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 30/5.25 MILES

55 degrees
the franklin loop

A good run. Forgot that they were doing construction (again!) on my side of the Franklin bridge so I had to wait for the light, which takes a few minutes, to cross over to the path on the other side. As I waited, I didn’t run in place, but I did keep moving my legs. I was a bit restless. How funny did I look to drivers?

In my log entry for Sunday, I mentioned how the leaves had filled in on the trees in the woods near the stone steps. Later that day, I found a poem that connects and have been wandering through it. Did I think about it during my run today? I’m not sure. Here are some of my wanderings:

VERTICAL, wanderings

The Starting Point: a poem by Linda Paston

Wandering One:

Vertical/Horizontal
Perhaps the purpose 
of life is to capture more energy than it takes to survive.
of leaves is photosynthesis
of animals is respiration: inspiration and expiration

Perhaps the purpose of leaves is
to create mystery and wonder: what’s in those woods?
to irritate and annoy: why can’t I see to the other side anymore?

Perhaps the purpose of leaves is to conceal
the gnarled limbs of trees, the textured trunks. Not frail, but tough. Ancient. Wise. 
the branches that stretch wide and far. Wandering. Interrupting hierarchies of sky and ground. Disrupting the seduction of the moon’s glow.

Perhaps the purpose of leaves is to conceal not the verticality, but the horizontality of trees which we notice in December as if for the first time: row after row of
twisted forms sprawling sideways.
weathered forms persisting stubbornly.
wise forms learning how to continue surviving.
ancient forms yearning upwards and spreading inwards and outwards.

Wandering Two: staying upright

“And since we will be
horizontal ourselves
for so long,
let us now honor
the gods
of the vertical…” (Paston)

“Sunday morning—23 degrees, both ponds frozen and glassy. Six miles. About an inch of ice on the trail—frozen snow-melt, frozen slush—but I managed to stay upright….What Wittgenstein wanted from philosophy in the second half of his career was a way to stay upright. ‘We have got onto slippery ice where there is no friction,’ he warned, turning his gaze away from perfection and trying to make out how people actually move and think and make connections…It’s the dailiness of these runs I like—” (Gardner, 54)

One goal of my running? Staying upright. Active. Moving. Grounded. Connected. In conversation with the world, with my body, with my breathing, with dreaming and wondering and real possibilities, rooted in the realities of my limits. Resisting restlessness.

Wandering Three: form

Parson’s poem is vertical in form. Long and lean, stretching upwards.

“…most experts agree that ideal running form starts by keeping your upper torso straight (with a slight forward lean)….” Some suggest that you should think tall and look to the horizon. Like a tree, your trunk should be vertical, but with a slight lean. The purpose of good form: to be efficient and to conserve energy, which is especially important for long-distance runners.

In an interview with Krista Tippet, Michael Longley recalled something that the poet Stanley Kunitz wrote in the preface to one of this collections about form and conserving energy: “form was a way of conserving energy. Isn’t that wonderful? He said the energy soon leaks out of an ill-made work of art.” What forms work best for conserving energy? Is form that conserves always efficient?

Mary Oliver on form in Upstream: “Form is certainty. All nature knows this, and we have no greater adviser. Clouds have forms, porous and shape-shifting, bumptious [what a great word! “self-assertive or proud to an irritating degree.”], fleecy. They are what clouds need to be, to be clouds. See a flock of them come, on the sled of the wind, all kneeling above the blue sea. And in the blue water, see the dolphin built to leap, the sea mouse skittering; see the ropy kelp with its air-filled bladders tugging it upward; seee the albatross floating day after day on its three-jointed wings. Each form sets a tone, enables a destiny, strikes a note in the universe unlike any other. How can we ever stop looking? How can we ever turn away” (Upstream, 21)?

may 28/4 MILES

61 degrees
mississippi river road path, north

Sunny. Peaceful, even with the wind blowing. A wonderful morning to go for a relaxed, recovery run. Much too nice for headphones. Heard lots of birds and the wind rushing past my ears. Anything else? I smelled a few lilac bushes, bacon and eggs at Longfellow Grill. Saw runners and bikers and speed skaters on roller blades. A few walkers too. Noticed that the small wood that I’ve been tracking all spring, near the stone steps and adjacent to the sandy beach, is now completely filled in with leaves. All I see is green, which I mostly appreciate because green is my favorite color, but also lament because of the loss of my view straight through the wood. Which looks more mysterious and inviting: a wall of green with no way to know what’s behind it or a group of bare trees where everything is almost visible–the browns and purples of the dead leaves on the gorge floor, the blues and grays of the mississippi river, the light brown of the sandy beach–but not quite?

A Stand of Trees?

Would “stand of trees” work in my above description of “a group of bare trees”? I’ve seen that phrase used and wondered about it. Wikipedia describes a stand in the forest as: “A forest stand is a contiguous community of trees sufficiently uniform in composition, structure, age and size class distribution, spatial arrangement, site quality, condition, or location to distinguish it from adjacent communities.” What are some other ways to describes groupings of trees? What would you call the area below the gorge, near the beach? It’s not a forest, but is it woods? I’ll have to do some research.

What Color is the Sand by the Mississippi River?

In my above description, I just wrote: “light brown.” How boring! It’s made from limestone and sandstone–is that all? I need to take a walk to this beach so that I can properly describe the sand. I’m sure that Delia (my dog) would enjoy it. Maybe I’ll see some rowers out on the water, while I’m there.

As I’ve been running this past year, I’ve spent so much time alongside the Mississippi River Gorge. I’d like to pay more attention to the details of the landscape.

Random Source

Doing the search, “stand of trees poetry meaning,” I encountered this dissertation: The Language of Trees. Looks really cool.

I Tried Out a New Cap

Early in the week, I posted a writing experiment about the baseball cap that I always wear when I run. Today, I tried out a different cap and it seemed to work! Well, it’s not that different. Like my green one, it’s a twins baseball cap that’s easily adjustable with a cloth strap in the back. But, it’s bright blue instead of sweaty green. Not quite as big. Doesn’t smell. Isn’t fraying at the top. Not road tested, until today. I wonder what color it will be after a summer of sweaty, grimy running?

may 27/10 MILES

63 degrees
lake nokomis loop, long

Such a beautiful morning! Such a hard run! It felt tough from the start as I adjusted to running while carrying water. My legs seemed heavy and sore. It was not fun. Most of it was mental, I’m sure. At one point, I allowed the uncertainty to creep in: How can I run a 1/2 marathon in 5 weeks when I’m struggling to run 10 miles today? But I kept going and I managed to move past my doubt. I finished strong and very happy to be done.

