April 20/6 MILES

40 degrees
mississippi river road path north

A great run. Took it a little faster than I probably should have, with my fastest mile being up the Franklin hill! Stopped and walked to lower my pulse for about 20 seconds midway through mile 4. That was a good idea. Finished strong with hardly any hamstring pain.

Had a lot of great thoughts about the runner’s high and the piece of writing that I had started working on right before my run. I’m including it below. Versions 1-5 were written before my run. Versions 6 and 7 were written right after returning from the run.

The Runner’s High, 7 Versions

Version One

Sometimes when I run
I breathe in deeply.
As my chest rises
so does my heart
and my head
and my shoulders.

I feel vast
expansive
generous.
I am open
to love
to joy
to possibility.

I want to spread my arms wide
and embrace the world.
But I don’t.
It takes up too much space
and would alter my gait.
Instead, I shape my feelings into a smile
that spreads across my face
and extends all the way to my toes.

VERSION TWO

Sometimes when my run is going well, a sense of euphoria spreads through my body. As it extends to the tips of my fingers and to the pit of my stomach, I feel an urge to spread my arms wide, throw back my head and run without fear.

VERSION THREE

Sometimes when I run, I am transformed into someone who feels joy first, not fear. Who is open, not closed. Who wants to spread their arms wide, embracing the world. When I feel like this, I smile to myself. A smile so deep that it reaches all the way to my toes.

VERSION FOUR

What does the runner’s high feel like? It feels like Love. Joy. Generosity. Possibility. An open door. A vulnerable body, stretching out and dissolving into the vastness of the world.

VERSION FIVE

The runner’s high. Feelings of love, joy, generosity and possibility that transform vulnerability into openness, enabling the body to stretch out and dissolve into the vastness of the universe.

VERSION SIX

I want to spread my arms wide and embrace the world. But I don’t. It takes up too much space. It would alter my gait. Besides, 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.

VERSION SEVEN

To be combined with Version One. 

Other times when I run
I breathe in deeply
I fill my lungs with the world
while rhythmically pumping my arms.

I feel strong
fluid
effortless.
I am flying
over the path
above the world
under the dazzling blue sky.

I take in everything and become nothing
as I breathe in          and out                        .

april 18/3.1 MILES

54 degrees
mississippi river road path north

Ran in the rain. Didn’t mean to. Thought front had passed. It hadn’t. At the start, everything was just wet, still dripping from the heavy drizzle that had been going on all morning. Feeling the water on my nose, thought it was more dripping, then realized it had started to rain again. I don’t mind running in the rain, especially when I have on my favorite baseball cap and a jacket. Then I hardly notice it.

Not too far from the start of my run on the river road path, the walking/running path dips below the road, down to the ridge of the gorge. In the summer, when the leaves have returned to the trees, it’s a sea of green and nothing else. But from late October until mid-May, the trees are mostly bare. You can see how the earth steeply slopes down to a small bit of woods, with a floor of dirt and dead leaves and a worn path that leads to the river and a sandy beach. You can reach this path by walking down some stone steps that are closed during the winter. I remember the first time I finally noticed this section of the path. It was during early spring a few years ago, after the snow had melted but before anything had started to grow again. It was early morning and a fog was lingering on the tree branches. It was eerie and beautiful. A month or so later, my daughter discovered the steps, which had always been there, in plain sight, but I had ignored, and we hiked down them to the river. Now, it’s one of my favorite places. Today, there wasn’t fog there, just a soft, steady rain, but it was still beautiful. The grayish light made the colors of the early spring trees more intense: a rich brown mixed with vibrant shades of light green. It reminded me of some of the illustrations in one of my favorite books as a kid: Oh What a Busy Day! by Gyo Fujikawa.

Mundane things to note from the run: maybe due to the rain, my watch stopped tracking my run 1.26 miles in. My left leg started to feel heavy again, towards the end of the run. I probably should take at least two days off to let it rest. The wind was bad, about 17 or 18 mph. Running north, it was at my back. When I turned around, it swirled around me and then pushed the rain in my face.

