 degrees
longfellow neighborhood
walked 7.7 miles (2 dog walks + walk to/from office)

Today for cross-training I walked while listening to the latest episode of This American Life. It was about two babies that were switched at birth and it was fascinating. So fascinating that I became engrossed in the story, almost oblivious to my surroundings. Distracted. Barely aware of the sidewalk or any other walkers that were on it.

distracted.

Yesterday in my log entry I put two different versions of being distracted beside each other without realizing it. I didn’t notice the juxtaposition until I reread the entry a few minutes ago. In one paragraph I describe how listening to a running playlist on my headphones makes me feel isolated and disconnected from the external world. In the next paragraph I mention how a distracted driver hit and killed a runner in a St. Paul crosswalk, on one of my regular running routes.  (update: looked this story up for new info and discovered 2 important things: 1. the driver was quite possibly distracted by multiple brain tumors that were only discovered after the accident and 2. the runner was not wearing headphones when he was running.)

In both of these cases, being distracted is presented as bad or dangerous. But, is it always? Sometimes I need distractions to inspire me. To motivate me. To prevent me from being too fixated on my present realities:

  • That I still have an hour left to run. A good podcast can help me to forgot this.
  • That I’m running into a cold wind. Having my hood up, covering my ears, helps me to not notice this.
  • That our government is a shit show and our president is unhinged. Taking breaks from the news and stories designed to agitate and confuse by listening to Barry Manilow or Justin Bieber (sorry, not sorry that I like that song) or “The Jeffersons” theme song while I run helps me to shift my attention

feb 27/4 MILES

36 degrees
west mississippi river road /lake street bridge/marshall hill

Ran with headphones today, listening to a playlist. Have decided that running without headphones is better for connecting to the running and for thinking. Music can distract and isolate me from the external world. Sometimes that’s good; I like to feel separated. But not all of the time.

Ran past the spot where a runner was killed just last Wednesday; hit by a “distracted driver” (cell phone? drugs? alcohol?) while crossing the street in the crosswalk. Very sad and scary. This is one of my regular routes and I’ve run in that crosswalk dozens of times. Not today. From now on, I’m running on the steps that lead directly up to the bridge instead of crossing the road and taking the easier climb. With my macular dystrophy, crossing roads is already dangerous enough. I can’t always trust that I’ll see a car coming. I don’t need the added risk of distracted drivers.

feb 26/5 MILES

32 degrees
mississippi river road walking path

A beautiful Sunday morning. Decided to challenge myself to running without headphones. Focused on listening.

Things I heard while running, a list

  • Crows cawing
  • Other birds chirping and cooing
  • A woodpecker pecking
  • Geese honking
  • The swoosh of cars as they drive by on the river road
  • The worn wheels of a car, plodding along the river road
  • Some funky music, playing from a radio on a bike
  • The sharp thud of my shoes on the paved path
  • The dull thud of my shoes on dirt and debris on the path
  • The crunch of my shoes on salt and gravel on the path
  • My breathing, usually slow and measured, occasionally quick and labored, like when climbing the Franklin hill
  • My zipper pull, rhythmically banging against my jacket as I run
  • An airplane, faint and far above my head
  • The wind rushing by my ears
  • The wind rustling in the dead leaves that never fell off the trees this past fall
  • Cars thumping above my head as I pass under the Lake Street Bridge
  • The quick and unexpected laughter of a woman on a path below me
  • Bike wheels, rapidly approaching
  • Phantom steps from runners who seem to be gaining on me, yet never pass, managing to turn off onto another path before reaching me. The crunch of their shoes is so slight that I wonder if they even exist, or if I’m imagining them
  • The clanging of a dog’s chain
  • A walker talking quietly on a phone
  • Children faintly laughing

That’s all I can remember.

Here’s a quick video I took just after finishing my run. Not the greatest quality, but effective at reminding me of what I saw when I was done running.

feb 25/5 MILES

34 degrees
mississippi river road walking path

A nice, fast (er/ish) run of 4 miles. Felt good as a way to get rid of some frustration caused by my 10, almost 11, year old daughter.

