Showing posts from 2013

On the Feeling of Wisdom

Okay, check this article out from the Guardian.

The article talks about a short film that is a series of snippets of conversations with runners as they ran through a park in England. The film is only 11 minutes long and worth a watch.

So opines the Guardian article about the film: "These questions (Are you in love? Who do you care about most? What do you want to do with your life?) are hard to ask and are not often answered sincerely. Through their steps, their breaths and their focus, runners can answer them." I find this to be true, or at least it feels like it's true. But if it's so true, where do those answers go when the run finishes? I know a lot of runners, and they frankly seem just as screwed up as the rest of humanity.

What is this runner's consciousness that brings the feeling of answers? Studies have found that running produces endocannabinoids, of which the phytocannabinoids found in marijuana are a close cousin. So, yes, there is a runner's high. …

Running in the Dark

First, a couple of links for the runner-geeks, then some rumination on night running.

A nice tribute to George Sheehan, the greatest runner/philosopher on the Writer's Almanac. (Nov. 5, 2013)

And, an interesting interview of Anthony Famiglietti (Fam) on Roads, Mills, Laps.

I hope you enjoy those.

The fall time change means one thing for me -- running in the dark. It feels somewhat shameful to admit it, but I am not a morning runner. This is strange because I am generally a morning person. I wake up in a good mood, get to work, do my things. My mind is ready to go, but my body is generally tight and achy. So, unless I am doubling (and it's been a while since then), I run in the evenings.

So, tonight I was out there running at my normal evening hour, and because of the time change, it was dark. For me, it's this way from November through February -- three months of running in the dark. I don't mind this.

When you are running, you become sort of invisible to most people. …

Marx was wrong about alienation, but also kinda right.

Marx was wrong about alienation.

He could never have predicted the extent to which we are not only willing to alienate ourselves from the products of our labor, our bodies, our minds, our location, etc., but will pay big money and renewable monthly fees to make it happen.

Marx was worried that the machines of the industrial revolution would create such a dislocation in experience that we could never recover. What would he say about iphones. Or jet planes. Or techno-music. Or corporate cubicles. Or this self-same internet on which you are reading these self-same words that spin out of a place you have never seen and come to you almost perfectly scraped clean of their origins.

He would say: the human capacity for alienation appears to have no limits. Even Marx would have to admit: his fundamental concept, the hinge to the revolution, was just plain wrong. We appear totally willing to dislocate ourselves from experience pretty much willy-nilly. Not only that, we actively push for more di…

The Daily Run

Runners are generally creatures of habit. We have our standard loop, our daily schedule, and we stick to it more or less. Though they always sounds nice in theory, runners know that exploratory runs in new directions or in different cities are fundamentally disruptive to the training schedule. We prefer to know every inch of our path; it makes getting around it easier mentally. Our hardest workouts are done on the most uniform surface possible -- a 400m oval, which in its simplicity and uniform nature is a striking metaphor for the habitual nature of the runner's activity.

The deeper the runner gets into heavy training, the more essential habit becomes. When the body begins to resist the miles, when the legs feel heavy, or the brain fogs from fatigue, the easiest thing to do is what one did yesterday -- hit the standard loop. We have run it so many times that it almost literally runs itself. We are responsible for a minute or two of effort, but once out the door and on the loop, t…

The Role of the Attention in Racing

I ran a workout last Saturday with Lanni Marchant. She was tuning up for the upcoming track and field World Championships in Moscow, where she will be competing in the marathon, looking to improve on her 2:31 personal best, and hoping to make a run at the Canadian national record (which is 2:28.)

The workout was more about pace-feel than about building endurance or suffering -- the total volume of work was only 4.5 miles at marathon pace -- but like all good marathon workouts, what it primarily required was concentration. By the end of the workout, with warmup and cooldown, we ran almost 10 miles on the track, and much of it was at specified pace.

