oct 9/2.5 MILES

52 degrees
mississippi river road path, north

52 degrees! Sunny! Radiant. So many yellow trees, some gold, some paler yellow. A red tree near the lake street bridge. I planned to run with my playlist again but when I started running, it felt wrong to shut out the wind and the crunching leaves and the cars gently driving by. So I took off my headphones. Today’s injury recovery run was walk 3 minutes/run 2 minutes X 6. My knee felt a little sore during the last three runs, but not too bad.

3 versions of the wind I heard today

  • shimmering (or sparkling, not whispering) wind that passes by, or that you pass through, almost like a curtain
  • wind that sounds like the gentle roll of boiling water
  • the wind that picks up the dead leaves on the path and swirls them around, lightly, not vigorously

oct 6/2.3 MILES

71 degrees
mississippi river road path, north

Week one of returning to running complete! Today I walked 3.5 minutes/ran 1.5 minutes 6 times. I ran longer and a little faster. And it felt okay. Now, hours later, my knee still feels fine. Very exciting!

The trees just above the gorge are turning from lime green to lemon yellow–or is it more of a banana yellow? Whatever it is, it’s definitely not golden or fiery red or orange. The other day, I started thinking about how much of the poetry I’ve read about fall, which is not that much, talks about red leaves or gold/yellow ones, but rarely orange. Why is that?

For the Orange Leaves that have been Overlooked

I’ve read many lines
about fiery red leaves
and glowing golden ones
but where is the poetry for leaves that are orange?
Is it because of the sound?
Red has a punch
yellow is mellow
and gold is bright, brassy, bold!
But orange just splats on the page,
plops off the tongue.
Maybe we should talk about
leaves of vermillion
or leaves of persimmon
or marmalade leaves
or leaves that glow like a neon crayon?

oct 4/2.15 MILES

48 degrees
mississippi river road path, north

Sunny. Crisp. Cool. Great fall weather for running! This morning I ran a little more, walked a little less. 4 minutes of walking, 1 minute of running, six times. Felt okay. I listened to my playlist and didn’t pay attention to much other than the time, making sure I didn’t miss my minute of running or run too much.

Here’s what I remember:

  • Walking under the oak? trees that line the path between the 36th and 35th street parking lots. Their gnarled branches stretching horizontally.
  • Encountering the daily walker and wondering if he recognized me after my 2 month absence.
  • Two runners passing me while I was walking, one right before the lake street bridge, one just above the floodplain forest, on my favorite part of the path, the part where I always check the progress of the leaves. Both had graceful, relaxed gaits.
  • Seeing one of those runners run off the path onto the grass to avoid two path-hogging walkers. Wondering if my last running minute would start soon and then imaging running up behind the walkers, stepping off onto the grass, and displacing my kneecap again.
  • Seeing lots of yellow trees, a few red, a few orange.
  • Not encountering any dogs and very few walkers.

I’m working on a collage of writings about “the body electric” that might include an homage (of sorts) poem to the final part of Walt Whitman’s “I sing the body electric” from Leaves of Grass. Here’s what I have so far:

The Parts and Poems of the Body

I. The Knee

Bones, joints, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, muscles,
fibrous thickenings and fluid-filed capsules and sacs
make locomotion possible.

The femur, patella and tibia move
The fibula bears weight.

The tibiofemoral joint bends
the patellofemoral joint grooves
the rings of Meniscus absorb
the smooth white tissue of the articular cartilage transfers
loads of tremendous force.

The cruciate ligaments cross over each other
the collateral ligaments support
both link femur to tibia
the quadriceps tendon attaches
the quad muscles to the patella.

The quads, that four headed muscle of the femur, with its
vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedium
and rectus femoris bend and straighten.

The hamstrings, those string-like tendons in the hollow of the knee—
the semitendinosus, semimembranosus
and biceps femoris—extend and flex.

The adductor longus and the gracilis keep the runner upright
the beefy stomach of the leg, the gastrocnemius, points and lifts
the popliteus, devoted solely to the knee, rotates and unlocks
the Iliotibial band stabilizes and assists
the synovial fluid lubricates
and the bursae reduce friction.

