Cold and Quick

Thursday morning came on cold, colder than I would have liked–the breath caught in my throat, like in the winter, in spite of the fact that it’s now mid-Spring.

Eventually, my body warmed up, as my body caught up with the running. I was then glad that I had made the switch to my shorts again. The go-faster stripe on the side doing its work, as I rounded the corner and headed back through Cleveland Circle and headed back toward home.

What I was worried about was, given my skipped run on Tuesday, I would have to cut the day’s run short. I was also a little concerned that my leg would snap back to its pained state. Neither of these things happened.

I returned from my run, showered and went to work. My evening plans were interrupted, slightly, by a friend from out of town inviting people out for drinks. Said friend was returning to run the marathon–an event that was now a few days away, but had barely crossed my mind in the intervening weeks.

I had still been too busy to really reflect on the events of the previous year’s Boston Marathon. With a busy day still coming, I was unlikely to give it more thought this day either.

Pulled Something, Pulled Something On

I woke full of hope that my leg would cooperate with me.

I had pulled something in my thigh a few days prior. It ached all day Monday, whenever I put my leg at a weird angle, or after sustained movement. Or, after resting too long before being moved again. I think it was during a stretch before my Saturday run.

My body hadn’t quite woken up as I left the bathroom, still clad in my pajamas. Leg felt fine until I changed into my running shorts–then a twinge. I ran on the spot for a few steps, to see if I could simulate actually running. After a few minutes of futzing, and quite disappointed, I pulled my running shoes off.

I was too awake to go right back to bed–I had woken up an hour early for a reason, dammit. My eye caught something in my closet. Last year, before I started running, I had picked up two pairs of shorts and a pair of pants at a thrift store. They were a size too small. I couldn’t return them, but I figured “I intend to lose weight, so I’ll keep them.” They would be my “skinny pants.” The ones that marked an arbitrary goal.

So, standing in my boxers on a Tuesday morning, I started to wonder: Last count, I was down 35 pounds. Even since the last time I wore my running shorts, I had to re-tie them. I wonder if I’ve lost a couple of inches amid everything else. One by one, I tried on the pants, then both pairs of shorts. I knew even before I had them buttoned up: I fit into them.

Five minutes later, content–even without the run–I fell back into bed. Feeling like, at the very least, I had tangible evidence that this running/dieting craze was doing something for me.

Aside

Keep on Keepin’ On

Thursday morning, I had a short shift at one job at noon, and a lot of determination to finish my run this time around. I had had a week off, and only got about 3/4 through the run the day before. I was willing to push a little harder to make this one land.

I rounded the corner onto Commonwealth, and saw a man dropping what almost looked like a banana peel into a mailbox. I am certain this is not what he was posting, but I couldn’t quite shake the idea–and fixated on it for a few blocks. It reminded me of a (pretty awful, in retrospect) short story I had written in college. The goal was to send the main character out on a mundane trip, and fill it with interesting vignettes from city life, only to have him return and report that “nothing interesting happened.”

Looking back, it was kind of a pretentious notion. I used it for a creative writing assignment, and didn’t get a spectacular grade for it. At the time, I was annoyed, but today, it was probably a lesson I really needed at the time. I was still at the age in my writing career where I thought everything I banged off was brilliant, when much of it was trite and cliche.

I needed to listen to my feedback then, but have learned a lot of that on my own, the hard way…

 

When I got back from my (complete) run, a story slipped across my newsfeed–and its warranted reaction from Jezebel also hit. Some runner somewhere had posted a message on his newsfeed. It was meant to inspire, but started off on the wrong foot, and ultimately landed on deaf ears (for the intended audience, anyway). An excerpt:

To the fatty running on the Westview track this afternoon:

You, whose feet barely lift off the ground as you trudge around the track. You, who keeps to the outside lane, footslogging in the wrong direction. You, who stops for water breaks every lap, and who would probably stop twice a lap if there were bleachers on both sides. You, whose gaze drops to your feet every time we pass. You, whose sweat drenches your body after you leave, completing only a single, 20-minute mile.

There’s something you should know: You f**ing rock.