It ended up being harder than I expected, and the reason was that marathon pace is slow enough to require only minimal concentration, but it's fast enough to require some concentration. Put another way, the pace is not hard enough to draw the mind to it by itself. I found myself having to remind myself to pay attention, and this in turn …

Being There

You know how part of what runners love about running is just the sheer fact of being outside? Once in every dozen runs or so, I have these moments where I lift my head up for just a second or two and I'm like: damn -- just LOOK at those trees. Oh, and the sky: it's still blue as all get-out. Or I will see a buzzard drifting on an up-current and think: he and I are the same, in a deeply inarticulate way. We're just here in the world, without much more to it. He, buzzarding about in his (yes, somewhat nasty) buzzardly way; and I, down here below looking up at the buzzard, running along doing my thing.

Back to the same old question: why do we run? Here's another insufficient answer to throw on the pile: it's because running is a practice of presence. Though the new-agers are all a little loopy and smoked way too much dope back in the day and tend to be over the top with their purple colors, etc., they are right about one thing. We have a tendency to live almost ev…

Time Moves Differently: a report from the 145 mile Grand Union Canal Race

Editor’s note: This piece was written by one of the toughest people I know, and it’s one of the best race reports I’ve read. Jen (aka Wrigleygirl) takes us deeply into the experience of running 145 miles. Jen has run around 80 marathons and ultramarathons and has also run 128.13 miles in 24 hours. The report is long (appropriately for the distance,) but make sure you have your schedule cleared before you start reading – because you won’t stop. Thanks to her for allowing me to publish this!
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Friday night before the race it is very cold and extremely windy, but the temps and conditions on Saturday are perfect. The race starts in the center of Birmingham. I've been promised drunks spilling out from the bars at 6 am, but someone has lied and the drunks fail to do their part. I'm disappointed.
The paths are all cobblestone, and on any incline or decline every third one is raised, presumably for traction when it is wet, or to trip klutzy runners. I was warned about these earlier, …

Two Kinds of Races

Martin, my brother-in-law, approached me with a proposition.

He is a banker in the Caribbean, and we were down there for a family vacation (and yes, the beach!) The way he put it to me was like this. 
He explained: "One of my co-workers at the bank was a good 800 meter runner in high school, a sub-2 guy, and he was talking in the lunch room about how he would love to race again. So, I told him you were a runner and that you were coming down."

"Yeah," I said. (Sub-2 is pretty fast, but hey I did that, too.)
"Anyways," goes Martin, "We put together a group of five guys. A relay. We thought they could each run 1000m and you could run 5000m. You could take them on. What do you think? This guy wants to run against someone fast."
"Sure," I said, without thinking about it too much, not really ever being one to turn down a race.
This was one kind of race. A runner against five untrained non-runners. I would come to learn before the race that t…

Thoreau as Runner: Some thoughts on "Life Without Principle"

Here is the last paragraph of Thoreau's "Life Without Principle." It's a little long -- Thoreau takes his sauntering seriously -- but worth the attention:

Those things which now most engage the attention of men, as politics and the daily routine, are, it is true, vital functions of human society, but should be unconsciously performed, like the corresponding functions of the physical body. They are infra-human, a kind of vegetation. I sometimes awake to a half-consciousness of them going on about me, as a man may become conscious of some of the processes of digestion in a morbid state, and so have the dyspepsia, as it is called. It is as if a thinker submitted himself to be rasped by the great gizzard of creation. Politics is, as it were, the gizzard of society, full of grit and gravel, and the two political parties are its two opposite halves, — sometimes split into quarters, it may be, which grind on each other. Not only individuals, but states, have thus a confirme…

A Hard Memory

I want to talk about John Freeman today.

On a horribly beautiful April morning, not unlike this Monday, the top runner and team captain of the cross-country team that I coached was hit by a train and killed. Running had saved his life before he lost it. As a ninth grader, like many, John had been struggling in school. The running helped him with his attention, and it gave him an identity at the school. By his senior year, he was one of the school's best athletes, an honor roll student, and had been accepted to a top university in the Northeast. He was going to try to walk-on the team.

When I heard of the bombing at the Boston marathon, thoughts of John surged up from the deep places.

The memories are too clear. His family invited me to the hospital to say goodbye before they stopped the respirator. I stood there with his mother and his father and thought of how the runner's heart in his chest continued to beat blood through his damaged brain. Running had made me a part of his …