march 9/5.25 MILES

26 degrees
mississippi river road path

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

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

march 4/10 MILES

34 degrees
mississippi river road path

My second week in a row running 10 miles. This one was a little rougher than the last. Halfway up the big hill near Franklin, I had to stop and walk for a few minutes. Partly because I had already been running for over 7 miles, including about 2 miles directly into the wind, and partly because I was running about 30 seconds too fast per mile. I’m pretty sure I know why I was running faster. At the beginning of my run I entered the river road path just ahead of two women running with a dog. They were really LOUD and they seemed to be hovering behind me, not fast enough to pass me, but fast enough to always be nearby so that I couldn’t block out their annoying voices. The next time something like this happens, I should stay slow and just turn up my playlist, letting the Foo Fighters drown them out.

march 3/5.25 MILES

19 degrees/feels like 8
mississippi river road path

No headphones again today. Enjoyed experiencing the quiet calm of running by the river, but even though it was calm, the path was still teeming with life and activity. I’m struck by the abundance and variety of sounds.

Variety of Sounds, a list

  • Birds that pecked, cawed, squawked, chirped incessantly, honked, cooed and rooted around in the dry underbrush on the edge of the bluff.
  • Cars that plodded, swooshed, revved, thundered, puttered and hummed as they ambled on the river road or passed overhead on the bridges I ran under or rushed hurriedly on the freeway that I could only faintly hear at the halfway point of my run.
  • Branches that thrashed against the iron fence when I accidentally hit them. That cracked under my feet as I ran by. That rustled vigorously when a squirrel climbed on them in the tall tree across the road and more gently when the wind caught hold of their dry and brittle leaves.
  • Critters that barked, screeched, thumped and noisily plodded through the vegetation near the riverbank.
  • Sandy debris that crunched under my right foot and rubbed against a small pebble that had become lodged in the slightly worn tread of my shoe as I ran up the small hill, just past the Lake Street bridge and that cracked under the heavy wheels of the cars that drove over it. Mulched debris that absorbed most of the sound of my striking foot, converting its usual sharp thwack into a dull thud.  

How much of my run was occupied with listening for these sounds? Not as much as you might imagine. I still managed to think about whether or not I was going too fast, why my nose was running so much, if it was better to do a snot rocket or blow my nose into my buff (didn’t have to think about that one too long; I’ve only tried shooting snot once and it was a gross failure) and how to swing my left arm in a way that loosened up the tension in my shoulder but that didn’t make me look like the woman that passed me running down the Franklin hill who had good form–a nice kick and arms that swung by her sides, but still managed to be a spaz.

feb 27/4 MILES

36 degrees
west mississippi river road /lake street bridge/marshall hill

Ran with headphones today, listening to a playlist. Have decided that running without headphones is better for connecting to the running and for thinking. Music can distract and isolate me from the external world. Sometimes that’s good; I like to feel separated. But not all of the time.

Ran past the spot where a runner was killed just last Wednesday; hit by a “distracted driver” (cell phone? drugs? alcohol?) while crossing the street in the crosswalk. Very sad and scary. This is one of my regular routes and I’ve run in that crosswalk dozens of times. Not today. From now on, I’m running on the steps that lead directly up to the bridge instead of crossing the road and taking the easier climb. With my macular dystrophy, crossing roads is already dangerous enough. I can’t always trust that I’ll see a car coming. I don’t need the added risk of distracted drivers.

feb 26/5 MILES

32 degrees
mississippi river road walking path

A beautiful Sunday morning. Decided to challenge myself to running without headphones. Focused on listening.

Things I heard while running, a list

  • Crows cawing
  • Other birds chirping and cooing
  • A woodpecker pecking
  • Geese honking
  • The swoosh of cars as they drive by on the river road
  • The worn wheels of a car, plodding along the river road
  • Some funky music, playing from a radio on a bike
  • The sharp thud of my shoes on the paved path
  • The dull thud of my shoes on dirt and debris on the path
  • The crunch of my shoes on salt and gravel on the path
  • My breathing, usually slow and measured, occasionally quick and labored, like when climbing the Franklin hill
  • My zipper pull, rhythmically banging against my jacket as I run
  • An airplane, faint and far above my head
  • The wind rushing by my ears
  • The wind rustling in the dead leaves that never fell off the trees this past fall
  • Cars thumping above my head as I pass under the Lake Street Bridge
  • The quick and unexpected laughter of a woman on a path below me
  • Bike wheels, rapidly approaching
  • Phantom steps from runners who seem to be gaining on me, yet never pass, managing to turn off onto another path before reaching me. The crunch of their shoes is so slight that I wonder if they even exist, or if I’m imagining them
  • The clanging of a dog’s chain
  • A walker talking quietly on a phone
  • Children faintly laughing

That’s all I can remember.

