may 3/3.15 MILES

54 degrees
mississippi river road path south

What a beautiful morning for a run! I reminded myself, before leaving the house, to listen today. Birds. Cars, Crunching feet. The most unusual sound was a group of kids singing…what were they singing? Some popular song that I almost, but can’t quite, remember. They were on the other side of the river road, near Minnehaha Academy. I’m not sure what they were doing, other than being loud and joyful. Oh…I also heard water emptying out of the sewer pipe, just below the path. It wasn’t quite gushing, but was doing more than trickling as it traveled down the slope of the gorge. The water probably didn’t look too pretty–sometimes it’s a ghoulish green–but it sure sounded pretty. Like a waterfall. (note: several hours after writing this, I happened to walk by this pipe. I was much closer and slower than when I was running, so I got a better look. It was very pretty and the water was clear.) Tried running faster for 9 minutes and then stopping and walking for a minute. It was somewhat successful, but my hamstring was still getting tight. I better start doing some core exercises today.

After returning from my run, I sat on my deck and read a few chapters of A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros. I just picked it up from the library on Monday. I can’t remember where I found out about it. One of the many sources on walking that I looked at last week, I guess. I’m really digging it. I love walking almost as much as I love running, but for different reasons. I’m interested in pushing at what those reasons are and how running and walking are beneficial and harmful to me.

In Gros’ first chapter, “Walking is Not a Sport,” he defines sport, mostly negatively, and contrasts it with walking. I feel inspired to play with his prose. In the first part of the following experiment, I’m using his actual text, but replacing “sport” with running. In the second part, I’m offering my own response.

Walking is not Running/Running is not Walking

Walking is not running.

Running is a matter of techniques and rules, scores and competition, necessitating lengthy training: knowing the postures, learning the right movements. Then, a long time later, come improvisation and talent.

Running also obviously means cultivation of endurance, of a taste for effort, for discipline. An ethic. A labor.

Walking is not running.

Walking is the best way to go more slowly than any other method that has ever been found. To walk, you need to start with two legs. The rest is optional. If you want to go faster, then don’t walk, do something else: drive, slide or fly.

Running is not walking.

Walking is a matter of moving without a useful purpose. Meandering. Wandering. Getting lost.

Walking, especially when done at the glacial pace best suited for paying close attention, doesn’t demand endurance or require too much effort. It’s undisciplined and prone to unruly wandering off the path, dawdling.

Running is not walking.

Running is the best way to deplete excessive energy and restlessness that I have ever tried. Run for only 30 minutes, not even that speedily, and your body feels grateful for having been used.

To run, you need to start with two legs and a urge to fly, not fast, but free. The rest is optional. If you don’t want to fly, then don’t run, do something else: sit, watch or sleep.

april 24/REST

This morning I took a long walk with my dog. We walked the 4 blocks to the river and then down to the Winchell trail for about a mile. Heading back, we left the trail and walked on the wide expanse of grass between the river road and Edmund boulevard. It was wonderful. Peaceful. Relaxing. Restorative and generative. I had a lot of ideas about walking and running.

Here is a transcript of a few ideas that I recorded into my voice memo app while walking:

“I’m interested in the difference between walking and running and how I experience and pay attention and what I process, and thinking about that maybe as an entry point into discussing those various walking pieces and then maybe even some poetry around the tension between walking and running.”

When I listened to the voice recording, my thoughts didn’t seem so unruly. But when I wrote them up, I noticed how they ran into each other, one idea after the next in a relentless flow. When I think about the differences between running and walking, I’d like to record myself walking and running and play with the different rhythms and sentence structures. My running seems to create poetry, with pithy statements and breaks for breathing. In contrast, walking seems to create lyrical prose that flows endlessly with rambling questions and tasks to pursue. To prove or disprove this hypothesis, more fun experimentation is necessary!

As part of this experimental work, I’d like to do more research on walking. For starters, here’s a reading list that I’ve created: Walking, not Running.

 

april 11/5.1 MILES

44 degrees
mississippi river road path north

It was tougher than usual today. Running towards the Franklin hill, I felt tired. The sun was overhead and my shadow felt like it was on top of me, dragging me down. The wind was in my face, pushing at me, urging me to turn around and go back home. I persisted. I ran down the hill and felt better, but then ran up it too fast. Stopped to walk for 30 seconds to rest my cramped calf and to slow my heart rate. Ran the last few miles feeling a little sore and wondering why this run wasn’t as great. Was it because I ran so much last week? Because the weather was so strange–snowing last night and then melting quickly this morning? Or, was it just an off day? Whatever the reason, I ran anyway.

