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:

jan 9/5.3 MILES

35 degrees
wind: 13 mph with 21 mph gusts
25% snow-covered
franklin loop

Warmer. Snow melting. Slushy and slick. The path was mostly clear with an occasional ice patch and some gritty debris. Dirt. Sand. Some dead leaves and ground up twigs. It made a fun rubbing sandpaper kind of a noise as my feet struck the asphalt. I’m glad I didn’t wear my headphones. I would have missed this sound entirely. Ran across the Lake Street bridge over to Saint Paul and up to Franklin. Noticed a few walkers heading down to the East River Flats, which I only discovered about a month ago. How wet and slippery is it down there? On the east side of the river it was calm and warm but I knew what that meant: all the wind would be on the west side in my face as I finished my run. And it was. I think I felt a few of those 21 mph gusts that I read about. Tough, but I didn’t stop. With a mile and a half left a runner—in shorts!–passed me but hovered just ahead. I followed him all the way home, feeling good.

Last year, I spent a lot of time trying to identify different versions of the wind. I think this year, or at least this winter, will be about the path–the different sounds it makes, how it feels, how it looks.

dec 19/4 MILES

36 degrees
10% snow-covered
wind: 20 mph
mississippi river road south/minnnehaha falls/mississippi river road north

Earlier this morning I took the dog for a walk and the weather seemed perfect. Not much wind. Warm. Sunny. So, even though I ran yesterday and the day before that, I decided that I better get out there. Tomorrow it’s supposed to snow and the paths will probably be covered again with ice.  I got ready but just before I opened the front door to leave I heard it. The wind howling. Uh oh. I decided it was too late to stop so I went out for my run. The wind wasn’t too bad–only gusting in my face occasionally. Most of the time, it was at my back. When I reached the river road, I ran to the right instead of the —to Minnehaha Falls. Pretty cool. Half frozen, half gushing. The path was almost completely clear. Only a few ice patches.

nov 15/4 MILES

37 degrees
wind: 16 mph/gusts up to 25 mph
mississippi river road path, north

Windy. Dark. Gray. Cool. Before leaving the house, I could see the trees swaying, so I knew it would be windy. Decided to not wear headphones and pay attention to the wind instead. How many versions would I be able to name? Remembering to pay attention to the wind was difficult. I kept getting distracted. Another runner creeping up on me. I could hear their feet strike the grit on the path. Tried slowly down a little–or did I unwittingly speed up?–to let them pass. They must have turned off at Lake Street. The few remaining orange and gold leaves stubbornly clinging to the branches, refusing to concede to winter. The faint beeping of an alarm–beep beep beep beep beep–coming from a car driving by. The uneven path just past the railroad bridge, waiting to twist my ankle if I stepped wrong. But even with these distractions, I noticed the wind.

versions of the wind

  • Muted wind, made gentle by a hood covering my ears. Roars becoming whispers
  • Sneaky wind, hiding from me, tricking me into forgetting about it until the path twists and it rushes at me, full force
  • Thoughtful wind, generously clearing the leaves off the path right in front of me
  • Teasing wind, playing with my hood, moving it onto my shoulder where it bunches up annoyingly
  • Helpful wind, pushing me along, enabling me to go faster, feel freer in the second half of my run

The sounds and textures of the wind blended in with other sounds. Was that the wind rushing at my back or a car whooshing along the river road? Wind blowing turned into cars traveling into a bike wheel turning, its chain clanging into wind shivering into a leaf blower blowing into jagged breathing into grit crunching. So many noises, one flowing into the next, never starting or stopping just shifting form.

As I ran, I thought about form. How I’ve been taking writing classes on form–unconventional forms, finding the right form, using different forms to provoke and inspire–and thinking about my running form. I’d like to write a poem or a hybrid essay about form, weaving together ideas about writing and running form. Maybe include one of my favorite lines by a poet about how form is a way of conserving energy–“energy soon leaks out of an ill-made work of art.” Forms: the shape of the wind, bare oak branches, sloping hills, relaxed shoulders, slightly bent trunk, twisting path, winding river, flowing sounds, scattered leaves piled up on the path.

I also noticed the colors. Oh, the colors of late fall! Not as showy as October’s glowing greens and yellows and oranges and flaming reds, but achingly beautiful. Dark dark brown, tan, steel gray, pale blue. Flashes of rusted red and burnished gold. All muted colors, nothing bright to hurt my eyes, nothing too intense to disrupt the calm that has sunk beneath the surface of my skin.