65 degrees?
ywca track

Ran the last mile at the Y track so that I could join Scott in the hot tub after he finished his run. Lately, I’m not enjoying running on the track. It seems to aggravate my right knee and it’s not nearly as fun as running outside. Even so, today I did enjoy watching the 6 (or was it just 4? Neither Scott or I could remember) simultaneous boys basketball games happening below the track, in the Minnesota Sports Center, while I ran my last mile.

feb 24/XT

25 degrees
longfellow neighborhood

Instead of biking in the front room today, I walked. According to my apple health data I walked a 10k. I doubt that it was quite that much, but I did walk to Room 34’s new studio (Studio 2) and back twice and walked the dog around the neighborhood.

I have always loved walking, way before I loved running, but for different reasons. I’m planning to devote at least one week to thinking through what these reasons are. Here are some readings that could help:

you must walk like a camel, which is said to be the only beast which ruminates when walking.

I love this idea! I’ve often talked about being like a cow and ruminating. I never thought about a camel.

feb 23/10 MILES

33 degrees
mississippi river road walking path/stone arch bridge

I did it. 10 miles without stopping. I have run this distance before. I’ve even raced it four times. But doing a 10 mile training run still seems like a big deal, especially one with so many huge hills. I experimented with fueling by eating a mini pretzel starting at 30 minutes in and then every 10 minutes. That worked. Will it work during a marathon? I doubt it; that’s a lot of 10 minutes and a lot of pretzels.

Currently reading Jen A. Miller’s Running, a love story. Miller mentions Katherine Jeffers Schori, so I looked her up. In an interview with Runner’s World, Schori says this when asked if she feels running helps with her work:

Absolutely. It’s focusing for me. In my tradition we might talk about it as body prayer. It’s a meditative experience at its best. It’s a sort of emptying of the mind.

Body prayer. I like this idea. I want to learn more about it.

feb 21/4 MILES

41 degrees
mississippi river road walking path

I’m in the midst of reading Rachel Toor’s Personal Record. Just before heading out for my run, I came to her chapter, “Speed Googles.” In it, she writes about her attraction to men who are fast runners; regardless of how they actually look (too skinny, gangly) or act (“uncivilized”), the fact that they run fast makes them attractive to her.

Toor understands going fast to be a mark of commitment and excellence, and what is necessary to be a good runner. Toor wants to be a good runner. She writes:

I have always been a good student, a type A cliché. It I was going to do something, I was going to be good at it….I was never going to jog for my health. I didn’t care all that much about my health, having always been healthy. If I needed at some point to lose weight, there were easier ways to do–starvation, say. No, with running as with all else, I wanted to be good (26).

I thought about Toor’s emphasis on being fast as I got ready to leave the house and then during my run. What do I think about speed? Do I want to be fast? Mostly, I’m taking the opposite perspective: I want to go slow. Being willing to slow down, to stop going so fast in training, is more of a mark of commitment and the willingness to focus on a bigger goal: to run longer–in a race, but in years as a runner, without stopping to walk and without injury.

I also thought about this idea of being good. What does it mean to be good at running? Is it necessarily tied to winning races or going faster and regularly achieving new PRs? If so, I guess I don’t want to be good. At least I don’t think I do. It’s complicated. I like going faster in races and I do have PR goals, but they don’t define the joy I get from running.

I feel stuck in writing this log entry. Too much to think about in terms of my dislike of competition–especially aggressive competitors– but my fear that I’m more competitive than I admit; my stubborn dedication to not being too good at things; my extreme reluctance in ever sharing my times with others, which I attribute to not wanting to brag but wonder if it has more to do with not allowing myself to be proud of my accomplishments.  

feb 20/3.2 MILES

51 degrees
mississippi river road walking path

Managed to finish running before the rain came.  Rain in February?! Was pleased with my easy run; slowing down for the past two months is working. My run seems easier and more relaxed and my heart rate isn’t getting so high. I enjoy the challenge of going slower. Fighting against pride and an investment in being fast. Cultivating humility. Relishing the run, not just rushing through it to achieve another training goal.