At the midway point I reached Lake Nokomis. It’s all set up for summer with boats on the beach and buoys marking the swimming areas. Just a few more weeks until my favorite season of the year: Open Swim Season! I will get to swim back and forth across the lake, from the little beach to the big beach, as many times I want for two hours on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays!

In honor of open swim and to keep a steady rhythm, I created a few running rhythms while I was running at the lake:

Open Swim
Open Swim
starts next month
starts next month

I will swim
I will swim
across the lake
across the lake

I will see
I will see
the orange buoy
the orange buoy

May 26/3.75 MILES

66 degrees
mississippi river road path, north

It’s amazing how 66 degrees can feel hot. My body needs to adjust to the warming temperatures. The run felt a bit harder, but it was okay. I can’t remember what I was thinking about as I ran. This is often the case. Thomas Gardiner refers to this feeling as “a bit like half sleep. when you’re awake, in a way, but aware of dreams passing in a kind of un-retraceable wandering” (7).  What do we do with these un-retraceable wanderings? Maybe nothing.

Right before running, I composed two acrostic poems. I had been reluctant to try this form because my only encounters with it were through reading the acrostic poems my kids created out of their names in second grade. It seemed like a form best suited for young kids. But, when I looked up the form on Academy of American Poets, I was intrigued by their description: “The intent of the acrostic is to reveal while attempting to conceal within the poem.” So I experimented with creating poems out of two words that I think about a lot when I’m running:

A Daily Reminder

How does it feel to face your limits, when you’re
unable to continue ignoring that
many others will always be faster, stronger,
in better shape,
live longer,
imagine wider, deeper?
This is not a tragedy.
Your liberation is found in this realization.

Can you Feel Them?

Electrons
live
everywhere.
Can you feel them?
Try.
Really try to
imagine what they feel like, where they are.
Count the
ions.
Try.
You can’t? They’re there, amplifying life and charging it with meaning.

During the run, I thought of another word I wanted to use. I wrote about it when I got back home:

Runner’s Kryptonite

Heavy and thick, feeling
Useless and lethargic
Moisture everywhere
Inside and out.
Don’t want to move. Running
Is hard, harder
Than usual
You have no idea how much I despise this.

So much fun! So far, I’ve experimented with the following forms in my poetry about running: abecedarian, acrostic, anaphora, cento, cinquain, erasure, limerick, terza rima, triolet. Yesterday, I wrote an anaphora poem for my description of the Franklin Loop and limericks for my description of a route I’m calling the Downtown loop, long.

Lake Street/Marshall Avenue Bridge
there is a long bridge with a name
that never does stay quite the same
You start out on Lake
but Marshall you take
if driving in St. Paul’s your aim

Franklin Hill
There once was girl who would run
up big hills ‘cause she thought it was fun
she never complained
although she was drained
Had she spent too much time in the sun?

Bohemian Flats
A place on the path is called Flats
the namer of this was quite bats
the more that you stare
the more you’re aware
the hills here outnumber the gnats!

Washington Avenue Bridge
The bridge that you next run under
makes noises that sound like thunder
if not a rain storm
beginning to form
could be the light rail, I wonder.

I-94 Bridge
A bridge here turns purple at night
in honor of Prince, a bright light
it guides your climb out
of perilous doubt
brought on by sore legs that feel tight.

The Guthrie
run down a short hill and you’ll see
a building that looks like a bee
well that’s not quite true
it’s not black, it is blue
but it sometimes looks black to me

Stone Arch
There once was a girl with gray hair
who ran anytime, anywhere.
She left for Stone Arch
the third day of March
as far as I know she’s still there.

Hennepin Avenue Bridge
there once was girl who would walk
her kid ‘cross this bridge quite a lot
she runs now instead
while her kid stays in bed
he’s grown and no longer a tot!

may 24/5.25 MILES

51 degrees
the franklin loop

I’ve run over 500 miles in 2017. That’s the most I’ve ever done by the end of May. Had a great run this morning. 51 degrees + not much wind + overcast = some of my favorite running conditions. Managed to hold onto some thoughts about Quatro’s ideas on running as prayer and its dis/connections with the runner’s high as a matter of endorphins. I recorded some notes into my voice memo app right before and after the run.

notes: before the run

experiments/wonder/curiosity/why are we curious?/for what purpose do we want to know?/what does it mean to know?/Sir Francis Bacon, exploiter of nature/the drive to know/to understand/to conquer/to control/to own/to use/to exploit/to scrutinize/to dissect/to name

notes: after the run

CONTROL/what about humility?/a curiosity motivated by the desire to feel, to experience, to engage/not to own and control and acquire

The Runner’s High

suddenly, without warning I am
exhilarated
euphoric
effervescent, bubbling over with feeling

sometimes I feel ecstatic
beside myself with joy
beside my shadow with delight
beside the world with reverence and awe
beside my mom with longing, regret, enduring love.

sometimes I feel enormous
capacious
if I stuck out my chest
and opened my mouth a bit wider
I could let in the whole world.

sometimes I feel electric
amplifying sounds
lighting up paths
nothing but pure energy,
a flow of electrons moving through the universe

how to explain these feelings?
are they chemically-induced delusions,
brought on by elevated levels of endorphins or endocannabinoids?
do we need to explain?
can we bear witness to their wonder,
be curious about their origins and impacts
write about them
study them
experiment with them
propose scientific theories about them
without knowing them?
naming and classifying them?
reducing them to chemicals?
claiming that we own the Truth?

I see wonder in the chemicals
their poetic names
their purposes
their possibilities
but only when our theories about them
don’t foreclose
other explanations
other ways of feeling and being.

may 23/6 MILES

54 degrees
75% humidity
the franklin hill turn around + a little extra

Today I woke up tired and discombobulated. Decided that my playlist was definitely needed for blocking out the world. It worked. It was a good run. I felt disconnected, almost in a trance. Especially while running up the hill. As I made my way up it, I stared at the bridge at the top, only seeing it as a hulking shape. Quick flashes of movement entered by peripheral vision as bikers whizzed by. So cool.