One final memory: Running on my favorite part of the path where it dips below the road and close to the top of the gorge, my shoe squeaked as it landed on wet leaves.

Today’s run has given me so many writing ideas! Lunes about the wind. An anaphora about color. A pantoum about the shifting shapes of sound.

update: here are the poems I just crafted after writing my log entry:

versions of the wind, mostly haikus, a few lunes

1.
muted wind, softened
by hood covering cold ears
roars become whispers

2.
sneaky wind, tricking
me into thinking it left.
still here, just hiding.

OR

the sneaky wind hides
making me think it has gone
it waits near the gorge

3.
thoughtful wind
clearing leaves off path
as I near

OR

the thoughtful wind clears
the pile of leaves off the path
before I approach

4.
teasing wind
playing with my hood
annoying

OR

near the bridge
the teasing wind plays
with my hood

5.
running fast
and feeling freer
wind at back

OR

helpful wind, pushing
me to run faster, freer
it is at my back

OR

the wind helps me to
run faster and feel freer
when it’s at my back

Not an anaphora about color, just free verse

Oh, the colors in November!
The closing credits of fall
after October’s big show
so subdued in their splendor
nothing bright or intense to disrupt
the calm that sits
on the surface of my skin
dark brown
light tan
steel gray
pale blue
rusty red
burnished gold
I stare at the gorge
my eyes grateful
for the rest.

a pantoum

Running log, november 15, 4 miles
today I’m paying attention to the wind
but it is not the only sound I hear
the wind mixes with other noises

I’m listening closely for the wind
but I’m confused—is that the wind or a car coming?
the wind mixes with the noise of whooshing wheels
one sound blends into the next

I’m confused—is that the wind or a car coming?
or is it the wheel of a bicycle, its chain clanging?
one sound blends into the next
the rushing wind becomes whooshing car wheels then a whirring bike wheel

A bike wheel, its chain clanging, becomes the wind again,
shooshing, sounding like brushes softly hitting a snare drum until
the wind becomes the distant hum of a leaf blower then my quick breaths as I run
sometimes jagged, sometimes smooth

sounding like wind that roughly rushes near the bridge or softly sifts through the tall grass
so many noises, one flowing into the next
never starting, never stopping
wind car bike leaf blower runner the shifting shapes of sound

oct 30/3.85 MILES

37 degrees
wind: 16 mph
mississippi river road path, north

Ran for 35 minutes and 3.85 miles without stopping. Negative split each mile. My knee was sore for the first half, but it mostly felt okay. It was windy and cool with some light drizzle/snow. Checked on the progress of the leaves on my favorite part of the gorge: all gone. Now I can see the slope down to the forest floor and the Mississippi.

Thinking again about routine, rituals and habits and what is/isn’t sacred about running and preparing for running. Wrote a poem in homage to Craig Arnold’s Mediation on a Grapefruit. Towards the end of the poem he writes:

a discipline
precisely pointless       a devout
involvement of the hands and senses
a pause     a little emptiness

My homage is about coffee brewing, an essential part of my pre-race routine/ritual. note: I can’t figure out how to the spacing here. It’s supposed to have more, like Arnold’s poem.

Meditation on the Smell of Coffee Brewing

To wake when nothing is possible
before the unexpected joys of the day
have saved me
To come to the kitchen
and pull out a thin paper basket
before breakfast
To open the metal tin lid sounding
like cymbals being lightly struck
by a drum stick
metallic and sharp as a cold winter morning
To tip
each rich brown scoop into the filter
not that carefully sometimes spilling
several darkly fragrant grounds
To pour each cup of water
into a cheap black coffee maker
the water settling until the whole
carafe is emptied
and only then to breathe and to brew
who knew
this habit
seemingly not the point a repeated
performance ending with the nose
a deep inhale with no substance

each morning harder to live within
each morning harder to live without

and

Meditation on a running shoe

To wake when nothing is possible
before my morning run
has saved me
To go to the front room
and find my electric blue wings
after breakfast
To take them out of the shoe rack
light and featherless        with orange swishes
swirling on the side
vibrant and zesty as citrus
To slide
each foot in, first right then left
so mindfully     without making
my socks bunch up.
To tie each lace
into big, loopy knots
then tuck the loops    until the whole
shoelace is protected
and only then to run
more than fun
a ritual
reverently practical       a sacred
preparation for the body and spirit
a moment      a little attention

each morning more necessary to live within
each morning more impossible to live without