Here’s a quick video I took just after finishing my run. Not the greatest quality, but effective at reminding me of what I saw when I was done running.

feb 23/10 MILES

33 degrees
mississippi river road walking path/stone arch bridge

I did it. 10 miles without stopping. I have run this distance before. I’ve even raced it four times. But doing a 10 mile training run still seems like a big deal, especially one with so many huge hills. I experimented with fueling by eating a mini pretzel starting at 30 minutes in and then every 10 minutes. That worked. Will it work during a marathon? I doubt it; that’s a lot of 10 minutes and a lot of pretzels.

Currently reading Jen A. Miller’s Running, a love story. Miller mentions Katherine Jeffers Schori, so I looked her up. In an interview with Runner’s World, Schori says this when asked if she feels running helps with her work:

Absolutely. It’s focusing for me. In my tradition we might talk about it as body prayer. It’s a meditative experience at its best. It’s a sort of emptying of the mind.

Body prayer. I like this idea. I want to learn more about it.

feb 18/9 MILES

59 degrees
mississippi river road

Another unusually warm day. So warm that I wore shorts. Shorts in February in Minnesota. Weird. Saw my shadow again today. She was moving all around. Sometimes ahead of me. Sometimes just to the side. And sometimes way down in the gorge. Tried eating pretzels during my run. Starting 30 minutes in, a mini-pretzel every 15 minutes. Felt okay while I was running but now I’m totally wiped. Did I not fuel enough or am I wiped out because I ran about 30 seconds per mile too fast? Tons of people out walking and biking today. Mostly not a problem, but some people did annoy me, taking over the whole path or whizzing by without warning. I don’t think a single bike called out “on your left.” I must be mellowing out, because that didn’t really bother me.

feb 15/5.3 MILES

23 degrees/feels like 15
mississippi river road path

3 stories about the sun

one

The sun was bright today. So bright that as I ran away from it, towards the big hill on Franklin which is 1/2 mile from the bottom to the top (I measured it today), it cast my shadow and I was able to watch myself running. Which Sara-self was this runner just ahead of me? Was it Joyce Carol Oates’ “ghost-self” from To Invigorate Literary Mind, Invigorate Literary Feet, leading me to imagine new worlds and new stories and new ways of being?

two

 At the bottom of the big hill, directly facing the sun, I fumbled with my sunglasses before beginning my 1/2 mile climb. The glare, combined with the fog that had already accumulated on the glasses, blinded me and as I focused on the effort of running up the hill, I was transported to some other existence, almost floating above time and space, that cars and other runners couldn’t access.

three

 Running on the bluff, above the river, I spotted the sun shimmering on the water. It remained always just ahead of me, no matter how fast I ran, leading me to the parking lot where I end most of my runs.

feb 9/5.4 MILES

15 degrees/feels like 5
minnehaha parkway/ford bridge/mississippi river road path (st. paul side)/lake street bridge/mississippi river road path (minneapolis side)

Cold today, warm tomorrow. A temperature jump of about 30 degrees. Strange weather. Bundled up for the run with 2 pairs of running tights, 1 long sleeve shirt, 3! jackets (one which is way too big for me), 2 pairs of gloves, 1 pair of sunglasses, 1 stocking cap, a buff and a hood. Overkill? Perhaps.

Plus my headphones, tucked away under my hood, with my running playlist (somewhat) softly playing. All of that made me feel like I was not quite in the world, running through a haze of very cold air and too bright sky while listening to Barry Manilow congratulate himself for making it through the rain. I like that feeling. And I liked my run. I wasn’t even bothered by the hill on the St. Paul side just after Summit avenue. I used to dread that hill.

 

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.