Year one, miles run: almost 1000.
I’ve run in rain, snow, through fog, when the wind would blow so hard I thought it would knock me over. In sunshine. On dull gray days, sharp blue days. When I could barely breathe through the haze of heat or humidity or the cotton falling from the tree. When it was hot. When it was not. When the sweat and the snot on my face would freeze.
I’ve run in several races and many places—near the river heading north, going south, on the east side, west side, up above, right beside. Around lakes, a creek, a waterfall. Near a highway, a parkway, a freeway, a road. Over some bridges that were tall, many more that were barely bridges. Down in the Flats that weren’t flat. Up some hills that weren’t hills and others that were. Steep and long and awesome and terrifying and great for making me strong.
I’ve run on ice which is nicer than you might think. Cobblestones which are as bad as you imagine. Wet snow that’s too soft. Dry snow that gives a satisfying crunch. Over debris—its tiny pebbles getting bunched up in the treads of my shoe. Through piles of leaves and big puddles that soaked by socks. On clear paths and a few trails with loose rocks.
I’ve run without headphones, listening to birds chirp, dogs bark, squirrels shriek, the forest crackle, geese honk, kids howl, women cackle, ski poles clack, conversations that lack a purpose other than to irritate me, runners breathe, car horns blare, motorcycles rev, a faint voice somewhere—maybe down by the river?—bicycle wheels spin, water fall, feet shuffle, someone answer a call on their phone and the zipper pull on my jacket clang and bang and annoy me rhythmically and relentlessly.
I’ve run with headphones listening to cheesy anthems that swell, catchy pop songs that are quick, loud rock songs that compel me to move to their steady beat. Podcasts that make me think, cry, remember, forget, wonder why, sigh in recognition and laugh
sometimes out loud.
I’ve run with a sore right knee, a sore left hamstring, sore feet, aching legs, tight calves, purple toes, a stuffed-up nose, watering eyes, fuzzy vision, a burning face—from the cold, the heat, the wind, the salt I sweat. Ears that get so plugged up that they
echo in my head when I try to talk or breathe. Stiff shoulders, a tingling arm, a kneecap that stubbornly refuses to stay in its place and a smile so big and wide that it spread from my face down to my toes.
I’ve shared many hellos with other runners, glared at the ones who got in the way, snorted at reckless drivers, greeted the walker who’s out here every day. Whistled, hummed, sang softly and chanted little poems. Recorded myself talking into a smart phone.
I’ve smelled lilac on the edge of the hill, freshly cut grass, burnt toast from a grill, dead leaves in the woods, smoke from the gorge, chemicals after the rain, the brim of my sweat-soaked baseball cap, and a nasty fishy stench coming out of the drain.
I’ve focused on my breathing, raising my head, relaxing my shoulders, running slower instead of always too fast, keeping my pulse low, lifting my knees high, tightening my trunk and trying to avoid the bees who appear without warning—one popped out of a crack and stung my right shoulder in a sudden attack.
I’ve run mostly alone. Occasionally with Scott. Sometimes with my shadow who more often than not likes to tease me and hide somewhere else on the path or down in the gorge, at the bottom of the hill, not reappearing until she wants to or is forced by the sun.
I’ve composed rhythms to run to, crafted some poems, cast counter-spells to ward off injuries, organized an essay and had several epiphanies—some I remember, some I do not.
I’ve been asked: “What are you running away from?” Warned: “Running is bad for your heart.” Encouraged: “that’s great that you run!” And dismissed: “what a waste of time!
Running’s not fun. It’s tedious and boring!”
Tedious? Boring? I’ve run a lot miles, a lot of hills, on a lot of paths. I’ve heard a lot of sounds, smelled a lot of smells and felt so much— joy, doubt, grief, wonder, anxiety, happiness, sadness, irritation, relief, freedom, discomfort, pain, gratitude, frustration and euphoria. But I’ve never felt bored.
A Year in Running in Tanka Form
When I end my run I leave the gorge and walk home. I sit down and write about what I remember—sights sounds textures feelings thoughts.
Late January/4 miles. Alone. Not quite but almost lost in a dreamlike state when everything shifts unfocused and fuzzy.
Mid February/57 degrees. Warm! No pain! Joy! Almost ignoring puddle-covered paths & squishy soaked socks.
Early March/5 miles. Quiet but not calm. Active. Noisy. Birds. Cars. Feet. A graceless runner running by swinging arms awkwardly.
Late April/10 miles. Beautiful. Sunny. No wind. Such joy in running more than an hour with no pain or doubt on paths I love.
Late May/6 miles. Felt like I could almost outrun the cars today—fast free—out here in the world not back there in a car.
Early June/9 miles. Running at Lake Nokomis. Bright shining water that’s too cold to swim in but just right for running around.
Late July/8 miles. Thick and heavy air. Mid-run improvisation—make-shift bandaid created for blistered toes out of napkin.
Early August/4 miles. A quick glimpse of river glittering brightly in early sun, only small flashes filtered through thick trees.
All of September/injured. No miles of running. Some miles of swimming and biking instead. Not as much moving but still writing.
Late October/3 miles. Seeing St. Paul across the gorge. Almost bare branches mixed with neon orange leaves. Crisp, cold air. Winter soon!
Mid November/4 miles/ windy. A few orange and gold leaves stubbornly cling to branches, refusing to believe winter’s coming.
Early December/7 miles. Chanted in six-eight time to steady my rhythm and distract me from the effort of climbing a long steep beautiful hill.