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 16/3.3 MILES

64 degrees
muggy and windy
mississippi river road north

Was able to get in a quick run between thunderstorms. It’s funny how the winter weather didn’t prevent me from running outside, but these spring thunderstorms are. So humid. At one point during the run, when the walking path dips down and follows alongside the wooded gorge, everything looked weird, almost like I was seeing it through a filter. I wondered if it was my vision then I realized it was steam, trapped in the trees! Yuck.

Before and after the run I worked on having more fun with medical terms. Specifically, more fun with the biomechanics of walking. So much fun! When I started it, I had no idea where it would lead me. This is the unexpected result:

It starts with a step, versions and variations

Version One:

“Where does it start? Muscles tense. One leg a pillar, holding the body upright between the earth and sky. The other a pendulum, swinging from behind. Heel touches down. The whole weight of the body rolls forward onto the ball of the foot. The big toes pushes off, and the delicately balanced weight of the body shifts again. The legs reverse position. It starts with a step and then another step and then another that add up like taps on a drum to a rhythm, the rhythm of walking (Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust).”

variation
It starts with a step:
heel touches down
weight rolls forward
onto ball of foot
big toe pushes off
body shifts
legs reverse
step + step + step + step + step + step + step = walking

Version Two:

The biomechanics of a step: The Stance Phase in 5 parts

  1. Heel strike/the heel first touches ground
  2. Early flatfoot/from when the foot is flat until body’s center of gravity passes over foot, here the foot is loose and floppy
  3. Late flatfoot/body past center of gravity, heel beginning to lift, foot is rigid
  4. Heel rise/the heel rises off the ground
  5. Toe off/the toe lifts off the ground.

variation
the heel strikes
on the ground,
not out at the plate or
because of unjust working conditions.

early flatfoot
a police officer with a morning shift.

late flatfoot
another officer, working the night shift.

heel rise
apparently I was wrong about why the heel was striking.
It is because of unjust working conditions.
She and other foot workers are refusing to lift anything off the ground until their demands are met, namely adequate health care.
They are rising up!

toe off
Management is becoming increasingly irritated by the peaceful strikers.
All mechanical operations have been shut down.
How can the toe be lifted off the ground when the heel won’t do her job?
The early and late flatfoots, who have both finished their shifts, are called in to force the heel and her compatriots to submit.
Neither of them are happy about it.
They’re tired and want to go to bed.
Besides, they agree with the heel and are angry with management.

Version Three:

The biomechanics of a step: The Muscles

During the heel strike/early flat foot phase the anterior compartment muscles work to gently lower the foot onto the ground. The anterior compartment muscles are the tibialis anterior muscle, the extensor hallicus longus, and the extensor digitorum longus. .

During the late flatfoot to heel rise phase the posterior compartment muscles control the body so it doesn’t fall forward. The posterior compartment muslces are the gastrocnemius, the soleum and the plantaris.

variation
During the strike, the heel is confronted by some well-meaning but naive co-workers who are urging her to reconsider her tactics. “Why not ask nicely?” the tibialis anterior muscle suggests. “Yes!” agree the extensor hallicus longus and the extensor digitorum longus, “if we take a gentle approach and try to reason with them, management is sure to see that we deserve better!”

Listening in on their conversation, early flatfoot rolls her eyes and can be heard to mutter dismissively to late flatfoot, “yeah right.”

Heel refuses to listen to the anterior compartment muscles. “We will strike!” she declares. She is joined by many others, including the posterior compartment muscles. The gastrocnemius and the soleum help by reassuring the crowd of striking workers and the plantaris delivers the strikers’ demands to management.