Hover over the log entry to reveal the erasure poem. For more on this poem, see An Unexpected Erasure.

note: The walk down the steps to the river is featured in a short digital story that I created a few years ago.

april 15/2.5 MILES

80 degrees
ywca track

The rain and threat of thunderstorms forced Scott and I to go to the y track. It was hot and steamy and crowded. Even so, for the first twenty minutes it was great. I ran slow and did not care if other runners passed me. I wasn’t even bothered when Scott passed me.  I kept my heart rate down and felt relaxed. Then a class descended on the track and took over. They started with a burst of speed and then slowed way down, first to a jog and then to a walk. Dodging them required speeding up and weaving. My pulse rate soared and I decided to stop. Partly because I was going faster than I wanted, but mostly because I was annoyed that the spell of my happy, relaxed run had been broken. I was not annoyed with the class; they seemed new to running and a bit overwhelmed. I think I heard one class member call out to the other in fear and disbelief when her instructor told them to run a mile: “Is he fucking kidding me?”

Hover over the entry to uncover the erasure poem.

april 14/5.25 MILES

54 degrees
franklin loop

My right hamstring and calf are a bit sore. They have been all week. But, this run was better than my run on Wednesday when I took it out too fast and had to walk for a few minutes between miles 2 and 3. As always, heard lots of chirping birds and the wind gently shaking the leaves. Lots of cars. The hum of the city. And some random men’s voices yelling, or was it cheering?, from deep in the gorge, near the river bank. When I first heard them I thought they were on the water, rowing. I looked around, but couldn’t see any boats*. Later, when I returned to the same area, near the end of my run, I heard them again. This time there were more voices. Who were they? What were they doing down there? Were they just below me, or on the other side of the river? As I ran above, I scanned the gorge, trying to find them. I never did.

*An alternative name for a competitive rowing boat is a shell. I know this because I just looked it up. I’m a bit disappointed. I was hoping for a more interesting name. I do like the names of the different rowers, like the Engine room (the rowers in the middle of the boat), also known as the Power house or the Hammer (someone who is known for power more than technique). I’ve never rowed, other than on the rowing machines at 7 Flags Fitness Center in high school, but I’m pretty sure I’d be a Hammer.

Hover over the first paragraph to reveal an erasure poem with advice for this beautiful spring day.

april 12/3.15 MILES

47 degrees
mississippi river road path north

Another gray day. Decided to listen to my playlist to motivate and distract me. Today distraction was helpful. While listening to music, I generated some interesting ideas for writing. Here are two:

idea one: Write about vision fogginess. As I was running up the hill under the Lake Street Bridge, everything looked foggy, like when my goggles fog up during a swim. I’d like to add details about learning to swim during open swim without being able to see, which occurred before my vision diagnosis. Learning this was more useful than I could have anticipated.

idea two: Mash up song lyrics from my running playlist with moments from the run.

Here are the songs that I listened to during my short and fairly quick (maybe too quick) run:

  • CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!/Justin Timberlake
  • At the Ballet/cast from A Chorus Line
  • I Can Do That/Wayne Cilento, A Chorus Line
  • Grease/Franki Vali
  • Hey Ladies/Beastie Boys
  • Furr/Blitzen Trapper
  • Without You/Usher
  • Skyfall/Adele
  • Sorry/Justin Bieber

I started working on this idea and as I listened to lyrics, I ended up crafting a poem out of them alone, instead of adding my own thoughts about running. Does it work? Not sure, but it made me think and it was fun! I’ll try this again. 
I got this feeling, inside my bones
like a metronome
Nothing flat
only real
all-knowing
I heard my mother
I am lost
I won’t run, I won’t fly
This is the end where we start
Put your hand in my hand.
You know I try, but I don’t do too well
I know you know I’ll go, I’ll go and then you go,
you go
I know
all 

I could keep tweaking this but I’m afraid that I’ll edit it down too much. I’ll leave it like this…for now. The line about hearing my mother seems to shape the poem. She died in 2009 and oftentimes I think about her when I’m running. I’ve learned to live with my grief, but it haunts me, not always in bad ways. Sometimes it comforts me to have that grief. When my memories of my mom are fuzzy, I’m still connected to her through it.

Update: I edited the poem a little more and coded it so that when you hover over the text it reveals that full lyrics and song title. I also discovered that this type of poem is a Cento. Read the revised version here.

april 9/4 MILES

57 degrees
mississippi river road north

This morning, as I approached the river road path, I encountered the turn around point for a 10 mile race. The leaders of the race were just arriving. For a few seconds, I ran alongside them: me on the path, them on the road. Then they glided past me. As I kept running, I saw more runners. First a trickle, then a downpour. In spite of myself, I ran too quickly. I wasn’t trying to keep up, I was just swept up in the energy of all the bodies, charged with excitement and fatigue. Eventually, I was able to steady myself and slow down.