O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul,
O I say the soul of the runner is the knee!

oct 2/2 MILES

59 degrees
mississippi river road path, north

Running again! Well, mostly walking with a little bit of running too. Since I have only run once (and with a brace) in the past 2 months, I’m easing back into it with this plan. Today I walked for 4.5 minutes and ran for .5 minutes 6 times. It felt good to be running again. I was surprised by how fast 30 seconds went by. On Wednesday, I’ll walk 4, run 1 and Friday: walk 3, run 2.

As I read more poetry and experiment with my own poems, I’m thinking about line breaks. I found a useful exercise in which you take the same poem and arrange the line breaks differently depending on 6 Ss: speed, sound, syntax, surprise, sense, and space. I applied it to a poem I wrote about the body a few months back. Here’s the original poem:

The body is a machine.
Not the body as machine
or the body is like a machine
or the body is only a machine.
But, the body is a machine.
An efficient machine,
capturing energy, consuming minerals, converting air into breath.
The body is an intricate machine,
made up of muscles and tendons
and ligaments and joints and bones
that work together in the complex process of locomotion.
The body is a marvelous machine,
containing strange creatures
with multiple heads and fantastical names.
The body is a beautiful machine,
composed of grace and exuberance and joy.
The body is a powerful machine,
able to endure intense pain and absorb tremendous force.
The body is a delicate and temperamental machine;
it can shut down from overuse, lack of use or repeated abuse.

And, here’s a version where I took the best parts of each “s” attempt:

The body is a machine.
Not as
is like
is only
but is

An efficient machine,
capturing energy,
consuming minerals,
converting air into breath.

An intricate machine,
containing muscles and tendons
and ligaments and joints and bones
and organs and arteries and veins
and fluids and systems that work together
in the complex process
of locomotion.

A marvelous machine,
made up of strange creatures
with multiple heads
and melodious names.

A beautiful machine,
composed of grace
and exuberance
and joy.

A powerful machine,
able to endure
intense pain and
absorb
tremendous force.

And a delicate and temperamental machine
that can shut down from
overuse,
lack of use
repeated abuse.

sept 28/HIKING

I can’t wait until I can run again–next week, I think. Until then I’m walking a lot more and biking occasionally. Today, I did both. Biked 4.75 miles to Minnehaha Falls and then hiked to the river. What a beautiful fall day. Walking on the dirt trail, through a grove of trees just starting to turn yellow, I briefly wondered if I should take a picture. But I didn’t. I’d like to spend some time, sitting on a bench, and find words to describe it. But what words? I need better ones, better than “beautiful.”

Here’s a poem I discovered the other day.

O Autumn! Autumn!/Effie Lee Newsome

O Autumn! Autumn! O pensive light
and beautiful sound!
Gold-haunted sky, green-haunted ground!

When, wan, the dead leaves flutter by
deserted realms of butterfly!
When robins band themselves together

To seek the sound of sun-soaked weather!
And all of summer’s largesse goes
For lands of olive and the rose!

I like Newsome’s trick twisting flutter by into butterfly. And the phrase “to seek the sound.” And I like her enthusiasm. I’m usually too restrained, so I appreciate someone willing to gush and overuse exclamation points.

Words other than Beautiful to describe my view:

  • aesthetically pleasing
  • alluring
  • appealing
  • attractive
  • dazzling
  • gorgeous
  • grand
  • handsome
  • lovely
  • magnificant
  • wonderful
  • splendid
  • resplendent
  • radiant
  • awe-inspiring
  • transcendent
  • sublime
  • poetic
  • vibrant
  • vivid
  • intense
  • aetheral

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 26/4 MILES

72 degrees
90% humidity
dew point: 69

Did I go for a run or a steam bath, just now, outside in humidity so wet that it dripped off the trees? The dew point was high too, but it didn’t feel thick, only moist. Felt pretty good on my run. My knee didn’t hurt and I could handle the humidity and the dripping sweat. Briefly walked twice to make sure that I didn’t run too fast and that I was recovering and not racing.