Several miles later the trance-like feeling was replaced by a euphoria. Was it endorphins kicking in? Maybe. Does it matter if it can be explained chemically, scientifically? There is still something magical or mystical or sacred that can happen in those moments.

In an op-ed for The New York Times a few years ago the runner/author Jaime Quatro suggests that the high that runner’s get from running has three layers. Layer one is the conventional runner’s high, the sense of euphoria. Layer two is a feeling of invincibility; you can do anything! save all the starving children! garner massive applause from adoring crowds! Today, I felt like I could almost outrun the cars. If you’re lucky, which I was not, you can reach layer three:

a state of prayerlike consciousness. Past the feel-good vibes, past the delusions, my attention moves outward: I’m intensely aware of the cadence of a bird’s song, cherry blossoms weighted-down after a rain. Things light up and I experience an interior stillness that somehow syncs me more profoundly with the exterior world. It’s a paradox: only when I’m fully present in my body do I begin to experience the absence of myself.

As we move outward, we stop thinking so much about ourselves and start paying attention to the world. So much to say about this! About care, curiosity, Weil’s idea of attention. But I have to sort it out first. Maybe I’ll try to do that on my run tomorrow.

may 22/REST

Still thinking about breathing today.

On Breathing, 25 Versions

1

in out

2

in 2 3
out 2
in 2 3
out 2

3

take in oxygen
release carbon dioxide
respiration.

4

take in the world
take in
the sensations,
the sounds,
the colors: the greens and browns of the gorge floor, the greys of the sky on a cloudy day, the electric blue of the yarn bomb on the railroad bridge, the bright yellow-green of the runner’s shirt, the orange of the traffic cone, the red of the stop sign, the purple of the lilac bush, the pink of my jacket, the silvery-white of the river as the sun dances on its surface.
breathe in and accept what the world is offering: energy. life.
inspiration.

5

release worries and doubts
expel that which is toxic
breathe out and offer up what you don’t need.
expiration.

6

What you might say to your kid when she’s freaking out: why don’t you try to calm down and take some deep breaths? It will make you feel better or Breathe!
What she might say in return: ha! don’t hold your breath!
What, in retailiation, she might do: Turn blue.

7

the song that has made it onto several of my running playlists: Breathe (2 am)/Anna Nawlick

8

what you need for breathing: lungs, intercostal muscles, a diaphragm, comfortable pants

9

my most reliable method for stopping hiccups: holding my breath, not by pinching my nose but my just not breathing. Does anyone else do it this way?

10

Favorite reason for holding my breath, kid version: completing 10 back flips in a row under water at the neighborhood pool.

11

A haunting description of breathing, from a poem written shortly after 9/11 by Juliana Spahr in This Connection of Everyone with Lungs:

as everyone with lungs breathes the space between the hands and the space around the hands and the space of the room and the space of the building that surrounds the room and the space of the neighborhoods nearby and the space of the cities and the space of the regions and the space of the nations and the space of the continents and islands and the space of the oceans and the space of the troposphere and the space of the stratosphere and the space of the mesosphere in and out.

12

My interpretation of Judith Butler’s ethics in Ethical Ambivalence:

Having space and ROOM to breathe is an ethical imperative for the livable life.
Having access to good air that encourages effective inspiration and aspiration is an ethical imperative for the valued and valuable life.
A life that is livable is only possible when you can breathe.
A life that is valued and valuable is only possible when you breathe more good air in and more bad air out.

13

How Judith Butler discusses air in her caution against reducing ethics to an oppressive moralism: “I’ve worried that the return to ethics…has meant a certain heightening of moralism and this has made me cry out, as Nietzsche cried out about Hegel, “Bad air! Bad air!” I suppose that looking for a space in which to breathe is not the highest ethical aspiration, but it is there, etymologically embedded in aspiration itself, and does seem to constitute something of a precondition for any viable, that is livable, ethical reflection (15-16).

14

What Nietzsche writes about bad air in On the Genealogy of Morals
“What is it exactly that I find so totally unbearable? Something which I cannot deal with on my own, which makes me choke and feel faint? Bad air! Bad air! It’s when something which has failed comes close to me, when I have to smell the entrails of a failed soul!”

15

Smells I’ve smelled while breathing during a run:
Fresh donuts from Mel-o-Glaze Donuts
Bacon from Longfellow Grill
Smoke from a fire, below me, somewhere deep in the gorge
Skunk
Rotting leaves
Too much perfume on the runner I passed
Chemicals after the rain
A lilac bush
Honey-suckle
Pot
the Sewer
freshly cut grass
The inside rim of my super nasty baseball cap that I’ve been wearing, and have never! washed, for almost every run and almost every race for the past 5 years.
my own breath when I wear a buff around my face in the winter
Haven’t smelled the entrails of a failed soul….yet.

16

Types of Breathing
jagged
too shallow
deeeeeeeeeeeep
fast
slow
even, 4 in/4 out or 3 in/3 out
odd, 3 in/2 out or 2 in/1 out

17

What breathes: noses/mouths/skin/living things

18

What doesn’t breathe: that annoying race t-shirt/my mom, not since September 30, 2009.

19

Reasons why we breathe:
so we don’t die
to embrace the world
to take in oxygen
to calm down
to walk
to run
to fly
we don’t need a reason, our body will do it anyway.

20

I despise breathing in bugs when I’m running. Most of the time they’re tiny, so it’s not a big deal, just annoying. One time, I swallowed a really big bug. I could feel it inside me, still alive. As it crawled around the back of my throat, I choked. Yuck! Kept running though.

21

Breathing in winter is _________.

  1. difficult, my lungs are burning!
  2. fun when it’s so cold that the snot in my nose freezes up. No, really, it is. I’m not being sarcastic.
  3. the best. I love the cold, pure air.

22

Breathing in summer is __________.

  1. dangerous. Watch out for the bugs!
  2. incredibly difficult after an open swim.
  3. so thick! I fucking hate humidity.

23

how to breathe:
use your lungs:
breathe in deeply
through your nose and mouth,
with your diaphragm.
as your abdomen extends,
so does your invitation to the world
to enter and fill you
with wonder and gratitude.

24

reminder: when running, you don’t fly with your arms, you fly with your feet. And you don’t embrace the world with a hug but with a breath.

