march 7/4 MILES

65 degrees
ywca track

I’ve been trying to run in windier conditions but today’s 25 mph wind was too much. Decided to run at the Y track with Scott before lunch. Experimented with tempo, running fast and slow. I can tell my legs are getting stronger; the run felt good.

Early on in the run, a group of preschoolers were on the track. Tethered together with a rope, they walked the perimeter of the track. They were led by two caregivers and (mostly) stayed out of the way as I ran by. Sometimes when I run around the track in the evening, I encounter little kids who want to race me. A small part of me wishes I appreciated this and that I could enjoy running beside them, but I don’t. I find it irritating and try to avoid it. Most of me is okay with my grumpy attitude.

After the run, went to library and picked up four more books that I requested for this run! project:

So far, I’ve read a wide range of things about running.

what I’ve been reading, a list

  • personal narratives about why runners run
  • race reports
  • training tips
  • academic essays on running and philosophy/feminism/rhetoric
  • dissertations on running and identity/feminism/narrative
  • interviews about running habits
  • memoirs about learning to love running
  • popular books about running as sacred
  • anthologies of running stories
  • tweets and news reports about elite athletes
  • fictional accounts of runners
  • stories about pacing and/or coaching other runners
  • accounts of suffering injuries; accounts of recovering from injuries
  • essays about running and grieving.

These readings have come in many forms.

  • books, almost all of which were checked out from my public library
  • blog posts on online journals, running sites, individual runners’ sites
  • tweets
  • newspaper and magazine articles
  • online short stories in literary journals
  • academic articles
  • dissertation chapters

I’m trying to develop a reading/researching plan for myself, in the form of a syllabus. It includes weekly reading lists, assignments and running challenges. Not sure how well it’s working because I keep changing it up. I’m all over the place with my reading, but that’s what makes it fun and undisciplined.

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 21/4 MILES

41 degrees
mississippi river road walking path

I’m in the midst of reading Rachel Toor’s Personal Record. Just before heading out for my run, I came to her chapter, “Speed Goggles.” In it, she writes about her attraction to men who are fast runners; regardless of how they actually look (too skinny, gangly) or act (“uncivilized”), the fact that they run fast makes them attractive to her.

Toor understands going fast to be a mark of commitment and excellence, and what is necessary to be a good runner. Toor wants to be a good runner. She writes:

I have always been a good student, a type A cliché. It I was going to do something, I was going to be good at it….I was never going to jog for my health. I didn’t care all that much about my health, having always been healthy. If I needed at some point to lose weight, there were easier ways to do–starvation, say. No, with running as with all else, I wanted to be good (26).

I thought about Toor’s emphasis on being fast as I got ready to leave the house and then during my run. What do I think about speed? Do I want to be fast? Mostly, I’m taking the opposite perspective: I want to go slow. Being willing to slow down, to stop going so fast in training, is more of a mark of commitment and the willingness to focus on a bigger goal: to run longer–in a race, but in years as a runner, without stopping to walk and without injury.

I also thought about this idea of being good. What does it mean to be good at running? Is it necessarily tied to winning races or going faster and regularly achieving new PRs? If so, I guess I don’t want to be good. At least I don’t think I do. It’s complicated. I like going faster in races and I do have PR goals, but they don’t define the joy I get from running.

I feel stuck in writing this log entry. Too much to think about in terms of my dislike of competition–especially aggressive competitors– but my fear that I’m more competitive than I admit; my stubborn dedication to not being too good at things; my extreme reluctance in ever sharing my times with others, which I attribute to not wanting to brag but wonder if it has more to do with not allowing myself to be proud of my accomplishments.  

feb 20/3.2 MILES

51 degrees
mississippi river road walking path

Managed to finish running before the rain came.  Rain in February?! Was pleased with my easy run; slowing down for the past two months is working. My run seems easier and more relaxed and my heart rate isn’t getting so high. I enjoy the challenge of going slower. Fighting against pride and an investment in being fast. Cultivating humility. Relishing the run, not just rushing through it to achieve another training goal.

My marathon training, much like most things in my life, is a combination of focused dedication to building up helpful habits (in this case, running slower in order to run farther and to avoid injury) and breaking down harmful ones (like running too fast in order to be fast and to be faster than others).

Is this a combination of becoming disciplined (building up) and being undisciplined (breaking down)? With my interest in virtue ethics and the ethical effects of accumulated practices, and my virtual identity as undisciplined, I’m fascinated by this question and the difference between becoming and being here. In my training, I’m giving the edge to being undisciplined, focusing my attention on breaking bad habits and being vigilant against developing new ones that could be just as bad, or worse. This undisciplining work enables me to become disciplined–or focused, dedicated, committed?– in my practices.

 

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 12/8.6 MILES

30 degrees
ford bridge and franklin bridge loops
17 mph wind

Not too bad of a run while it was happening, but I’m wiped out now that I’m done. I ran the first few miles a little faster than I should. I need to work on (almost) always starting slow in the early miles.

Towards the end of the run, felt like I was floating just above the path. Not fully outside of my body, but not quite in it either.

Almost forgot to write about the dogs:

  • Encountered at least three dogs, in two different locations, roaming–more like bounding–free, with no owners in sight
  • Witnessed two different dogs spazzing out and trying to bolt away from their owners, who were frantically trying to hold on to their leashes and calm the dogs down

Was it the wind and slightly warmer weather that caused such dog spazziness?