feb 6/5.2 MILES

32 degrees
minnehaha parkway/ford bridge/mississippi river road path (st. paul side)/lake street bridge/mississippi river road path (minneapolis side)

I am supposed to run 4 miles today but a small section of my route is closed for construction, so I mixed it up a little. Even though I just ran 8 miles yesterday, 5+ miles again today wasn’t too bad.

I spent all morning doing research on running and trying to figure out my running syllabus. There’s a lot of things to think/read/talk about with running that don’t just involve training or equipment/products or how you feel when you run. I’ve been thinking of focusing on studying and practicing different forms of writing and storytelling about running, like: memoirs, race reports, my running stories, personal essays. I tried looking for syllabi that studied the writing of runners, but I can’t seem to find anything. I guess I’ll have to dig a bit deeper.

In the meantime, here’s a quotation I found in my research that resonates with me and how my thinking/writing and running often work:

Australian writer Benjamin Law said in an interview in 2013: “Writing involves you being completely, revoltingly sedentary while your brain works overtime. But when you exercise, it’s the complete reverse – you more or less become brain dead while your body works like a bastard to not drown/collapse on the treadmill/die. Then after I exercise, I always come back to my laptop and it’s like I’m seeing the story for the first time. I know what I need to do.”

source

addendum: after re-reading this passage, I realize that I don’t agree with it. Writing doesn’t have to be completely sedentary and running isn’t about being brain dead or “working like a bastard to not collapse.” Part of my project is about rethinking my running as more than physical (over)exertion and rethinking my writing as more than mental (over)stimulation.

feb 5/8 MILES

25 degrees
mississippi river road path

Ugh. Today seemed harder than past long runs. Not sure why. Maybe it was because I averaged about 20-30 seconds faster per mile. I should slow down. It was also harder because I experimented with “fueling” during the run. Around miles 5 and 6 I ate a date. Not a good idea. They were hard to chew and swallow and by mile 7 I started feeling sick (and in urgent need of the porta potty at mile 8).

I guess I’ll have to try some other food. Some suggestions that I’ve heard:

  • pretzels
  • cliff bar
  • peanut butter and jelly sandwich cut up
  • animal crackers
  • kids’ fruit purees (like go go squeeze, maybe?)

It’s a bit strange to be thinking about fueling. Up until now, I’ve avoided making running too fiddly. I’ve just wanted to go out and run.

While running, I listened to How to Be Amazing, episode 50 with Amani Al-Khatahtbeh. Wow, she is amazing and so articulate. Love her vision of intersectional feminism! I’m looking forward to checking out her site: MuslimGirl.net

feb 3/4 MILES

70 degrees
u.s. bank stadium

Scott and I had a great run tonight at the U.S. Bank Stadium. On some Fridays, they open up the upper deck of the brand new Vikings stadium to runners. We only had to run 9 laps to complete 4 miles. Much better than the track we usually run at it where 4 miles = 24 laps. After the run, Scott said it felt like “his easiest 4 mile run ever.” I consider this a huge victory. Scott and I rarely run together. In the past, he has complained that I run too fast and am too intense; it stresses him out. Not this time. I actually made him slow down because I felt he was running too fast! I’m proud of myself for figuring out how to slow down and to keep a steady pace.

addendum: Almost forgot. While we were running, they played, rather loudly, music from the 1920s, 30s and 40s, including Bing Crosby. Scott and I decided on a new test to see if we were running too fast, the “sing with Bing” test. As long as we could croon along with Bing by singing loudly and with much vibrato, our pace was good.

9 times around = 4 miles!

A photo posted by Scott Anderson 📎 XXV.4 (@room34) on

jan 27/9.3 MILES

28 degrees
mississippi river road bike path

9.3 miles. It’s not quite the 10 that I’m supposed to do, but I’ll take it. This is the longest I’ve run (distance and time) without stopping for more than a year. I’m tired. I should have brought some water and a snack–I’m thinking of trying dates or fig newtons–to eat in the middle of my run. But I ran it. And I’ll run it again next week. Maybe on my scheduled day or, like this week, on the day that works out the best.

As I ran, I listened to two podcasts. First, On Being/ Krista Tippet’s interview with Eula Biss. Biss writes about racism and white guilt/debt/privilege. I’ve read one of her books, her great article about Little House on the Prairie and her essay for the NY Times on White Debt. I like her writing and appreciate her willingness to engage with whiteness. And second, This American Life with several stories about Trump on the eve of the inauguration.

Almost the only time that I listen to podcasts is when I’m running. Lots of This American Life. Some Radiolab. Most of How to Be Amazing. I listened to the entire first season of Serial while running on the missisissippi river road path. The stories in those podcasts are so inextricably tied with my runs that on the rare occasion that I listen to an episode again, I immediately picture exactly where I was in my run. I like that.

jan 26/4 MILES

28 degrees/feels like 17 degrees
minnehaha creek path/mississippi river road bike path
14 mph wind

I added in the wind this time because I really felt it. When I first started, I was running directly into it and the sun. The harsh wind and the bright light made me tear up so much that I had trouble seeing.

After the snow yesterday and the slight drop in temperature, the paths were icy. When I first started to run outside in the winter, a few years ago, I was surprised to discover that running on ice is much easier than walking on it. Even so, it was slippery today.