 

Hover over the log entry to read the hidden erasure poem.

april 8/10 MILES

53 degrees
mississippi river road path south/lake nokomis/mississippi river road path north

10 miles on a beautiful morning. Wasn’t sure if I’d run the 10 today or tomorrow, but once I started I knew that this run was my long run. I can tell that all the training and the increased mileage has made me more mentally tough. I used to spend significant portions of my longish (6+ miles) fighting against doubts and the desire to stop or start walking. Not today. There was no question that I would be running all 10 miles.

As always, heard lots of birds and fragments of conversation. Encountered lots of runners, most of whom passed me. In the last few miles, I was passed by 3 people twice who were running in the same direction as me. I noticed one of them stopping, so I expected he might pass me again, but the other two were a mystery. When did I pass each of them? Where and why did they stop? Maybe they didn’t stop. Maybe my brain was just on a loop, seeing the same people over and over again. Maybe, having run for over an hour, I had entered a new reality, where time didn’t progress but looped. If I had run any longer, would they have passed me a third time?

Random Memories of the Run

  • About 5 minutes into the run, heard a dog barking repeatedly, almost rhythmically. Decided to count the intervals between barks. Of course, the dog stopped barking, just as I started counting.
  • While running right by Minnehaha creek, heard a splash and a snort. Tried to see what it was but couldn’t. I wonder what critter made that noise? A muskrat? Beaver?
  • Encountered a bunch of runners just about to start a group run as I crested the hill between the Lock and Dam no. 1 and Wabun park about two miles into my run. Encountered the same group having finished their run and saying good-bye as I returned to Wabun on my way home. I wonder, how long of a run had they done? And, did they remember seeing me just before they started? Did they wonder the same about me?
  • Saw a woman walking her dog by the creek in a winter jacket and stocking cap. Wasn’t she hot, I wondered. Maybe she wondered the opposite of me in my running shorts: Isn’t she cold?
  • As I reached the halfway point of my run, near the little beach at Lake Nokomis, saw some kayakers in the water, many of them just about to get out. No ice on the lake! In just over 2 months, I’ll be swimming across that lake!
  • At about 9 miles, I felt really good. I smiled, knowing that I could run for much longer. At about 9.6 miles, I felt sore. I smiled again, knowing that I only had to run for a few more minutes.

Hover over the second paragraph for a hidden haiku.

april 7/3.25 MILES

41 degrees
mississippi river road path (south)*

A nice, easy run, with a faster last mile. It may have been only 41 degrees, but it was sunny and april and there was hardly any wind. It felt like spring. I love when spring arrives; it means summer is coming. And so are early morning runs and open swimming and biking and baseball and sitting on the deck, drinking a beer and going to outdoor concerts and walking around late in the evening with no jacket and reading by the lake and writing outside and hiking by the mississippi and going to the north shore and the UP and throwing pebbles into lake superior and obsessively watching the tour de france and eating cheese curds at the state fair and…hard core training for my first marathon. So far, my training has been pretty relaxed. Easy 10 mile long runs. About 25 miles a week. Towards the end of May, the training picks up. Will I be ready? I think so.

*up until this log post, I’ve been writing “mississippi river road path” without specifying which direction. About 85% of the time, the direction has been north, towards downtown. But occasionally, like today, I run south, towards Minnehaha Falls. As it gets warmer, I imagine I’ll be running this direction more, finishing at Lake Nokomis for a quick swim or continuing on to Lake Harriet. So, it seems important to start noting my direction on the path.

Hover over the log to reveal an erasure poem about opposites.

april 4/5.25 MILES

47 degrees
mississippi river road path

Thomas Gardner writes:

I’ve been feeling my way all week toward some still-unstated problem, running without a watch, not tracking my thoughts, trying to let the run distill itself down to breath, or rhythm, or attention–a single maple leaf suspended in a web, five feet over the trail. It’s hard to do. Thoughts rise and rattle, spread their wings, legs trailing them over the pond (35).