25

in and out
in…and out
in……and out
in………and out

may 21/8 MILES

49 degrees
the lake nokomis loop, short

Another day of rain. Like yesterday, it was only a drizzle, so it didn’t bother me. Tried to work on my breathing today. Recently I read an article about using breathing to prevent injury: Running on Air. It’s a form of rhythmic breathing, where you inhale for 3 steps and exhale for 2. The idea is that as you exhale your core destabilizes, which puts extra strain on the striking foot and that side of the body. If you trade off which foot you land on when you exhale you can distribute the strain more evenly between your left and right sides. Will it work for me? Not sure, but I’ll try it. I’d like to prevent injury and I’m interested in breathing rhythms. And thinking about and experimenting with breathing in general.

Did you know that the process of breathing in is also known as inspiration? Here’s something that I found on Merriam-Webster online:

“Inspiration has an unusual history in that its figurative sense appears to predate its literal one. It comes from the Latin inspiratus (the past participle of inspirare, “to breathe into, inspire”) and in English has had the meaning “the drawing of air into the lungs” since the middle of the 16th century. This breathing sense is still in common use among doctors, as is expiration (“the act or process of releasing air from the lungs”). However, before inspiration was used to refer to breath it had a distinctly theological meaning in English, referring to a divine influence upon a person, from a divine entity; this sense dates back to the early 14th century. The sense of inspiration often found today (“someone or something that inspires”) is considerably newer than either of these two senses, dating from the 19th century.”

Combine this with the first definition that I found when I googled “inspiration definition”: “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.”

I love these connections between breathing, being creatively stimulated and the sacred!

may 20/5 MILES

46 degrees
mississippi river road path south/mississippi river road path north/greenway

Almost a repeat of Monday, except I ran with Scott and we ran south first. For most of the run it was raining, although it was a soft rain and I was sweating, so it was hard to tell. I greeted lots of other runners with a perky “good morning!,” partly to be friendly but mostly to check my effort level. As long as I could get out the full phrase and not sound like I was dying, I wasn’t running too fast. The last time Scott and I ran together, I suggested that we should come up with a longer phrase that we could use to check how hard we were running. I can’t remember his suggestion, but I know it involved speaking with an Irish brogue. (I just read this part to him and he told me that it was “Top o’ the morning to you.”) Maybe I should come up with some poetic line? Or what about a koan/unanswerable question?

After we got back, as I was eating my favorite breakfast–cheerios, bananas, walnuts–I started reading one of the books I just picked up from the library, Flanuese: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London by Lauren Elkin. On page 2, she writes:

women came to the city…to pass unnoticed, but also to be free and to do what they liked, as they liked.

Then she describes “the key problem of the urban experience”:

are we individuals or are we part of the crowds? Do we want to stand out or blend in? Is that even possible? How do we–no matter what our gender–want to be seen in public? Do we want want to attract or escape the gaze? Be independent or invisible? Remarkable or unremarked-upon?

My immediate reactions to these passages include:

  • Yes! want to go unnoticed so that I can do what I like, as I like!
  • You mean other people feel that way too? I’m not the only one?
  • Being able to go unnoticed requires a lot of privilege. Who can choose to be invisible (as opposed to being rendered invisible) and who is always hyper-visible?
  • Wow, I’m only on page 2 and this book already has me thinking about so many things.
  • I want to write about this in my log entry because one aspect of running that I’ve barely addressed but that certainly subtly shapes my experiences, is being a woman running in public.

Question

  • What does it mean to be a woman running in public?
  • What does it mean to be this woman running in public?
  • What does it mean to be this white woman running in public?
  • What does it mean to be this white, middle-class woman running in public?
  • What does it mean to be this white, middle-class, healthy-looking woman running in public?
  • What does it mean to be this white, middle-class, healthy-looking woman running in public spaces that are well-maintained and safe?
  • What does it mean to be this white, middle-class, healthy-looking woman running in public spaces that are well-maintained and fairly safe, but still seem haunted, perhaps only slightly, by the threat of an unwanted encounter or assault?

In thinking about running in public l want to link my experience to the larger history of women in running (less than 100 years ago, a woman wasn’t supposed to run for fear that her uterus would fall out! Kathryn Switzer was attacked by the race director while running in the Boston Marathon in 1967. The woman’s marathon wasn’t in the olympics until 1984.) and women in public, including: women and safety and women and sexual harassment/assault. Of course, you also can’t leave out exploring an intersectional history of who is allowed to occupy public space and how running bodies get read by others–are they seen as exercising or running from a crime, for example. Both of those are heavily shaped by race. And, what about the types of public spaces runners have access to–dedicated paths? busy sidewalks? In what parts of the city do they exist?

Scroll over the first paragraph to reveal the hidden poem.

may 19/6 MILES

47 degrees
the franklin hill turn around

It was cooler today but I didn’t mind. I like running when it’s cooler. Lately I’ve been thinking about the biomechanics of walking and running and how they differ. After looking at a few online sources, including this, I tried the following Please Add to This List experiment: “in a poem, list what you know” (20). I’m not sure if mine is a poem, but I like it.

DID YOU KNOW

that the main difference between running and walking is that in walking you always have one foot on the ground and in running both feet are in the air at the same time mid stride? So in walking you’re always grounded, in running you get to fly.

that the flying occurs just before the foot makes “initial contact” with the ground, either via the heel, midfoot or forefoot? I usually strike midfoot.

that the flying is referred to as the “float phase”? I’d prefer the “flying phase” or the “who needs the ground? Not my feet!” phase.

that the flying happens so quickly that you don’t even notice it? I bet your body and soul do. Or should I say “does”? In “I Sing the Body Electric” Walt Whitman believes that the body is the soul.

that when I wrote the preceding “fact” about Walt Whitman, I mistyped his name as Walk Whitman? He did love walking and wrote many poems about it, including Song of the Open Road. Would you mind if I referred to him, from now on, as Walt “the Walk” Whitman? Or, is Walt “the Walker” Whitman better?

that after flying you do a “controlled landing” and enter the “brake absorption” phase? I’m starting to feel like a plane. I don’t like planes or flying in them. The only flying I like is the kind that I do when I’m running.

that USA Track and Field officially defines race walking as: “a progression of steps so taken that the walker makes contact with the ground so that no visible (to the human eye) loss of contact occurs”? Have you ever tried race walking? I have, sort of. I went on a training walk with my best friend who was planning to race walk a marathon, which she eventually did a few months later. It was hard preventing my body from flying. And hard to walk that fast. She was fast!