In Philosophical Investigations, Ludwig Wittgenstein discusses smooth ice:

We have got on to slippery ice where there is no friction and so in a certain sense the conditions are ideal, but also, just because of that, we are unable to walk. We want to walk: so we need friction. Back to the rough ground!

I don’t like running on rough ground–I have yet to try trail running–but I like the idea that we need to feel that ground beneath us.

In a different way, I see Gardner getting at this idea in one of his entries in Poverty Creek Journal (which I just happened to be writing about earlier today in my weekly assignment):

1/ JANUARY 6, 2012

Finishing up the run this morning, cresting the ridge above the pond into a sudden blinding sun reflecting off the ice. As if the light were alive, preparing to speak. And then turning ordinary again as I came down the ridge and the angle changed and the light pulled back into itself. My right calf is still a little stiff from where I strained it last week doing mile repeats in the cold. Just enough to not let me out of my body. When Emily Dickinson writes about Jacob, she never mentions his limp, even though that awareness of limits is everywhere in her work. Instead, she writes about his bewilderment–cunning Jacob, refusing to let go until he had received a blessing and then suddenly realizing, as “light swung…silver fleeces” across the “Hills beyond,” that he had been wrestling all night with God. He had seen God’s face and lived. The limp is what we take away. It means there must be a way back. It almost goes without saying (3).

Even as we try to transcend our bodies while running, we are constantly reminded of our limits. We are bodies. We need that reminder to ground us and to keep us from getting too lost in the dreamlike state that running creates. Gardner discusses the dreamlike state in several other entries. 

listened to podcast: how to be amazing, ep 49

jan 23/4 MILES

35 degrees
minnehaha creek path/mississippi river road bike path

A gray day. Warmish, but gloomy. Days like today make it hard for me to see. It’s not really dark outside, just overcast. But because of my macular dystrophy, overcast feels a lot darker. And it makes everything look fuzzy, like I’m seeing it through a slightly dirty piece of plastic.

Running really isn’t a problem when my vision feels limited like this. I can see well enough. And, since I’m mostly running on paths, I only rarely have to worry about cars. But it still feels…weird.

I wish I could articulate the sense of disconnection I feel when my sight is fuzzy. It’s as if I’m running in my own bubble. I’d like to work on developing my other senses to compensate for this disconnection and to embrace experiencing the world differently: to hear it or smell it or touch it, not just see it.

I think I’ll challenge myself to try this out.

jan 20/4 MILES

37 degrees
mississippi river road bike path

A great run. Still sloppy, with big puddles, but nice. Warmish. Overcast. Not much wind. A slow, easy pace. As I ran, my eyes fixed on the path ahead and everything seemed fuzzy. Was this caused by my vision problems, or just because I was tuning things out as I was running? I’m not sure, but I liked the feeling of the fuzziness. I was dazed, in a fog. A bit besides myself.

jan 19/8.5 MILES

40 degrees!
mississippi river road bike path

I’m scheduled to do this run, my long run for the week, on Saturday, but it’s supposed to rain (RAIN!?) tomorrow and Saturday and I don’t want to run for almost 90 minutes in chilly rain. My love of the messiness has it’s limits. 

I ran along the river road path, towards downtown Minneapolis. There are two monster hills on this path, around miles 4 and 5. These hills are fairly steep and long and intimidating. They’re part of the Mississippi Gorge and lead you from the bottom of the gorge to the top of the bluff. Today, they weren’t so bad. I didn’t want to cry or collapse when I got to the top. I just kept running slowly and steadily and pretty soon my body had forgotten that it had just climbed for about 1/3 of a mile.

know there is a lesson to be learned (or at least articulated and analyzed) in my success in climbing those hills. And I’m sure that it’s significant for my thinking about undisciplining myself and breaking (down) bad habits. But right now, after running 8.5 miles, I’m too tired to think of it or write about it. Maybe I should rethink when I write these entries so that they’re not right after my run.

jan 18/3 MILES

40 degrees!
minnehaha creek path/mississippi river road bike path

Warm. Sloppy. Goopy. Wet. It’s great for my spirit when it warms up in the winter, but not great for the running paths. Especially if those paths have, until yesterday, been covered with snow. Huge puddles and almost melted chunks of snow that seep into your shoes, soaking your socks. Yuck. But I’m not complaining. I can handle the mess. It’s not that hard to run through puddles and it’s easier than running on a trail filled with loosely-packed snow or jagged shards of ice.

Besides, running in messy conditions reminds of a time when I refused to get messy. It was at a soccer game when I was 8. Here’s how I wrote about it in a Cowbird story:

When I was 8, I played on a co-ed soccer time. I loved it. Even though I haven’t played since I was 12, I still have dreams about being out on that soccer field. Before one particular game, it rained…a lot. The field was a giant mud pit. Most of the players, 8 year-old boys and girls, were sliding everywhere and gleefully charging into the mud. Not me. My sisters had promised to take me to the video arcade (this was 1982) after the game so I didn’t want to get dirty. I’m sure that I had fun at that arcade, but when I think back on that day (in the fall? spring?), I feel regret. Why didn’t I go into that mud? It looked like so much fun.

Perhaps running into the mess (instead of avoiding it), lessens my regret about what Sara, age 8 was unwilling to do.

Sara, age 8.