Yesterday, I started work on something about Monday’s long run:

Almost

Almost three hours.
Almost one hundred and eighty minutes.
Almost one fourth of my waking hours.
Almost sixteen miles.
Almost two thirds of a marathon.
Almost the age I got my driver’s license.
Almost too much.
Almost too long.
Almost too tired.
But not quite.

july 21/8.2 MILES

72 degrees
86% humidity
dew point: 70

I had originally been planning to run my 16 miles this morning, but when I got outside and felt how thick and heavy the air was, I knew it wasn’t happening. So I did my 8 miles instead, with several walks. At about 5 miles, I had to stop and create a make shift band-aid for the blisters on two of my toes. I ripped up the paper towel I had and wrapped it around the toes. It worked pretty well. Note to self: always put band-aids in my pack!

july 12/4 MILES

86 degrees
dew point: 64
mississippi river road path, south/minnehaha falls/minnehaha creek path/lake nokomis

Hot! Difficult! Some success, some failure. Gravel on the road, getting kicked up by commuting cars. Pebbles and dust flying at me. A hot wind, blowing in my face, which is already bright red. The sun beating down. My pulse heating up. No running playlist to distract me. And no memory of the running chants that I created to keep me going. What am I thinking about, other than: when am I done? why am I running in this heat? will I make it to Lake Nokomis for open swim? I stop and walk several times. But then I’m at the lake and it’s cooler, with a breeze coming off of the water, and I’m almost done and I’m trying to get past two other runners that are running just a little bit slower than me so I speed up for the last half mile. It feels good.

open swim
1 loop: 1200 yards

I’m only swimming one loop since I already ran 4 miles in the heat. I am worried that I might cramp up if I swim more than that. The water is warm, which feels nice, even though cooler water would be nice for cooling me down. The water is choppy, but not too choppy. Gentle, not rough. Only a few big waves are crashing into my face when I breathe on the wrong side. I spot the big orange buoys the whole time. I’m not running into anyone, although a vine ran into me, a few yards back. I’m not being routed by any other swimmers, well, just one at the little beach, but it was only a minor routing and I got back on track pretty quickly. I feel relaxed. Strong. Happy to be out in the water.

june 30/4 MILES

67 degrees
76% humidity
dew point 57
mississippi river road path, north/mississippi river road path, south

A good run. Followed my plan: Run 1.25/Walk 30 sec./Run 1.25/Walk 1 min/Run 1.5. Ran with headphones, so I didn’t really think that much, which was fine.

I’ve been thinking more about open swimming lately. Here’s a abecedarian poem about it:

Open Swim

Annoying things happen during an open swim.
Bad weather, big waves
Causing choppy water that can make me
Drift off the course. Bright sun in my
Eyes, blinding me. Bright sun on my
Face, burning me.
Goggles that can fog up, although that
Hardly happens anymore now that
I use baby shampoo in the lenses.
Just a little.
Keep it on the
Lens for a few
Minutes, then gently rinse it out. My
Nose used to get really stuffed up after swimming. I could
Only breathe through my mouth. At night, I would
Panic, unable to fall back asleep,
Questioning whether or not it was
Really worth it to keep doing open
Swim. It is. I searched for a solution. I
Tried sprays and pills, which didn’t work. Then, I tried nose plugs.
Uncomfortable and ugly. But effective.
Very, very effective and cheap.
Whenever I swim now, I wear them. I bought an
eXtra pair, just in case I lose the first one. I keep both cases in my
Yellow backpack, always making sure that I
Zip them up tightly, in the pouch on the top.

june 27/8 MILES

64 degrees
the almost downtown turn around

Success! After several runs where I felt like I was too tired or too slow or too willing to stop and walk, I had a successful run. I decided that i would have a plan and stick to it, no matter what. My plan? Run 1.5 miles/Walk 1 minute. I ran up both hills without problems and kept to my running/walking schedule. The only change that I made was to skip the last walk and run for 2 miles instead of just 1.5. Lesson learned: decide on a plan and commit to it.

open swim
1 loop/1200 yards

The theme of the swim: chilly & choppy. So choppy! Big waves and rough water, especially by the big beach. Fun and exhausting. I’m glad that I’m a very strong swimmer.

june 15/12 MILES

69 degrees
57 dew point
64% humidity
mississippi river road path, south/minnehaha creek/minnehaha falls/mississippi river road path, north then south then north then south

My route today was a bit crazy. I did a series of loops and turn arounds along the river, along the creek and at the falls. Would it have been easier to run a single loop? Would anything have made this run easy? Doubtful. This 12 mile run (with several walk stops) was hard. It was slow. It was ugly. But I did it. At 3 miles in, I wanted to be done, but I kept going. I’m telling myself that keeping going is the most important thing for my training right now.

