july 28/8.45 MILES

69 degrees
79% humidity
dew point: 60
the almost downtown turn around

This run felt hard and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it. But I did, with the help of several walks. I’m surprised at how little it bothers me that I’m walking so much during these runs. Or that I’m going so slow. Have I given up or just become wiser and more measured in my approach? Or some thing else that I can’t quite figure out? Whatever it is, I’m continuing to train and survive and have moments that I deeply enjoy. I would like to work on pushing through some of the more difficult moments.

For the first half of the run, I listened to an old On Being episode with Mary Oliver. I love Mary Oliver. Here are a few lines that I particularly liked:

What is the meaning of life?

“have no answers but have some suggestions.” I was expecting her to end her line with: “have lots of questions.” I like that she didn’t and I like the idea that we can make suggestions instead of assertions or claims. These suggestions offer insight without definite answers. I’d like to do a writing experiment organized around the idea of having suggestions instead of answers.

writing while walking

They discuss how Oliver writes on her many walks through the woods.  A notebook is mentioned. I’d like to know, in more detail, her process of walking and writing. A few months ago, I read about Jamie Quattro and how, if she got an idea while she was running for a story, she would stop and find a stick and then scratch some notes on her arm (or in her hand?). I’ve tried composing lines while running by speaking them into my voice memo app. But, how does Oliver do it? Maybe she writes about it somewhere?

listening convivially

Krista Tippet references Mary Oliver’s suggestion to “listen convivially” while walking. Where does Oliver say this? In a poem? Prose? An interview?

convivially: good company, joyful/agreeable attitude, greeting others/the world with delight

For me, listening in such an important part of the process of running and paying attention. I like the idea of being convivial as we listen. What are the subtle (and maybe not so subtle) differences between being convivial and generous or open?

attention without feeling is only a report

“You need empathy with it rather than just reporting. Reporting is for field guides. And they’re great. They’re helpful. But that’s what they are. But they’re not thought provokers. And they don’t go anywhere. And I say somewhere that attention is the beginning of devotion, which I do believe.” Attention/Devotion/Rumination/Engagement/Feeling the Force of Ideas and Experiences and Moments.

mystery is in that combination of discipline and the convivial listening

I’m really interested in how being disciplined and undisciplined combine to generate creativity and a more meaningful life. Limits, in the form of structure–Oliver discusses how one of her most famous poems, “Wild Geese,” began as a writing exercise in using end-stopped lines–and freedom, in the form of experimenting, taking risks, imagining new ways of writing, being, doing.

Such wonderful ideas! I can’t wait to read more.

Here are 2 of her poems that I found and want to spend more time with: Spring and What is it?


And here’s my attempt at playing around with Oliver’s idea of suggestions, not answers.

a suggestion on suggestions

I’ve never been good with answers,
giving them, that is.
I can handle accepting them,
as long as they aren’t final
or firm
or boring,
lacking imagination and a wonder
that is necessary for joyful living.
I used to believe that this was a problem,
my refusal to give answers.
It certainly is for some people.
But, no longer for me.
Answers are overrated and too easy.
Even sometimes lazy.
I always want questions.
And now, having heard Mary Oliver utter it in an interview,
suggestions.
Possibilities to explore, entertain, use in our experiments.
Proposals that might fit the facts and feelings.
Things to consider
and ruminate over as I wander through the woods
or run on the path that stretches ahead of me for miles.

And, a poem inspired by Oliver’s exercise in combining end-stopped lines with enjambment and by Gros (Philosophy of Walking) and his use of Nietzsche and the question from The Gay Science about the value of a book or dance or musical composition: “Can they walk?”

How Does Your Writing Move?

With ideas that end when the line or the path does.
And ideas that wander, traveling over
the edge, maybe down
into the gorge, where mystery lives,
behind the green veil that covers the trees from mid-May to early October.

In forms that hold tight with elbows at a 90 degree angle.
And forms that sprawl
all over the place. Messy moments
transformed into words that spill across
the page, leaking energy (and black ink).

Using syntax that remains steady and even.
And syntax that starts. Stops. And starts again,
moving slowly through ideas and experiences and feelings and images.
Then, rapidly.
Like jagged breathing during a tempo run.

july 15/14 MILES

74 degrees
77% Humidity
mississippi river road path, south/minnehaha falls/minnehaha parkway/lake nokomis/minnehaha creek path/lake harriet/return

14 miles! The longest that I’ve ever run! It didn’t feel too bad. I ran the 7 miles to Lake Harriet without stopping then stopped a few times on the way back to walk and fill up my water bottle. Even though it was hard, I felt good and was enjoying it. It helped that for the first 50 minutes I listened to an On Being podcast about running as spiritual practice. 10 runners talked about their experience with prayer, faith and running. Since I’m interested in the idea of running and breathing and paying attention as forms of prayer, I found this podcast to be fascinating. One of the runners, Sarah Khasawinah, had this to say about running:

In the Qur’an, multiple times, God puts thankfulness up there after believing in God, and being thankful is constantly one of the most important things. And when I’m running, I feel like I’m actively expressing that gratitude — first of all, by being able to use my limbs and the faculties that God gave me to run. And also, I’m outside, and when my strides are comfortable, and I feel like nobody’s looking, sometimes I’ll sort of spread my arms out and just think, “Thank you, God. This is beautiful.”