My marathon training, much like most things in my life, is a combination of focused dedication to building up helpful habits (in this case, running slower in order to run farther and to avoid injury) and breaking down harmful ones (like running too fast in order to be fast and to be faster than others).

Is this a combination of becoming disciplined (building up) and being undisciplined (breaking down)? With my interest in virtue ethics and the ethical effects of accumulated practices, and my virtual identity as undisciplined, I’m fascinated by this question and the difference between becoming and being here. In my training, I’m giving the edge to being undisciplined, focusing my attention on breaking bad habits and being vigilant against developing new ones that could be just as bad, or worse. This undisciplining work enables me to become disciplined–or focused, dedicated, committed?– in my practices.

 

feb 19/2 MILES

58 degrees
mississippi river road walking path

Not only is it freakishly warm outside but it’s been warm for enough days that all the snow has melted on the walking path. Because they only plow the bike path in the winter, I usually don’t run on the walking path until spring. Today and yesterday I ran by people who were standing around, looking up into the trees at the edge of bluff. What were they looking at? Bald eagles? Falcons? Just admiring the view? I guess I could have stopped to see, but I wanted to keep running.

feb 18/9 MILES

59 degrees
mississippi river road

Another unusually warm day. So warm that I wore shorts. Shorts in February in Minnesota. Weird. Saw my shadow again today. She was moving all around. Sometimes ahead of me. Sometimes just to the side. And sometimes way down in the gorge. Tried eating pretzels during my run. Starting 30 minutes in, a mini-pretzel every 15 minutes. Felt okay while I was running but now I’m totally wiped. Did I not fuel enough or am I wiped out because I ran about 30 seconds per mile too fast? Tons of people out walking and biking today. Mostly not a problem, but some people did annoy me, taking over the whole path or whizzing by without warning. I don’t think a single bike called out “on your left.” I must be mellowing out, because that didn’t really bother me.

feb 17/6.65

59 degrees
mississippi river road path/minnehaha creek path/lake nokomis

Record-breaking warm temperature + no calf pain + a run around Lake Nokomis = Joy

So much joy that I can almost forget about the puddle-covered paths and the super squishing mud that I had to run through and that left a cruddy residue in my socks as I unsuccessfully attempted to avoid soaking my shoes.

feb 16/REST

disclaimer: I’m actually writing this post on the 17th, but it’s about the 16th, so I posting it under that date. 

My calf started hurting yesterday, after my run. Good thing it’s a rest day today so I don’t have to deliberate over whether or not to skip a run. In honor (?) of my sore calf, I’m devoting this post to stories/ideas/fragments of thought about the calf.

one: Thomas Gardner in Poverty Creek Journal

My right calf is still a little stiff from where I straned it last week doing mile repeats in the cold. Just enough to not let me out of my body (3)

and

Struggling with my calf again this morning. A dull ache about half a mile into the run, as if my body were no longer my own, no longer transparent. Each step is a reminder of some uneasiness I can’t quite locate (8).

two: stretching advice from Runner’s World

Before my left calf started hurting, I had been concerned about my left foot. It didn’t really hurt; it just felt weird. Are the pains connected? Probably. Better do these stretches so I can put my best foot forward.

  • Straight-leg calf stretch
  • Bent-leg calf stretch
  • Calf rolling
  • Foot extensions
  • Eccentric calf raises
  • Jump squats

three: a charlie horse from hell, a ghost story

At the end of a 2 mile swim, back and forth across Lake Nokomis, I placed my right foot down in the shallow water and experienced a charlie horse from hell. My right calf knotted up so painfully that I began to yell out. I dropped down in the water, trying not to panic, and frantically shook my leg, hoping to loosen the knot. It didn’t take that long to loosen it, but long enough to disorient me so much that I dropped (and lost) my favorite goggles, long enough to make my calf ache for weeks and not feel quite right for a year and long enough to make me feel perpetually terrified of my calf and the excruciating pain it could cause.