that I like running because it lets me fly and, at least for a millisecond, allows me to lose contact?

that I like walking because it keeps me grounded and tethers me to the world so I don’t just fly (or float) away?

that I often feel like I’ve failed if I stop and walk during a run or a race? I’m working to change this attitude. Walking is not failing; it’s still moving.

that in his running memoir, Haruki Murakami, wrote that his tombstone should say: “At least he didn’t walk”? I wonder if now, many years later, he still feels that way.

that I have tendency to wander, physically and mentally? Sometimes this is helpful, sometimes it is not. Walking, especially at a slow pace and with no destination in mind, encourages it. While running, which enforces limits—my body can only run so far and for so long, discourages it. When I want to wander, I walk. When I don’t, I run.

that I have almost too much energy? Sometimes this energy is physical, sometimes it’s mental. If I don’t use it up, I become restless. Walking is more likely to wear out my brain, running, my body.

I was trying to think about walking and running during my run today. I did, for a a few miles. But then the Franklin hill appeared and I needed to craft some new “running rhythms” to chant as I ran up.

as I ran up the hill

I am climbing up a hill

rhythm: I am climbing (4 eighth notes) + up a hill (3 eighth notes) = 7 steps/1 per eighth note

I
am
climb
ing
up
a
hill

rhythm: 7 quarter notes = 14 steps/2 per quarter note

to get my heart rate down

I need to go slower
so that my pulse will lower

rhythm: I (quarter note) + need to (2 eighth notes) + go (quarter note) + slower (2 eighth notes) = 8 steps/2 per quarter + 1 per eighth
So (quarter note) + that my pulse will lower (6 eighth notes) = 8 steps/2 per quarter + 1 per eighth

to celebrate running

I am flying,
I am free
I am where
I want to be

rhythm: 4 eighth notes per line = 4 steps/1 per eighth

After composing and  reciting the rhythms several times as I ran, I made a recording while I continued running:

These small chants are fun to compose and help a lot with my running.

may 18/REST

Technically I’m supposed to be cross-training today, but I probably won’t really start cross training until open swim season begins in a month (only a month!). Just came across this really cool project (via Runner’s World) about an artist/illustrator who does a sketch inspired by something she sees on each of the training runs. Her one rule: the drawing has to be done in the same amount of time as the training run.

Here’s one of her sketches for three miles:

and another one for 12 miles:

I love this idea!

A few sources:

may 17/5 MILES

64 degrees
humidity 86%/light rain
mississippi river road path north/south/north/south

Severe thunderstorms? 80% chance of rain? I risked it and ran anyway. No thunderstorms and only a light drizzle. Take that faulty forecast! Just in case it started to rain really hard, I altered my route so that I could end it sooner if I needed. I ran one mile north, turned around and ran back to the start, then ran one mile south, turned around and ran back to the start, then ran 1/2 mile north and turned around again. It worked out well. I like running in the rain when it’s a light drizzle. I didn’t feel wet, just refreshed.

I’m entering in a new phase of my training: training for the 1/2 marathon in July. I need to work on conditioning my body to run (or just move, with an elevated heart rate) for longer periods of time. I need to get used to running on sore legs and moving for 2 hours without stopping. I wonder how this will affect my creative thinking and experimenting? 

I’ve decided to give myself running advice in different poetic forms. The last time I did this, I used terza rima to remind myself to go slow. Now, I’m using 2 different versions of the cinquain and a triolet to tell myself to stop thinking about pace or miles and start thinking about duration. I think I’d like to try at least one other form.

Cinquain

Variation One
5 lines
rhyme scheme: abaab

Up until now, I’ve mostly been building up a base
of miles, strengthening my legs and working on my aerobic fitness.
My focus was on maintaining a very slow pace.
But now marathon training must start. Such a long race
requires building up the time spent running, more than the distance.

Variation Two
5 lines
created by Adelaide Crapsey (what a name!), usually about nature
no rhyme
22 syllables in total: 2/4/6/8/2

It’s May
and time to start
training for duration
more than pace or number of miles.
Do it!

Triolet

8 lines
Line 1 repeats on lines 4 and 7.
Line 2 repeats on line 8.
Only two rhymes used throughout.

I need to train
to move longer
be mentally stronger.
I need to train
to run when drained
when legs are strained.
I need to train
to move longer.

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 14/4.2 MILES

60 degrees
mississippi river road path north

I didn’t have time to post my log entry yesterday so I’m posting it now. A decent run. My legs were pretty sore after running for over 90 minutes on Saturday. Having heard Britney Spear’s “Toxic” on the radio and remembering how I had put it on a playlist from 2012, I decided to add it to a playlist I’m using now. As usual, I put the music on shuffle and here’s what came up:

I Sing the Body Electric/Fame
The Jeffersons/Ja’net Dubois
Landslide/Fleetwood Mac
Love Song/Sara Bareilles
Let’s Go Crazy/Prince
Body Count/Justin Timberlake
Cheap Thrills/Sia
Sorry/Justin Bieber
The Flesh Failures (Let the Sunshine In)/Hair
Toxic/Britney Spears
She’s A Bad Mama Jama/Carl Carlton
Renegade/Styx

Last week I mentioned listening to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” Looking up the lyrics for it, I’m struck by how few of them I had ever actually understood or paid attention to. I never realized he sang, “search for the purple banana” or “We’re all excited/But we don’t know why/Maybe it’s cause/We’re all gonna die.” At the beginning of the song he speaks: “Electric word, life” which makes me think of the first song I heard during my run: “I Sing the Body Electric.” This song is from the movie Fame and takes its title, I assume, and nothing else from the Walt Whitman poem of the same name.

I like this idea of the body as electric. As something charged with meaning and energy, exciting, alive. To be celebrated. To be used. To be used to experience and express joy. I’ve been working on a poem the past few days that speaks to this celebration of the body electric, although I haven’t been framing it that way. Maybe I should. Something doesn’t seem quite right about the poem so far:

The Joy of Running

The joy of running is not
reckless abandon
an all out sprint,
arms flailing,
feet fleeing
from the imaginary monsters on the playground.
And it’s not focused aggression
lungs burning
muscles aching
mind calculating 
better splits and faster races.
The joy of running is
the confident grace
of a body that knows its value
and celebrates movement’s magic
gliding easily through the world.
One foot striking the ground and then the other
feeling the grit on the path
but not the mechanics of the motion.