While the something greater that orients me and motivates my gratitude is not God with a capital G, and is not connected to an organized religion, I really appreciated what she said. I like to express gratitude when I’m running and I have wanted to spread my arms out and embrace the world! I haven’t done it, but I’ve thought about it.

april 5/5.15 MILES

51 degrees
franklin loop

Scheduled to run 3 miles today but decided to do more because I wanted to finish the S Town podcast. So I ran 5.15 miles while listening to the seventh episode. I wondered why my legs felt sore and then I remembered: I ran five and a quarter miles yesterday. Oops. You might think I’d remember that, but I was convinced, when I started my run that I had taken a day off yesterday. Oh well. Other than sore legs, the run was fairly easy and uneventful.

I have turned the above entry into an erasure poem. Hover over the text to read it.

april 2/3.05 MILES

50 degrees
mississippi river road path

Almost beat the rain this morning. Just started drizzling when I was finishing up my walk back to the house. During the run, while listening to the 3rd episode of S-Town, felt disconnected, disembodied, distanced from everything: the path, the people, the cars, linear time. I entered the dreamlike trance that Thomas Gardner writes about in Poverty Creek. This trance was not transcendent or like Quatro’s running as prayer. And it wasn’t triggered by a runner’s high. It was the result of the wind, the impending rain, the somber podcast and the gray sky that made everything look fuzzy.

march 31/5.3 MILES

37 degrees
mississippi river road path

Nice, easy run. Listened to episode 2 of the new S-Town podcast. Enjoyed it, even though I probably would have preferred no headphones, but I had to catch up to Scott before he spoiled the twist at the end of the episode. I think hearing the twist (no spoiler), at the end of my run, made my whole running/listening experience more intense and other-worldly.

For my silence poem, I decided to read over my past log entries. Here are some themes that I noticed:

themes from running log (jan-march)

  • restlessness: a need to move
  • used to be active, then inactive, then active again
  • thinking brain vs. moving body
  • confident bodies
  • walking vs running….is walking failing?
  • what do I think about when I run?
  • Best’s Disease
  • hills
  • not over-thinking, over-analyzing (balance)
  • breaking bad habits
  • fuzziness…what words can I used to describe this feeling of not seeing…being out of it? removed? disconnected
  • feel the ground beneath us (pay attention, be present and aware)…winter: icy, slippery, sloppy, cold
  • Even as we try to transcend our bodies while running, we are constantly reminded of our limits. We are bodies. We need that reminder to ground us and to keep us from getting too lost in the dreamlike state that running creates. Gardner discusses the dreamlike state in several other entries.
  • reminder, not getting lost…ALSO A REMINDER OF DANGER, to be too disconnected is not to hear, be alerted….DISTRACTION…THINK ABOUT THE RUNNER WHO JUST DIED
  • to be distracted or not? sometimes noise is necessary, distraction is necessary
  • feb 15: 3 stories about the sun
  • feb 16: calf injury
  • feb 20: discipling (building up) and undisciplining (breaking down)
  • goals, joy, speed, competition, being proud of being good (feb 21)
  • list of noises heard, feb 26
  • distracted running feb 27, feb 28
  • march 3 more on sounds
  • march 4 noise can drown out distractions, like annoying runners who talk too loudly
  • more sounds, march 11
  • discipline as reining in my excesses?
  • limits and freedom (remember: beside body….still connected to it, but not tied down to it)
  • beside each other, where a need to engage and an ache for silence can be met

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 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 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?

feb 5/8 MILES

25 degrees
mississippi river road path

Ugh. Today seemed harder than past long runs. Not sure why. Maybe it was because I averaged about 20-30 seconds faster per mile. I should slow down. It was also harder because I experimented with “fueling” during the run. Around miles 5 and 6 I ate a date. Not a good idea. They were hard to chew and swallow and by mile 7 I started feeling sick (and in urgent need of the porta potty at mile 8).

I guess I’ll have to try some other food. Some suggestions that I’ve heard:

  • pretzels
  • cliff bar
  • peanut butter and jelly sandwich cut up
  • animal crackers
  • kids’ fruit purees (like go go squeeze, maybe?)