.

Hover over the entry to reveal the erasure poem.

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 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?

feb 28/XT

40 degrees
longfellow neighborhood
walked 7.7 miles (2 dog walks + walk to/from office)

Today for cross-training I walked while listening to the latest episode of This American Life. It was about two babies that were switched at birth and it was fascinating. So fascinating that I became engrossed in the story, almost oblivious to my surroundings. Distracted. Barely aware of the sidewalk or any other walkers that were on it.

distracted.

Yesterday in my log entry I put two different versions of being distracted beside each other without realizing it. I didn’t notice the juxtaposition until I reread the entry a few minutes ago. In one paragraph I describe how listening to a running playlist on my headphones makes me feel isolated and disconnected from the external world. In the next paragraph I mention how a distracted driver hit and killed a runner in a St. Paul crosswalk, on one of my regular running routes.  (update: looked this story up for new info and discovered 2 important things: 1. the driver was quite possibly distracted by multiple brain tumors that were only discovered after the accident and 2. the runner was not wearing headphones when he was running.)

In both of these cases, being distracted is presented as bad or dangerous. But, is it always? Sometimes I need distractions to inspire me. To motivate me. To prevent me from being too fixated on my present realities:

  • That I still have an hour left to run. A good podcast can help me to forgot this.
  • That I’m running into a cold wind. Having my hood up, covering my ears, helps me to not notice this.
  • That our government is a shit show and our president is unhinged. Taking breaks from the news and stories designed to agitate and confuse by listening to Barry Manilow or Justin Bieber (sorry, not sorry that I like that song) or “The Jeffersons” theme song while I run helps me to shift my attention

feb 24/XT

25 degrees
longfellow neighborhood

Instead of biking in the front room today, I walked. According to my apple health data I walked a 10k. I doubt that it was quite that much, but I did walk to Room 34’s new studio (Studio 2) and back twice and walked the dog around the neighborhood.

I have always loved walking, way before I loved running, but for different reasons. I’m planning to devote at least one week to thinking through what these reasons are. Here are some readings that could help:

you must walk like a camel, which is said to be the only beast which ruminates when walking.

I love this idea! I’ve often talked about being like a cow and ruminating. I never thought about a camel.

feb 7/XT

70 degrees
road bike on stand, the front room

Watched two thirds of the 2016 Island House Tri on YouTube while I biked for 30 minutes. Fun to watch Gwen Jorgensen racing (and winning) just a week before competing in the NYC Marathon. Wow. She’s amazing.

20 degrees
longfellow neighborhood
freezing rain

Took the dog (Delia, aka “dealz”) out for a walk this morning. It didn’t feel too cold and it was nice to be outside, moving slowly (very slowly, so I wouldn’t slip. think I might want to get some yaktrax). I don’t get too contemplative when I’m running, but I do when I’m walking. Nice. Walking past a yard I heard and then saw something rustling. Sensed that it was too big to be a squirrel. After a second (and third) glance realized it was a possum. Wow. I’ll add that to the list of things I’ve seen just a few blocks from our house, which is in the middle of the city.

list! critters spotted by/near the mississippi river

  • fox
  • coyote
  • wild turkeys (rafter of them!)
  • beaver
  • muskrat
  • possum
  • raccoon

What’s next? Hopefully not a bear. I’d rather not see a bear.

jan 25/XT

70 degrees
road bike on stand, the front room

Rode my bike for 30 minutes in the front room while watching the rest of the men’s marathon from Rio and a condensed version of the women’s marathon. Biking felt good after spending too much time reading the frightening headlines about the multiple executive orders being issued this week. Strength, endurance and a physical outlet for anxiety and rage are essential for surviving the next four years.

29 degrees
mississippi river gorge

As a bonus, took the dog (Delia, aka “the dealz”) out for a walk in the freshly fallen snow. We hiked down in the Mississippi Gorge for just a short stretch of the Winchell trail. Beautiful. I like when the trees are bare and you can see further into the woods. I scan it reverently and anxiously, wondering what might be sharing the woods with us. Last fall, I saw a fox, just 20 feet away. A murder of crows (I’ve always wanted to write that!), circles above us, cawing furiously.

I need to take more walks like this one. It’s hard in the winter, when there’s so little daylight and I’m spending so much time running.