This poem is a reaction to, and perhaps rejection of, the idea that to run joyfully is to run like you did as kid: a total spaz. It’s inspired by my deep appreciation for confident, graceful bodies moving fluidly and with little effort. And it’s an attempt to put into words my thoughts, started in this entry, about magic and the mechanics of walking.

I like Leaves of Grass–the parts of it that I’ve read. I should really read the whole thing carefully. Just now, I read “I Sing the Body Electric.” Intense, especially the section on the bodies of slaves at the auction. He concludes the poem with this celebration of various body parts:

excerpt from I Sing the Body Electric

Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears,
Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eyebrows, and the waking or sleeping of the lids,
Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws, and the jaw-hinges,
Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition,
Cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of the neck, neck-slue,
Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula, hind-shoulders, and the ample side-round of the chest,
Upper-arm, armpit, elbow-socket, lower-arm, arm-sinews, arm-bones,
Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles, thumb, forefinger, finger-joints, finger-nails,
Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast, breast-bone, breast-side,
Ribs, belly, backbone, joints of the backbone,
Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and outward round, man-balls, man-root,
Strong set of thighs, well carrying the trunk above,
Leg fibres, knee, knee-pan, upper-leg, under-leg,
Ankles, instep, foot-ball, toes, toe-joints, the heel;
All attitudes, all the shapeliness, all the belongings of my or your body or of any one’s body, male or female,
The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet and clean,
The brain in its folds inside the skull-frame,
Sympathies, heart-valves, palate-valves, sexuality, maternity,
Womanhood, and all that is a woman, and the man that comes from woman,
The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears, laughter, weeping, love-looks, love-perturbations and risings,
The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shouting aloud,
Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking, swimming,
Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and tightening,
The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes,
The skin, the sunburnt shade, freckles, hair,
The curious sympathy one feels when feeling with the hand the naked meat of the body,
The circling rivers the breath, and breathing it in and out,
The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward toward the knees,
The thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones and the marrow in the bones,
The exquisite realization of health;
O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul,
O I say now these are the soul!
——–

The body electric as the soul. I want to think about that some more.

may 13/10 MILES

60 degrees
mississippi river road north/hennepin bridge/stone arch bridge/mississippi river road south

Scott and I ran together this morning. A tough run. Why? Not sure. Maybe it was the hills: the Franklin hill and the I-35W hill. Or maybe it was the temperature. Warmer with more sun. My body hasn’t adjusted to it being warmer yet. Had a few moments on the run where I wanted to stop and probably would have if Scott hadn’t been there to encourage me to keep going. My legs felt so tired. Not injured, just tired. Favorite part of the route was running downtown. Scott stopped at the halfway point to take this photo on the Hennepin Avenue bridge:

A post shared by Scott Anderson 📎 (@room34) on

may 12/3 MILES

mississippi river road north
57 degrees

Another great morning and another great run. Found myself composing poems to keep my rhythm. At first, the chant was pretty mundane: this is the path/that I like to/take all the time or this is the path/that I run on/most of the time. I came up with a variation on this that had 2 lines with four beats and one with three, like 2 measures with eighth notes and one with a triplet, but I can’t remember it. I played around a lot with how I matched my feet to the words. Sometimes I chanted a word–mostly in my head, but occasionally out loud–with each step. I did this when I wanted to go a little faster.

this is the path
step, step, step, step or ♩♩♩♩

When I wanted to go slower, I chanted one word for each two steps.

this step is step
the ♩ path ♩

So much fun. I’m a musician who played clarinet for over 20 years (only occasionally now), so I like to think about things musically. Rhythm and beats might become a new focus on some of my runs.

In the last mile, I came up with a different chant. It was inspired by Marie Howe’s discussion of poetry as counter-spell in her interview for On Being:

Poetry has a kind of trancelike quality still. It has the quality of a spell still. My daughter came home one day and she said — she did this whole snappy thing. “Don’t make me snap my fingers in a Z formation, explanation, talk to the hand, talk to the wrist. Ooh, girl, you just got dissed.” And it’s this whole thing the girls were doing when they were 11. And I said — a counter spell. It was like a counter spell for a mean girl. And I thought this is what we all need to walk around with, a handful of counter spells. And, and poetry, when you think of its roots, is that.

this is my charm
against all harm
this is my spell
as you can tell
it works real well
I mean really
but it did not
work in the rhyme

It’s a fun challenge to try and compose lines on the spot, while you’re running at a brisk pace (8:45 minute per mile, at that point). I wasn’t happy with the last two lines and how they didn’t work for the cadence. So, after I finished my run, I came up with these lines instead:

I hope you see
but it did not
fit in the slot

this is my spell
as you can tell
it works real well
I mean really
I hope you see
but it did not
fit in the slot

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 9/5 MILES

56 degrees
mississippi river road north

Wow! Another beautiful morning. Can it be like this all year? Wasn’t planning to, but as I ran towards the Franklin hill I started composing a poem in my head. Is it a poem? Or just a rhythm to repeat in order to create a steady cadence? Whatever it is, it was fun and it worked. My running felt strong and steady. And the chant helped me to slow down my heart rate after the tough hill. Because I didn’t want to forget it, as I was running, I recorded myself reciting it into my voice memo app.

There’s a path

there’s a path
there’s a path
that was closed
that was closed
up until
up until
late last fall
late last fall

there’s a path
that was closed
up until
late last fall
there’s a path
that was closed
up until
late last fall

then they opened it back up
then they opened it back up
to the runners thump thump
and the bikers thump thump
and the walkers thump thump
and the drivers thump thump

on the path
on the path
there is a hill
there is a hill
a steep, long hill
a steep, long hill

as you turn back up the hill
you’ll see a bridge at the top
look at it, look at it
never stop, never stop

there
was
a
hill
there
was
a
hill
that
I
climbed
up
that
I
climbed
up
now
that
I’m
done
slow
down
the
run
now
that
I’m
done
slow
down
the
run

may 8/REST

Today on my rest day, I updated my original training plan because it had a lot of errors. How had I not seen until yesterday that I had extra weeks in May and had added in two weeks of May 12? I also worked on two versions of a description of one of my classic running routes. One is a pithy and “straight” version, the other a creative story/set of directions for running the route:

FORD LOOP/5 MILES, 2 Versions

Version One:

Mississippi River road path south, Minneapolis side /Ford Parkway Bridge/Mississippi River road path north, St Paul side
/Lake Street bridge/
Mississippi River road path south

Version Two:

  1. Go south on the west mississippi river road for almost a mile and a half.
  2. Look for the shared path that travels up through the trees, just past Lock and Dam No. 1 and take it. Don’t worry it’s only a short hill and no one is waiting to jump out from the trees at you.
  3. Run on the bridge, over the mississippi and towards Highland Park in St. Paul.
  4. Either count the 101 concrete posts on the bridge as you run, like Scott does, or check the trees lining the river bank to see if they’ve reached their full color yet, like I do.
  5. At the end of the bridge, make a wide left and turn down the hill towards the east mississippi river road.
  6. Before crossing the river road to the path, check for cars. Don’t trust that car that has it’s signal on, it’s not actually turning left.
  7. Travel up the river, on the shared and sometimes precariously sloping path.
  8. Think happy thoughts as you hope your left knee doesn’t start hurting from the uneven grade.
  9. Watch out for the spazzy dog that lunges at you near the parking lot for the overlook. It looks like it could bite.
  10. Think about stopping to walk, but don’t, as you approach Stanford Avenue.
  11. Take the dirt path up above, instead of following the paved path as it dips down and slants precariously to the right. Just barely avoid tripping over the stone right before the dirt path converges with the paved path again even though you know it’s there and you’ve tripped over it before and reminded yourself repeatedly NOT to trip over it and hurt your foot like the olympic marathoner Deena Castor did in the documentary about marathons that you watched, when she stepped wrong on a pine cone in her backyard and had to run in the water for months and do tons of physical therapy.
  12. Brace yourself for the short but super steep hill near summit that you’re about to run up. Remind myself that “you can do this!!” But don’t get too distracted by pumping yourself up or you’ll step down wrong and hard on your right foot when you forget to veer to the left as the path slopes down by the entrance to the parking lot.
  13. At first, try to forget that you’re running up a steep hill. When that doesn’t work, tell yourself that it will all be over soon. And, when that doesn’t work, just grit your teeth, suck it up and focus on your breathing.
  14. Curve around the top of the hill on the weird part of the path where it follows the sharp bend in the river and triumphantly make your way down the other side, glancing at the faces of the runners struggling up on this side. Watch out for that nasty pothole and the point, at the bottom of the hill, when there’s a 3-4 inch drop-off, which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s enough to fuck up your ankle for weeks.
  15. Even though you used to cross over the river road and take the sidewalk up to the Lake Street bridge because it’s easier, run up the steps at the bottom of the bridge because you don’t want to get hit and killed by a distracted driver that doesn’t see you crossing in the pedestrian crosswalk, like the runner who was killed a few months ago.
  16. Reach the top of the steps and check to see if the eagle is perched on the top branch of the dead tree by the river again, like it used to be last year. It’s not. Will it ever come back?
  17. Head across the bridge, spending several minutes debating how you will handle the pedestrians you are slowly approaching who are cluelessly taking up the entire path: should you yell loudly “EXCUSE ME!” or, a little less forcefully, “on your left” or just clear your throat repeatedly?
  18. Opt for “EXCUSE ME!” and chuckle to yourself as the most clueless pedestrian jumps and awkwardly moves out of the way as you run by.
  19. Turn down towards the west river road, narrowly avoiding the large group of bikers biking up the sidewalk.
  20. Cross over and run on the path, towards home. The final stretch!
  21. Listen for the disembodied voices of those below you. Where are they? On the river, rowing? Hidden somewhere in the woods? Laughing on the river bank? You’ll never know.
  22. As the walking path nears one of your favorite parts of the path, by the old stone steps that take you down to the sandy beach on the river, check the progress of the leaves: how many are orange? are yellow? are red? are left on the trees?
  23. End at the 36th street parking lot.

may 7/5.15 MILES

51 degrees
franklin loop

Great run! Listened to headphones and my running playlist. Put it on shuffle:

Furr/Blitzen Trapper
Cheap Thrills/Sia
I’m Going to Go Back There Some Day/Gonzo
Skyfall/Adele
Hey Ladies/Beastie Boys
Another One Bites the Dust/Queen
Uptown Funk/Bruno Mars
The Best of Times/Styx
Don’t Dream It’s Over/Crowded House
Hot for Teacher/Van Halen
Baby/Justin Bieber
Learn to Fly/Foo Fighters
Pinball Number Count: 4/The Pointer Sisters

Running with a playlist can feel isolating; I can’t hear or interact as much with the world around me. But sometimes that isolation is necessary and liberating. Today, running with my playlist was great. It put me in this weird, dreamy state. And, when “Baby” by Justin Bieber came on around mile 4, I felt a huge smile spread through me, settling in the top of my head. As I ran, my head tingled, partly from my sweat mixing with the wind and partly from a euphoric feeling of openness and love. A runner’s high, of sorts, complements of Justin Bieber!

After my run, I had fun taking some of the lyrics from the songs on the list and turning them into poems. These are erasure poems, but I’m just posting them straight. For now.

1. Furr

wandered aimlessly
howling in song
listenin’ for the leaves
gently ushered in To a dream of running
through 
And
 Across ancient water

2. Cheap Thrills

Come on, come on,
dance
dance
have fun
high on the beat
love
love
love
feel
don’t need

3. I’m Going to Go Back There Someday

familiar,
Almost unreal,
far away
someday.

Sun calls.
I belong
I know the way.
someday.

midair. flyin’ invisible
not a word
space, place?
just someday.

someday.

4. Another One Bites the Dust

the sound of feet,
To the sound of the beat
I’m ready, yes, I’m ready
two feet Repeat

5. Baby

whoa
my heart
I believe
And I wanna play anything
dream always
amazing
my heart
Yeah Yeah Yeah

UPDATE:I turned the poems with hidden lyrics. When you hover over the poem, you can see the lyrics. Read them here.