Was thinking about this as I ran. It is hard to “let the run distill down to breath, or rhythm, or attention.” I did have a moment, though, when I was focused on the river. Illuminated by the sun, it looked white, almost, but not quite, like it does when it’s covered with snow and ice. I like watching the sun and the river when they get together. The other day, the sun was focused on one spot in the river, a circle of light on the surface, inviting me to enter it. What would I find, I wondered, if I dove in?

april 2/3.05 MILES

50 degrees
mississippi river road path

Almost beat the rain this morning. Just started drizzling when I was finishing up my walk back to the house. During the run, while listening to the 3rd episode of S-Town, felt disconnected, disembodied, distanced from everything: the path, the people, the cars, linear time. I entered the dreamlike trance that Thomas Gardner writes about in Poverty Creek. This trance was not transcendent or like Quatro’s running as prayer. And it wasn’t triggered by a runner’s high. It was the result of the wind, the impending rain, the somber podcast and the gray sky that made everything look fuzzy.

april 1/9.5 MILES

54 degrees
mississippi river road path

A beautiful morning. Spring is finally here! I ran too fast in the first couple of miles and paid for it. I think it was because too many people were out on the trail. It felt like a race and I always run faster in a race. I didn’t wear headphones so I was able to hear the birds and when people said good morning to me. I estimate that I greeted around 20 people. There was one stretch of the trail where it felt like I was saying “good morning,” “good morning,” “good morning,” over and over again. It felt good, unlike the Franklin hill. That was tough. Had to walk part of it.

 

march 31/5.3 MILES

37 degrees
mississippi river road path

Nice, easy run. Listened to episode 2 of the new S-Town podcast. Enjoyed it, even though I probably would have preferred no headphones, but I had to catch up to Scott before he spoiled the twist at the end of the episode. I think hearing the twist (no spoiler), at the end of my run, made my whole running/listening experience more intense and other-worldly.

For my silence poem, I decided to read over my past log entries. Here are some themes that I noticed:

themes from running log (jan-march)

  • restlessness: a need to move
  • used to be active, then inactive, then active again
  • thinking brain vs. moving body
  • confident bodies
  • walking vs running….is walking failing?
  • what do I think about when I run?
  • Best’s Disease
  • hills
  • not over-thinking, over-analyzing (balance)
  • breaking bad habits
  • fuzziness…what words can I used to describe this feeling of not seeing…being out of it? removed? disconnected
  • feel the ground beneath us (pay attention, be present and aware)…winter: icy, slippery, sloppy, cold
  • 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.
  • reminder, not getting lost…ALSO A REMINDER OF DANGER, to be too disconnected is not to hear, be alerted….DISTRACTION…THINK ABOUT THE RUNNER WHO JUST DIED
  • to be distracted or not? sometimes noise is necessary, distraction is necessary
  • feb 15: 3 stories about the sun
  • feb 16: calf injury
  • feb 20: discipling (building up) and undisciplining (breaking down)
  • goals, joy, speed, competition, being proud of being good (feb 21)
  • list of noises heard, feb 26
  • distracted running feb 27, feb 28
  • march 3 more on sounds
  • march 4 noise can drown out distractions, like annoying runners who talk too loudly
  • more sounds, march 11
  • discipline as reining in my excesses?
  • limits and freedom (remember: beside body….still connected to it, but not tied down to it)
  • beside each other, where a need to engage and an ache for silence can be met

march 29/3 MILES

48 degrees
mississippi river road path

Today I decided I wanted to listen to music and run faster. So I did. Splits: 8’38”, 8’22”, 8’08”. Negative splits are always nice. It felt difficult but not undoable. The amount of effort I seemed to be putting in made me think my splits would be even faster. Oh well. Still felt great to fly down the path, working hard but knowing, after months of training, that my body could handle it. That joyful feeling of flight is my goal, not a fast time.

3 ruminations on silence

one: Lately I’ve been running without headphones more, listening to my breathing and the sounds around me. I’ve also been trying to allow for silence in my running. To not shut everything out with a playlist or a podcast. I like it. I like listening to the crunch of my feet on the path and how that sound changes depending on the condition of the path. I like picking out the different bird sounds, even as I can’t identify them, as I’m running above the river. I like being able to hear people greet me and to respond with a “hello” or “good morning”. And I like listening to the wind and coming up with words to describe its sound, like “sizzle” or “static on a tv.”

two: Read an article this morning about how Minnesotans are listening to more audiobooks lately, partly because of they’re more accessible, but also because their quality is higher. The article ends by speculating on the dangers of listening too much to audiobooks:

The pull of audio content is so strong that fans are beginning to wonder if having an easily accessible stream of stories is crowding out something vital: silence.