I need some tricks or spells or chants or cheers or something to keep me motivated and willing to push through the moments when the doubt starts creeping in and it feels too hard to keep running or moving. Here’s one possibility:

Come on Sara, you can do it!

There was a hill near our old house and when my daughter would have to bike up it, I would chant:

Come on Rosie you can do it
put some Puotinen power to it!

It usually worked and she could make it up the hill without stopping. That is, until she got older and was too cool for such cheezy chants. Maybe I should try a similar one while I’m running. I don’t care how cheezy it is. Besides I plan to chant it in my head, not out loud:

Come on Sara
you can do it
put some Puotinen
power to it!
use the sisu
that’s your birthright
be persistent
fight fight fight fight!

After posting the above shortly after my run, I spent some more time thinking through my struggles with motivation. Here are a few different versions:

A Difficult Run, 7 Versions

1

In the writing class that I’m taking, we just started learning about psychic distance. Here is my first experiment in trying out the various distances, from far away to closer:

I did my long run this morning.
It was slightly cooler, but the humidity and dew point were fairly high. I ran 12 miles.
I ran on several of my favorite paths, but I struggled to keep running.
So many times, I wanted to stop. It felt too hard to keep going. My legs hurt and I felt weak.
Soreness everywhere. Heaviness too. Legs thick and useless. Then doubt. A malevolent thought: You could stop, you know. At first, I stuck to my planned walk breaks and ignored the thought. But, it was persistent. You could stop, you know. By mile 9, it had dug deep into my bones, my bloodstream, my muscles. Too hard to resist or to remember that this moment would pass. I stopped and walked. Then ran. Walked. Ran. Walked. Ran. Until I had done all 12 miles.

2

Run 3 miles.
Walk 3 minutes.
Run 3 miles.
Refill water bottle.
Walk 3 minutes.
Run 2 miles.
Walk 2 minutes.
Run 1 mile.
Walk 1 minutes.
Run 1 mile.
Walk 2 minutes.
Run 1/2 mile.
Refill water bottle.
Walk 1 minute.
Run 1/2 mile.
Walk 1 minute.
Run 1/2 mile.
Walk 1 minute.
Run 1/4 mile.
Walk 1 minute.
Run 1/4 mile.

3

3:3
3:H2O:3
2:2
1:1
1:2
1/2:H2O:1
1/2:1
1/2:1
1/4:1:1/4

4

3 + 3 + 2 + 1 + 1 + 1/2 + 1/2 + 1/2 + 1/4 +1/4 = 12

5

Start long run: 6:04 AM
End long run: 8:14 AM
Average pace: 10’47”
Fastest mile: 9′ 28″
Slowest mile: 12’47”

6

Started without headphones because I wanted to feel the stillness of the morning and hear the birds chirping. At mile 3, decided that I needed the extra distraction of my running playlist. Listened to it for the rest of the run. It helped. A little. The first song I heard was Rufus and Chaka Khan, Tell me Something Good. And somewhere in the middle was It’s Too Late by Carole King.

7

Hover over the poem to see the full lyrics used from “Tell Me Something Good” and “It’s Too Late”

Somethin’ inside died
no
fire
just
pride
good

may 31/6 MILES

62 degrees
the franklin hill turn around + extra

Today was a harder run than yesterday. My legs felt sore. I took it out too fast. And I was overdressed. Decided to walk a few times when I felt like I needed it, which was a good idea, not a failure, I’ve decided. Recorded two voice memos into my iPhone, one about attention as a salve against apathy and another about how bodies are machines.

Before the run, I started working on a series of wanderings around attention. I’ve given years of attention to attention in my ethical work on curiosity and a feminist ethics of care and now, in this running/writing project, it keeps coming up as a primary goal for me: to pay attention to my body, to my surroundings, to my voice, to authentic expression, to nagging injuries, to breathing, to joy, to staying upright, to resisting oppressive regimes.

Attention, Wanderings

Wandering One

Mary Oliver from Upstream

“Attention is the beginning of devotion” (8).

Here’s my (first?) attempt at a sonnet, riffing off of Oliver’s line:

Attention is the beginning of devotion.
Devotion, the beginning of prayer.
Attention sets curiosity in motion.
Curiosity is a form of care.