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 5/4 MILES

59 degrees
mississippi river road path north

Yet another beautiful day. Sunny. Hardly any wind. Everything seemed to be moving gently, without hurry. Even the cars on the river road approached as if they were on a leisurely Sunday drive. Tried out my new running shoes for the first time. Excellent. Dependable. Cheap. Since I started running almost 6 years ago, I’ve worn Saucony Grid Cohesion shoes. $39.99. I think my first pair were version 4. Now I’m on version 10. An intense blue with coral stripes. Great for someone with a “neutral” (as opposed to pronate or supine) foot strike and a super wide (thanks, freakish bunions!) foot. I used to be envious of Scott and his fancy and brightly colored $100+ Nike shoes. Why can’t I find cool, high-tech shoes like that to fit my foot? But for the past several versions, my bottom-of-the-line basic Saucony’s have been available in more than boring white or gray. I’ve worn bright orange, teal and now a deep blue.

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about slow time and gave myself a task: write a poem using “syncing” unexpectedly. This morning, I started the poem; I finished it just after my run. It’s inspired by bits and pieces from Gros’ book and my experiences running.

how do you slow down time?

stop thinking
about things you must do!
right now!
before the day ends!
and the sun starts sinking
below the trees
and behind the garage.

start drinking
your coffee earlier
so that you can wake up
and get outside
before that cooing bird starts syncing
up with the rest of the chorus:
the barking dogs,
the rumbling cars,
the humming city.

move your legs.
first one, then the other.
head to a field or the woods or a path,
anywhere on the edge
of civilization.
maybe above a gorge or under a bridge?
walk or run,
both will work,
as long as you move
 without haste or urgency.

use your lungs:
breathe in deeply
through your nose,
with your diaphragm.
as your abdomen extends,
so does your invitation to the world
to enter and fill you
with wonder and gratitude.

feel your skin
as it absorb the trees,
the blue sky
the freshly cut grass
and releases toxic worries
through its pores.

Attend to the beauty of being
not doing anything but moving
,
listening,
looking,
feeling
time
slowly
drip.

may 4/REST

Last night, after his run, Scott said, “I think it’s time I get back to following my training plan.” I suppose I should too. I’ve been straying from my “official” plan for weeks. Adding extra miles, running on the days I’m supposed to be resting. So today my plan says I’m supposed to rest and I’m resting!

This morning, while searching for some other running-related topic–I think it was “writing a poem while running a marathon”, has anyone ever done that?— I encountered a poem by Rachel Zucker: Wish You Were Here You Are

wish you were here you are by Rachel Zucker

time isn’t the same for everyone there is
science behind this when you fly into space
you’re not experiencing time at the same rate
as someone tethered to Earth & someone
moving quickly experiences time at a slower rate
even on Earth so as I run through Central Park
at a speed not much faster than walking but slightly
I am shattering fields of time around me
& experiencing time differently from those I pass
last night I saw my son’s adult self &
in the same moment toddler self this really
happened he was playing “Wish You Were Here”
by Pink Floyd on his electric guitar & feeling it
he’s 11 & in between 2 kinds of time on the verge
of worlds I think we are too you & I who are old
young women it’s not all ‘downhill from here’ we are
here you are & I am & this beautiful moment our sons

There’s a lot that I’d like to think and write about this poem, but today I’m struck by her discussion of time while running. Recently, I’ve been thinking about running as almost timeless, when you’re able to access a space where “regular/linear” time doesn’t exist. You’re not experiencing or tracking time; you’re just moving through space. But that doesn’t seem accurate, partly because I’m rarely really not tracking time. Even though I’ve been trying to de-emphasize my pace, I still check it on my watch every mile or so (or more). And also because I’m giving a lot of attention to slowing down. Maybe timelessness is not what I’m aiming for, but a slowing down of time. A slower pace for a more relaxed space?

It’s interesting to contrast Zucker’s pithy portrayal of quick time with Frédérick Gros’ dismissal of speedy time in A Philosophy of Walking:

But haste and speed accelerate time, which passes more quickly, and two hours of hurry shorten a day. Every minute is torn apart by being segmented, stuffed to bursting. You can pile a mountain of things into an hour. Days of slow walking are very long: they make you live longer, because you have allowed every hour, every minute, every second to breathe, to deepen, instead of filling them up by straining the joints (37).

Slow time is different, Gros adds. “Slowness means cleaving perfectly to time, so closely that the seconds fall one by one, drop by drop like the steady dripping of a tap on stone (37)”.

I want to do some more experimental writing about slow time. Maybe a list of things that are slow? or a poem that involves using syncing when you expect sinking, like the sun was syncing?

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.

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.  

may 1/REST

Another day of rest, partly because of the cold/rainy/windy weather and partly because I want to give my legs some more time off after the race. Thinking about what I read last week: an excerpt from George Sheehan’s Running and Being that I first encountered in late January.

Sheehan writes about what he tries to do when he’s running: “I must listen and discover forgotten knowledge. Must respond to everything around me and inside me as well. Poets do this naturally. A really good poet, wrote James Dickey, is like an engine with the governor off. And it’s no good for people to say that life should not mean that much to a poet. The really good poet, said Dickey, has no choice; that’s the way he is (3)”.

I was curious about his reference to Dickey and the “engine with the governor off” because I don’t see feeling life this intensely as healthy. At least not for me. I become too lost, too overwhelmed and too much for myself and the people I love. I looked up the phrase, and found two instances of Dickey using it. In the first, found in Sorties, Dickey reflects on his writing process. In the second, found in Self-Interviews, he discusses James Agee. Hover over the quotes to reveal the erasure poem.

“…working like an engine with the governor off it, not only during the conscious portions of the day, but during sleep as well…Twenty-four hours a day the mind is associating so quickly, ideas are occurring and recurring so frequently, things are cross-fertilizing each other in such an amazing variety of ways, that the human body cannot really bear up under the associations and the thought processes of a “normal” mind. But there is nothing more exhilarating or exciting. It is the thing that makes middle age worth it all, for, as the result of long discipline, I know what I am doing, and I know, pretty well, what to do with what my mind gives me. Not with absolute certainty; that is of course impossible. But with a fair degree of predictability. And who on earth ever has that, besides artists?”

“he did have this quality of complete participation, of commitment of the self to whatever it was he contemplated. I think this commitment is tremendously important to a writer. It’s because of that writers are so unstable. Emotionally at least, a really good poet is like an engine with the governor off. It’s no good for people to say that life shouldn’t mean that much to a poet. By god, it does mean that much, and people will just have to accept it. The really good poet has no choice; that’s the way he is.”