“We never want to do nothing and just think about life,” said Ubl. “If you study creativity you know inspiration comes when you allow your brain to turn off. Much can be found in the world of quiet but we’re uncomfortable there,” she said, “and we are missing something important.”

I agree with what Ubl says, but that’s not the main reason I’m making note of her words. Her quote is the final paragraph of the article. Another one of her quotes is used towards the beginning:

“I like the escapism, but I need the learning,” said Ubl, 28, research director for the generational consulting firm Bridgeworks. “I feel like I’m wasting time when there’s any moment of my day when I’m not learning.”

I imagine that this contradiction in her thought was, at least partly, taken out of context. It’s not explained, or even pointed out, in the article. But I think there’s more going on here. This contradiction exists for a lot of us. A need to always be doing! and learning! and engaging! even as we ache for silence. Many people are scared of that ache. Others don’t have time for it. I want to find some balance, where the need to engage and the ache for silence can be met beside each other.

three: I’m curious about silence. I decided to begin work on a poem about it with lots of questions. At this point I’ve only just started it. I’m using it to explore silence and to play with the tension between technology and nature that seems to saturate discussions about the need for silence.

What is silence?
Is it the absence of noise?
The shutting down of devices? Ideas? Expectations of what you should be doing?

What is silence?
Is it the abundance of sounds
that we usually fail to hear? That we often refuse to listen to? That don’t require a wifi signal?

Why is silence
so fragile, easily broken by the innocent rustling of the leaves or the oblivious ramblings of a bluetooth user?

Why is silence
so deafening, amplified by the absence of noise or the aftershocks triggered by years of exposure to LOUD music? LOUD thoughts? LOUD demands?

How is silence
ever possible when the hum of the city rumbles beneath us, a constant reminder of what has been done, is being done, will be done?

How is silence
ever comforting when it shuts out our access to inspirational podcasts and forces us to confront the beliefs about ourselves that we work hard to conceal?

march 28/5.75 MILES

49 degrees
the ford loop

What a beautiful day! Hardly any wind. Bright sunshine. Low humidity. Nearly 50 degrees. As I left the house, I didn’t know how much I would run. When I started running, and felt stiff and sore, I was sure I would only run 3 miles. But then, as my body warmed up and I listened to the birds and absorbed the calm stillness, I decided to do more. 5.75 miles in all. In past years, when I was running too fast, spontaneously adding miles was not something I’d ever consider. I’m glad my new training is helping me to run longer so that I can enjoy spring days like today. 

failed experiment

I tried experimenting more with recording my thoughts on the run. I turned the voice memo app on and put it in my right breast pocket. The plan was to  keep the voice memo app recording the entire time I was running and to try and speak as much as possible. To record as many of my random, stray, disjointed, jagged thoughts as I could. That was the plan but it failed. While I had been a little self-conscious when holding the phone up to my mouth and recording my thoughts, I refused to speak at all when my phone was in my pocket. It felt strange. I felt weird. Beyond self-conscious. Why? I’m not sure why holding the phone up to my mouth makes it easier.

I did manage to record some interesting rhythms with my phone rubbing against my jacket. And some cool sounds of birds, cars, kids playing at their school park, fleeting conversations, dogs barking. Every so often I’d say hello to someone. But, this recording is 57 minutes long and I’m not really interested in listening through the 95% of it that is just my phone rubbing in my pocket and me breathing, just to find the 5% of interesting noises or me saying “good morning” or “hi” or “hello.”

Addendum: After writing about the failed experiment, I decided to experiment some more. THis week in my poetry class we read Bernadette Mayer’s poem Failures in Infinitives. One experiment we could try was to do our own failure poem. Here’s mine:

Failures in Infinitives, Sara’s Version

why am I doing this? Failure
to speak into my phone while running
so as to record my thoughts
to remember my ideas
to access my truths
to bust the mind/body binary. Failure
to stop creating barriers
to find ways to speak
to invite openness
to not be afraid
to not care if others look at me strangely or dismiss my ideas so as
to be valued
to be understood. Failure
to avoid exposure so as
to be left alone
to not be bothered
to be given freedom to do what I want without the need to justify it in the only terms that have currency: Success! Validation! Status!
Failure to stop second-guessing my visions
to believe in my ideas. Failure
to reject a system that reduces me to my use-value. Failure
to undermine a system that sees products while ignoring process. Failure
to dismantle a system that actively discourages my need
to create new things
to experiment with im/possibilities
to see failure not as failure but as an opportunity
to take risks
to be uncomfortable
to learn new ideas and perspectives. Failure
to understand that the vulnerability that failure produces is not a weakness but a strength that enables us to be open to others
to say “good morning” or “hello” or “hi” to a person instead of an iPhone

march 24/5.25 MILES

38 degrees
the ford loop*

Tried something new today: 2 minute warm-up, then run 9.5 minutes fast/walk for 30 seconds x 4, finish by running fast until reading 5 miles