It’s a bit strange to be thinking about fueling. Up until now, I’ve avoided making running too fiddly. I’ve just wanted to go out and run.

While running, I listened to How to Be Amazing, episode 50 with Amani Al-Khatahtbeh. Wow, she is amazing and so articulate. Love her vision of intersectional feminism! I’m looking forward to checking out her site: MuslimGirl.net

jan 30/4 MILES

30 degrees
mississippi river road bike path

Snowed this morning. Less than an inch, but enough to cover all the sidewalks. Took Delia out for a walk before heading out for run. Partly because she needed one and partly to test how slippery it was on the sidewalks. Very slippery, it turns out. Towards the end of our walk, Delia darted after something, yanking the leash. I slipped, spun around, almost regained my balance and then fell on the ground. Very lucky to not be hurt at all. Decided to go out for my run anyway. Risky, but worth it. The sidewalk was slippery, but the bike path was not.

Had a decent run. Encountered the snow plow clearing off the path. Minneapolis Parks are the best (literally, the best) park system. They clear the river road path within a few hours after it’s stopped snowing, even faster than the city of Minneapolis clears the streets, which is pretty fast too. Love this city. And love the kick-ass park system!

podcast: How to Be Amazing, ep 48 (M Lewis’ tone seemed more arrogant than confident. Not a big fan.)

jan 27/9.3 MILES

28 degrees
mississippi river road bike path

9.3 miles. It’s not quite the 10 that I’m supposed to do, but I’ll take it. This is the longest I’ve run (distance and time) without stopping for more than a year. I’m tired. I should have brought some water and a snack–I’m thinking of trying dates or fig newtons–to eat in the middle of my run. But I ran it. And I’ll run it again next week. Maybe on my scheduled day or, like this week, on the day that works out the best.

As I ran, I listened to two podcasts. First, On Being/ Krista Tippet’s interview with Eula Biss. Biss writes about racism and white guilt/debt/privilege. I’ve read one of her books, her great article about Little House on the Prairie and her essay for the NY Times on White Debt. I like her writing and appreciate her willingness to engage with whiteness. And second, This American Life with several stories about Trump on the eve of the inauguration.

Almost the only time that I listen to podcasts is when I’m running. Lots of This American Life. Some Radiolab. Most of How to Be Amazing. I listened to the entire first season of Serial while running on the missisissippi river road path. The stories in those podcasts are so inextricably tied with my runs that on the rare occasion that I listen to an episode again, I immediately picture exactly where I was in my run. I like that.

jan 26/4 MILES

28 degrees/feels like 17 degrees
minnehaha creek path/mississippi river road bike path
14 mph wind

I added in the wind this time because I really felt it. When I first started, I was running directly into it and the sun. The harsh wind and the bright light made me tear up so much that I had trouble seeing.

After the snow yesterday and the slight drop in temperature, the paths were icy. When I first started to run outside in the winter, a few years ago, I was surprised to discover that running on ice is much easier than walking on it. Even so, it was slippery today.

In Philosophical Investigations, Ludwig Wittgenstein discusses smooth ice:

We have got on to slippery ice where there is no friction and so in a certain sense the conditions are ideal, but also, just because of that, we are unable to walk. We want to walk: so we need friction. Back to the rough ground!

I don’t like running on rough ground–I have yet to try trail running–but I like the idea that we need to feel that ground beneath us.

In a different way, I see Gardner getting at this idea in one of his entries in Poverty Creek Journal (which I just happened to be writing about earlier today in my weekly assignment):

1/ JANUARY 6, 2012

Finishing up the run this morning, cresting the ridge above the pond into a sudden blinding sun reflecting off the ice. As if the light were alive, preparing to speak. And then turning ordinary again as I came down the ridge and the angle changed and the light pulled back into itself. My right calf is still a little stiff from where I strained it last week doing mile repeats in the cold. Just enough to not let me out of my body. When Emily Dickinson writes about Jacob, she never mentions his limp, even though that awareness of limits is everywhere in her work. Instead, she writes about his bewilderment–cunning Jacob, refusing to let go until he had received a blessing and then suddenly realizing, as “light swung…silver fleeces” across the “Hills beyond,” that he had been wrestling all night with God. He had seen God’s face and lived. The limp is what we take away. It means there must be a way back. It almost goes without saying (3).

Even as we try to transcend our bodies while running, we are constantly reminded of our limits. We are bodies. We need that reminder to ground us and to keep us from getting too lost in the dreamlike state that running creates. Gardner discusses the dreamlike state in several other entries. 

listened to podcast: how to be amazing, ep 49