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.