Attention can lead us to question.
all that we’ve been taught.
Compelling us not to rest on
the assumptions we have wrought.

Attention promotes belief
belief breaks us open,
spilling out a grief
that comes from loss of hope and

apathy, a monstrous twinning.
Attention is the beginning.

Wandering Two

Marilyn Nelson, “Crows

“What if to taste and see, to notice things,
to stand each is up against emptiness
for a moment or an eternity—
images collected in consciousness
like a tree alone on the horizon—
is the main reason we’re on the planet….”

So many ways to connect this excerpt with my wanderings on the vertical yesterday! The tree. the horizon. The purpose of life.

This is makes me think of Krista Tippet’s interview with the poet Marie Howe. Howe has some thoughts about the is, which she calls the this, and how we struggle to “stand each is up against emptiness” (hover over the following quote to reveal the erasure poem):

It hurts to be present, though, you know. I ask my students every week to write 10 observations of the actual world. It’s very hard for them. Just tell me what you saw this morning like in two lines. You know I saw a water glass on a brown tablecloth. Uh, and the light came through it in three places. No metaphor. And to resist metaphor is very difficult because you have to actually endure the thing itself, which hurts us for some reason….We want to — we want to say it was like this. It was like that. We want to look away, and to be, to be with a glass of water or to be with anything. And then they say well there’s nothing important enough. And then it’s whole thing is that point.”
Attention

attend to:
witness
keep vigil
be devoted

have a long attention span:
don’t forget
keep noticing
pay attention

give attention:
care
care for
care about

be curious:
wonder
imagine
believe

receive:
breathe in the this and breathe out the that
slowly absorb the is through your skin

note: So many more variations to do, including one with Simone Weil.

may 11/XT

Does walking the dog three times (about 5 miles total) and vacuuming the downstairs count as cross training? Not sure, but that’s what I did today for “exercise.” While I was walking on the Winchell Trail with Delia, approaching the mesa, I recorded some of my thoughts about medical terms and the mechanics of walking. Here they are, with a few edits and additional ideas:

The other day I looked up the mechanics of walking and I was overwhelmed by all the technical descriptions and the elaborate medical jargon used to describe the different bones and muscles and ligaments involved in the process of walking. I spent some time with the jargon and attempted to make sense of it. Then, I thought about it while I was walking today, trying to isolate the movements and the muscles in my body as I shifted my legs and my hips and swung my arms for balance. At what point were my semitendinosus and semimembranosus rotating in, while my biceps femoris was rotating out? It wasn’t enjoyable. I couldn’t figure out what was happening and when, and focusing on the movements made them feel awkward and forced. I wondered, why do I want to know how this works? Why take away the magical quality of walking?

Then, I realized something: we can try to understand how to walk. We can break it down and reduce it to the minute moments and movements and manipulations of muscles and ligaments and joints. But we can’t ever fully understand it and take away how magical it is. Walking is magical. The body is magical. All the complicated elements that are invisible but work together for us to walk. Magical. Even the highly scientific terms used to describe it, like the muscles in the foot, are magical–mysterious and fantastical in their almost inscrutability:

gastrocnemius
soleum
plantaris
tibalis posterior and anterior muscles
flexor hallucis posterior
flexor digitorum longus
extensor digitorum longus
hallucis longus

Why use the word “magical”? I’m thinking about mystery and wonder and ineffability. I’m also thinking about an On Being interview I heard with Marie Howe and her discussion of poetry as counter-spell. And I’m thinking about Harry Potter. I’ve been watching the entire series with my family for the past few weeks.

may 10/3 MILES

62 degrees
mississippi river road south

Didn’t have to wear my pink jacket today, which is great because it means it was warm enough to run just in a t-shirt but also annoying because it means I no longer had a pocket for my iPhone and had to wear an armband to carry it.  Listened to a different playlist. The final song that played before I finished was Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” I had put that on the playlist right after he died last spring. I listened to it on my first runs (more like, run/walks) after the injury where my knee so swollen that I couldn’t walk. My knee didn’t really hurt, it just wouldn’t work and I didn’t know how to walk. Such a strange and unsettling feeling. I never think about how to walk.

How does walking work? I think it’s time for more fun with medical terms!