Version Four:

The biomechanics of a step: The Swing Phase in Three Parts

  1. early swing/after toe is off the ground, just until it is next to opposite foot
  2. midswing/the swinging foot passes by the opposite foot
  3. late swing/lasts from end of midswing until heel strike

variation
The striking heel, along with the toe and the ball of the foot, soon realize that their tactics are not working. Management is refusing to consider their demands. They reluctantly determine that their only option is to walk out. To do this, they need the help of the other foot. The dorsiflexors of the ankle joint are enlisted to initiate the swing phase so that the toe can try to convince the workers in the opposite foot to collaborate on the direct action. The big toe is successful with her negotiations. So successful that not only does the opposite foot agree to the plan, but so do early and late flatfoots. Slowly and steadily the feet trade off steps. One heel strikes, one foot is flat, one toe lifts off. The other heel strikes, the other foot is flat, the other toe lifts off. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step.

note: The technical information for the versions comes from these sources:

I had not intended to write about the heel striking, but I’m glad I did. At some point, pretty far into the process, I realized that the management was me. And the workers were going on strike because I wasn’t taking care of myself properly. This version of the biomechanics is very different from Solnit’s romantic understanding of walking. I think I went in the direction that I did because I associate learning/being curious about the technical aspects of walking with injury. Why else would I want to dissect the process and learn the specific names of muscles, bones and joints?

may 2/5 MILES

46 degrees
mississippi river road path north

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

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

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

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

A 60-minute Poet

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

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

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

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

The Multifidus

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

april 27/4 MILES

34 degrees
mississippi river road path south

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

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

the inner and outer weather

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

Here are a few more lines that I particularly liked:

Cool Lines, a list

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

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

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

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

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

april 18/3.1 MILES

54 degrees
mississippi river road path north

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

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

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

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

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

march 9/5.25 MILES

26 degrees
mississippi river road path

A wonderful run. The wind was down–only 8 or 9 mph instead of the 25+ it’s been at for the past 3 days. Wind like that scares me. The howling. The trees violently swaying. The dead leaves and random debris ominously swirling. A few years ago, I recall being outside at a park when it was really windy. It was sunny and otherwise a beautiful day, but the wind was making the big trees towering over the playground and my head tremble and shake.  I had this moment of panic where I suddenly felt trapped…on the planet. No place to hide or be safe from that wind or those trees. Overly dramatic, I suppose, but it was such a weird and intense feeling.

Felt really great during my run. Slowly built up my pace. Lifted my knees when I ran up the big Franklin hill and didn’t think I was going to die at the top of it. I guess running that hill 4 times a week is paying off.

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 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 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 12/8.6 MILES

30 degrees
ford bridge and franklin bridge loops
17 mph wind

Not too bad of a run while it was happening, but I’m wiped out now that I’m done. I ran the first few miles a little faster than I should. I need to work on (almost) always starting slow in the early miles.

Towards the end of the run, felt like I was floating just above the path. Not fully outside of my body, but not quite in it either.

Almost forgot to write about the dogs:

  • Encountered at least three dogs, in two different locations, roaming–more like bounding–free, with no owners in sight
  • Witnessed two different dogs spazzing out and trying to bolt away from their owners, who were frantically trying to hold on to their leashes and calm the dogs down

Was it the wind and slightly warmer weather that caused such dog spazziness?

feb 2/4.25 MILES

16 degrees/feels like -1
minnehaha creek path/mississippi river road path
15-16 mph wind

I was a little nervous about running because my right knee seemed a bit stiff, but I did it anyway. I’m glad. It was a good run, even if my knee kept reminding me it was there.

Other than my knee and whether or not it might cause me problems, I can’t remember much of what I thought about while I was running. Just this morning, I wondered about this:

What do I think about when I’m running? I should try to remember and make a list. But, will I remember? Thinking while running is almost like dreaming. I rarely remember my dreams and even when I do I can’t recount them in any coherent way.

my thoughts while running, a list

  • Don’t slip on the ice.
  • Damn, it’s cold, but not too bad.
  • I wonder if I will be running directly into the wind for most of this run.
  • How soon before my sunglasses fog up?
  • The creek is not frozen over. That’s weird. It looks beautiful, shimmering in the sunlight.
  • Will I see anyone else running today?
  • My knee is stiff. Is this a bad sign? Am I going to injure it again and not be able to walk for a month? [then I imagined getting hurt and not being able to run my race next Saturday.]
  • [when the one other runner that I encountered passed me] Don’t speed up. Stay steady and run at your own pace.
  • This feels good.
  • [when I break out into a big smile because it feels good to run] I wonder what the drivers in the cars think when they see me running and smiling?
  • How’s my heart rate? Better check it.

That’s all I can remember. Pretty boring and mundane. No new insights on life. No new perspectives on the landscape.

I’d like to track what I think about more. I think I’ll turn this into a challenge.

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