That calf pain still haunts me. I’m not really sure how much pain I can take; I did give birth to both of my kids without any drugs so I must be able to tolerate a reasonable amount. But I’m scared of that pain. The threat of it often hovers there, subtly shaping my workouts. Whenever my calf feels strange, during a swim across the lake or while doing a hard run, I wonder, is it coming for me again?

 

feb 15/5.3 MILES

23 degrees/feels like 15
mississippi river road path

3 stories about the sun

one

The sun was bright today. So bright that as I ran away from it, towards the big hill on Franklin which is 1/2 mile from the bottom to the top (I measured it today), it cast my shadow and I was able to watch myself running. Which Sara-self was this runner just ahead of me? Was it Joyce Carol Oates’ “ghost-self” from To Invigorate Literary Mind, Invigorate Literary Feet, leading me to imagine new worlds and new stories and new ways of being?

two

 At the bottom of the big hill, directly facing the sun, I fumbled with my sunglasses before beginning my 1/2 mile climb. The glare, combined with the fog that had already accumulated on the glasses, blinded me and as I focused on the effort of running up the hill, I was transported to some other existence, almost floating above time and space, that cars and other runners couldn’t access.

three

 Running on the bluff, above the river, I spotted the sun shimmering on the water. It remained always just ahead of me, no matter how fast I ran, leading me to the parking lot where I end most of my runs.

feb 14/XT

70 degrees
road bike on stand, the front room

Another 30 minutes on the bike in the front room. I watched the Women’s Tri at the Rio Olympics while I pedaled. So awesome. I’ll never forget watching it live (at least I think it was live) when Gwen Jorgensen won. Maybe because she lives in St. Paul or because she seems to have a great combination of humility, dedication and talent or because it’s satisfying to watch someone consistently succeed, I had become invested in her and really wanted her to win.

I was into watching that race, totally lost in the drama of her battle with Nicola Sprig during the bike and run. When I wasn’t chanting very loudly,  “Go Gwen! Go Gwen!,” I was yelling race updates to anyone else in the house, freaking them out with my intense declarations, “SHE’S IN SECOND PLACE ON THE BIKE!” or “SPRIG IS MESSING WITH HER ON THE RUN” or “SHE’S PULLING AWAY! SHE’S GOING TO WIN!!” When she actually won and broke down at the finish line, utterly undone by joy (and probably relief), I broke down too and started crying. And, unlike what I usually do, I didn’t try to stop or hide my tears.

My reaction to Jorgensen winning wasn’t just because I was happy she had won. I cried because I was moved and inspired by her effort, her dedication and her belief in herself. I cried because I was happy that she was able to achieve her goal and that I could bear witness to the moment she fully realized that she had. I cried because it had been a rough year– I had just found out that I had a degenerative eye disease that would make doing triathlons difficult and potentially too dangerous–and I needed to see her succeed. And I cried because the sappy shit gets me every time.

feb 13/3.43 MILES

43 degrees
50th street/minnehaha parkway/ford bridge/mississppi river road

Ran a little less today. I’m tired after running a 5K race and 8.6 miles back to back. Also, the city of minneapolis is doing construction (until next fall. ugh!) that screws up my regular route and I’m experimenting with different routes to run; the one I tried today was less than 4 miles.

This week I’m reading about writers who run. Lots of stuff to think about. In an article for The Atlantic, Nick Ripatrazone writes: “each individual run has its own narrative, with twists and turns and strains.”

So, what was the story of today’s run? Running on legs that are tired from two tough running days and with feet that are wet from failed attempts at dodging the big puddles that have replaced the mounds of snow and chunks of ice on this unusually warm february afternoon, I try to listen to an “on being” podcast about love and relationships but am distracted by other thoughts: am I going too fast? why does this seem harder than yesterday? will this route add up to 4 miles? what should I have for lunch? are my feet just sore or something more?