Archive for the ‘Running’ Category

Running as Salvation.

November 12, 2010 Leave a comment

My friend Joshunda, whom I mentioned in my last post, grew up in the Bronx before bouncing around the country to live the writer’s life, and so running NYC last weekend was a homecoming of sorts. But the lessons to be gleaned from running go much deeper.

Fred Lebow, who founded the NYC Marathon in 1979, described running as “the oasis in life, the one area unlike business or relationships, where one does not cheat or exaggerate. I will never write in my log that I ran a mile more than I did. Running is my area of total honesty.” Running my first marathon was a message of salvation for me and more. Even if I fall short in many other ways as a human being, I know now that I have the heart of a champion and an honest woman — at least when I am running. Like anyone else who worships by the mile, I can only hope that honesty infuses the rest of my life.

Categories: Running


November 8, 2010 12 comments

“This is a lot of effort to go through just to go through a lot of effort,” a lady said as we got off the Staten Island Ferry.

I wasn’t used to getting up this early, and I’d never been to Staten Island before. It was about 38 degrees, and we were all bundled up. The ferry was full of runners who would then be shuttled to the marathon’s start. I was texting my friend, Joshunda, who was also running.

“I’ll be under a tree in the Green area across from the Port-a-Pottys wearing a maroon shirt,” she typed.

“I’ll be the black guy,” I responded.

When we arrived to get to the race’s start, I had so little time to check my bag before my running group’s corral closed at the start that I couldn’t meet Joshunda, and in my scamble forgot to grab my Gu packets. I was worried I’d be spent by mile 7 with no fuel. I got in line to use the bathroom, and the dude next to me had a grip of them.

“Um, could borrow one of your gels?” He looked like Pete Campbell from Mad Men, only with blond hair. He seemed reluctant at first, since he’d planned out his refueling strategy and only brought enough to get him through that, but then handed one over.

“I’m going to meet up with my friends along the way who should have some, so here you go.” Pound-hug. Then I ran into Jason, who was also running with Groundwork, the non-profit for which I was running, and he had a grip of gels. “Take as many as you need!” But as I was packing my gels and fixing my clothes, I lost my left glove. Shit. It was brand new, black knit, with the name of each of NYC’s borough’s on each of the five fingers.

We started lining up for the race to start, and I fiddled  with my lone glove and chatted with this cat named Mark.  New Hampshire. Mid-30’s. Worked at an environmental consulting company cleaning up superfund sites. We were trying to run about the same time. He said he started running when he had kids. “I want to be around for them as long as possible.” Word. There were people disrobing and tossing all their hoodies and extra layers onto the ground as we got closer to our 9:40 start time. He pointed to the ground.

“Hey, is that a left glove?” It was gray and blue, and  didn’t match the other one. But I ain’t even care.

“This?” I said to Mark. “This is a good sign.”

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This is How it Starts.

April 5, 2010 11 comments

You wake up one day and decide you’re going to run a mile. And you’ve never run just to run before, so it kind of sucks. Maybe your chest burns a bit. Maybe the lactic acid builds up in your hamstrings, and you feel a bite in your legs that you’re not used to. Maybe you even stop for a bit.

You feel like shit. But you don’t die.

And so a day or so later, you do it again. And then some days later, again. And you get a little bit faster each time, and maybe you run for a little bit longer. And that burning in your chest recedes a bit, and the bite doesn’t come so readily. And so you run a bit longer still.  And none of this shit feels good, at least not the way “runners” like to talk about it. But the number on the scale creeps lower,  the old jeans and shirts start to fit again. So you keep doing it.

But you still haven’t died. And it doesn’t feel horrible.

And then one day you’re out and you run where you’ve always run, and maybe you were out late the night before, and your body isn’t cooperating with you, and your sweat stings your eyes, and you’re frustrated because you know you’re faster than this, that you’ve already conquered these particular burns and these particular aches. And so you finish, and you vow to do better the next time.

You feel like shit, because it doesn’t feel right.

And the next day you’re back out there, rested and focused, to remind yourself that you’re not that time and that distance anymore.  And you keep at it, out of habit and not out of any real affinity for this thing you’re doing with your person, pumping and kicking. Because you’re not a runner.

And one day you’re out on some profanely beautiful day, running and breathing and sweating, and the ache in your leg comes, but it’s not so scary now because you know it’s coming, and you’ve learned how you need to breathe to coax the ache away, and the trees to either side of you are kind of swaying in the breeze and the sky is not just blue but some essential, Platonic blue. And your sweat doesn’t feel nasty, but vital. And you don’t think yourself one of those crunchy people who wax pretentiously about the soul or any of that nonsense, but if you had to call this something? This new way of thinking about your physical person, and the way it moves through space, and the way it keeps surprising you? If you were pressed to put a name to this shit? You might call it spiritual.

And you don’t stop because you feel alive.

And when you do finally stop, with 5 or 7 or 10 miles behind you, with your heart beating fast but not enough to concern you, and your legs feeling not as bad you thought they might,  your breathing returns to  its normal rhythm really quickly, like you hadn’t just finished running very, very far for a very, very long time.

And you look down at your trusty kicks, which now have hundreds of miles on them, and you wonder if it’s not time to get new ones.

But you’re not a runner.

Categories: Running