Ran with my headphones, listening to my cheesy playlist. It was humid, but not too cold. At some point, it started drizzling, but in the middle of a run, it was hard to tell, except for the relief from the heat of my effort that it brought. I think I would try this workout again. It helped me to go faster.

*the ford loop = west mississippi river road path/ford parkway bridge/east mississippi river road path /lake street bridge/west mississippi river road path

march 22/5 MILES

28 degrees
mississippi river road path

Today for my run, I tried a variation on the poetry/writing experiment that I did on Monday. Inspired by my teacher’s suggestion to modify my first experiment with Bernadette Mayer’s proposal to “attempt writing in a state of mind that seems less congenial” (Please Add to This List, 12), I decided to record my thoughts while running up a steep and long hill: the Franklin hill, also known as the I-94 hill. Length: about 1/2 mile. Grade: Not sure, but it’s steep. I figured that running up a steep hill for several minutes would generate a “less congenial” state of mind.

The Experiment

I ran an easy 2.5 miles to get to the hill. I took a quick break to set up the voice memo app on my iPhone, then I ran up the hill while talking into my phone. I stopped at 3 minutes and 39 seconds, which was a little less than half a mile. Finally I ran home.

The following is a transcript of what I said while running. The only thing I’ve done to the words is to add line breaks. I tried to use the line breaks to mimic the breaks in my words as I caught my breath:

Starting my run
up the hill
I’ve taken a break
with a walk
so
I’ve definitely slowed my pulse down

The traffic above me
as I go under the bridge

The traffic beside me
as it goes by me
on the river road

I’m sure
the drivers think I’m weird
holding a phone
up to my mouth
talking
while running up the
steep
and long
hill

The sun
is in my eyes
my shadow behind me now
For most of the run
here
my shadow
was ahead of me
Sometimes
right ahead of me
Sometimes off to the side
almost as if
it wanted to lead
and then
be beside me
Now
it wants to follow

Breathing here a little harder
the rest has worn off

Almost under
the Franklin bridge

jagged breathing
pulse is higher
I wonder how much of this I’m recording?

I love hearing my feet
on the dirt
in the gravel

I’m approaching a person
a test
will I keep talking,
or be too embarrassed?

Funny
under the bridge
echoes
strange sounds
feels like someone’s following me
but it’s just my shadow

just passed the turn off for Franklin
I’m going to stop now

march 11/10 MILES

13 degrees/feels like 1
mississippi river road path

My third week in a row doing 10 miles! Most of it felt good, except for the parts that didn’t. Just one part, actually. Coming back from downtown, running down the big hill, my right thigh started to hurt. It was hard to run. When I realized that I was clenching my fists and grimacing a bit, I decided to stop for 30 seconds to shake it out. Starting again, it felt much better for the remaining 4 miles.

According to the runner’s world pace tool, my long runs should be between 9:55 and 11:15. It’s a challenge to run that slow, about 90 seconds slower than I ‘m used to running.  But I did it today. I averaged a 10 minute pace.  I ignored the shadow Sara that wanted me to run faster so that I could stop being passed by other runners and so that I could finish the whole run in less than 90 minutes.

I ran without headphones. Heard lots of birds, cars, conversations, crunching shoes and barking dogs. Because I was running much slower, I barely heard my breath.

Some Distinctive Sounds, a list

  • At first the wind blowing gently through the dead leaves on the trees sounded like shimmering, but after listening to it for awhile, I decided it sounded more like static on a television.
  • The brittle twigs sticking out of the fence that I hit as I ran too close to the edge of the path to avoid the runners approaching me made a “boing” sound. I can’t remember what I thought they sounded like as I hit them, but now, reflecting on the run, I imagine they resembled a distant diving board, right after someone has jumped off of it.
  • Without headphones, I heard a lot more people saying “hi” to me. Had people I encountered in past runs said “hi” at the same rate, but I just didn’t notice because I was too distracted by Barry Manilow or Billy Joel or Krista Tippett or Michael Ian Black?

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 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?