More Fun with Medical Terms!

Walking involves: 1. moving your hips and thighs backwards as you push off, 2. moving your legs forward, 3. striking the floor with your foot in a heel to toe action and 4. shifting your weight as you move from one leg to the other. A ton of muscles, with fantastical, sometimes ridiculous, often overly-complicated, names are used in this process. Such as the following:

semitendinosus, semimembranosus, biceps femoris
the first two terms
aren’t that hard to figure out how to pronounce
so I’ll focus on the third.
I’d like to say that the femoris in biceps femoris is pronounced: fee moor is
like some sort of Harry Potter spell.
I’d like to say that
but I can’t
because it’s pronounced: femme a ris

semitendinousus, 
semimembranosus, 
biceps femoris
There’s a nice cadence to these three
semi tendi nou sus
/ ♫ ♫ ♩ ♩
semi membra nou sus/ ♫ ♫ ♩ ♩
bi ceps fem o ris/ ♩ ♩ ♪♪♪

semitendinosus, semimembranosus, biceps femoris
are all hamstring muscles
that come from the ischial (iss keel) tuberosity of the pelvis
which is, according to the Merriam Webster medical dictionary,
“a bony swelling on the posterior part
of the superior ramus
of the ischium
that gives attachment to
various muscles and
bears the weight of the body in sitting.”
What’s the ramus, you might ask,
and what makes it so damn superior
(and gives me such a headache)?*
Would you settle for:
part of the hip bone,
along with the ilium and pubis?
It’s superior because THEY said so and
because it’s not the other two parts: the body or the inferior ramus.
speaking of the THEY,
as I attempt to read and understand
these medical terms,
I’m struck by how alienating they are.
who, but a select few, can actually
understand and retain this stuff?
Scott generously suggests that
these terms are complicated and abstract
so as to help doctors have some professional distance
from people,
to be able to put their feelings aside
and focus on doing their job: healing patients.
maybe
but I also think it’s a way to safeguard an industry and
to alienate us from our own bodies.
how many of you can imagine the “ischial tuberosity”
as a real part of yourself?
I’ll admit
sonically, ischial (iss keel) tuberosity is intriguing
I might go hear the lead singer of a band with that name
as long as I brought ear plugs.
but, when I hear those words, I don’t immediately think,
oh yeah, the sitting bones,
which is what they are—
the bones that make it possible for us to sit—and
what, I learned only after reading wikipedia,
they are informally called.

*Someone else gets this reference, right? I’m not the only one who has random lyrics from musicals like Hair pop into their head, am I? Of course not!

note: the initial source for this experiment was Muscles Engaged While Walking, an popular article for a fitness site. I tried to start with more technical sources, but they made my brain start to melt, so I eased my way into it with this article and then, after some exposure to the terms, moved on to other sites.

Sadly, I’ve run out of time to have even more fun with medical terms. Sometime soon I’d like to play around with sartorius, which is the longest muscle in your body, stretching down form top of your thigh, curving inside your thigh, ending at the inside part of your knee.

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 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.

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 11/5.1 MILES

44 degrees
mississippi river road path north

It was tougher than usual today. Running towards the Franklin hill, I felt tired. The sun was overhead and my shadow felt like it was on top of me, dragging me down. The wind was in my face, pushing at me, urging me to turn around and go back home. I persisted. I ran down the hill and felt better, but then ran up it too fast. Stopped to walk for 30 seconds to rest my cramped calf and to slow my heart rate. Ran the last few miles feeling a little sore and wondering why this run wasn’t as great. Was it because I ran so much last week? Because the weather was so strange–snowing last night and then melting quickly this morning? Or, was it just an off day? Whatever the reason, I ran anyway.

.

Hover over the entry to reveal the erasure poem.

april 1/9.5 MILES

54 degrees
mississippi river road path

A beautiful morning. Spring is finally here! I ran too fast in the first couple of miles and paid for it. I think it was because too many people were out on the trail. It felt like a race and I always run faster in a race. I didn’t wear headphones so I was able to hear the birds and when people said good morning to me. I estimate that I greeted around 20 people. There was one stretch of the trail where it felt like I was saying “good morning,” “good morning,” “good morning,” over and over again. It felt good, unlike the Franklin hill. That was tough. Had to walk part of it.