Well-intentioned, I will give the guy. But, at someone who started running for his health, it also hit me weirdly as well. I think for some of the reasons mentioned in the actual runner’s reply, excerpted here:

Your whole post insults me like no end. I do not eat midnight snacks or drink beer. You probably think all “fat” people do this. Well, we do not. I ate better than most at 300 pounds. In fact, I have not had a drink in well over 20 years.

A couple of weeks back, I was feeling particularly magnanimous as I hit the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, and saw another runner who looked like she’d been at it for a while. She looked tired, she looked ready to quit. I wanted to help, and flashed her a double-thumbs-up and a manic grin. Then, immediately felt self-conscious about whether that came across as “You go, grrrrl,” or a Borat-esque “Very Nice.”

In the end, I hoped for the best and pushed it from my mind. But, the backlash to the Westview “Fatty” post made me feel like it was best to keep to myself in general. At the same time, I have really loved getting encouragement from complete strangers–hi fives and “You go!” calls from on the track. They haven’t really made or broken a run, but I have detected thin bursts of energy coming forth from that kind of encouragement. While positive feedback on this blog usually falls prey to my self-deprecation.

Perhaps, that’s where the original poster went wrong: keeping his thoughts to himself, and expanding on them later.

… Or does that mean I need to stop blogging?

Shirt of the Day: Food Zombies! (Healthy cartoon tomato, with a face, screaming and running from a pack of moldy bread, mushroom, and rotten fruit)
Current FundraiserBoston Area Rape Crisis Center’s 2014 Walk for Change.

Why I Walked

Note: This is not a post about running, but about walking. Specifically me walking in the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center’s 2014 Walk for Change. So, it’ll probably be more of my musings on the reasons I went out on a slightly damp, overcast Saturday for a good cause. If that’s not your thing, feel free to skip ahead.

 

 

27 Minutes. Next bus leaving at 9:05 a.m.

31 Minutes on foot.

The route mapped from my house to DCR’s Artesani Park, site of the BARCC Walk for Change for which I have been raising funds for the last month. I had aimed to beat my goal from last year–my super-generous friends donated a total of $500, and I dressed in a costume picked by my top donor. This year, I was going cheap, and going to dress in my Finn (from “Adventure Time”) costume, leftover from Halloween–and from being a huge nerd.

Me at the 2013 Walk for Change. The top donor picked a colonial outfit.

Me at the 2013 Walk for Change. The top donor picked a colonial outfit.

I didn’t make my goal, however, and set out in my regular clothes and the BARCC walk T-shift from last year. I set out on foot, deciding the 4 minute difference was worth it getting there a few minutes early.

The weather on the verge of raining from the moment I left my apartment. I immediately regretted dressing as lightly as I did–so, in many ways, not unlike when I go for a run. I found my friends, including an adorable and excitable puppy named Stormageddon–Stormy for short, and we got ready to walk along the river and back. I carried an umbrella and, as a member of the BARCC Hotline fundraising team, a sign that read “Hotliners are hot!”

I started walking last year, in part because I have a handful of friends who work for the organization, and in part because it feels like the right thing to do. The much-maligned phrase “rape culture” became apparent to me after the Steubenville rape case. Watching reporters wail about the future of the young athlete rapists, rather than the future of the survivor was eye-opening.

But even before then, the big moment when I realized there was something wrong was sitting on the train, a few months prior, with nothing particular going through my head. An epiphany struck when I realized that, for me, one of the biggest things I fear when I wander through some of the less savory parts of town, is being mugged, robbed–and in rare occasions, injured. I know I am statistically quite safe, as a straight, white, 6-foot-tall, male. I am also fortunate that I usually feel safe when I wander through town.

The girl sitting opposite me on the train, eyeing a particularly loud and creepy gentleman with suspicion, possibly had worse fears going through her head. (I grant, I have no idea what was going through her head in reality, but I was more likely dubbing the fears expressed by female friends in for her actual internal monologue). When the train stopped at its final, and all of our stops, she let him get off first. I kind of wanted to offer to walk her home, but worried that, in context, that would be equally creepy.

Fundamentally, there was nothing different between me and this woman on the train. We were two twenty-somethings who happened to live in the same neighborhood. We lead different lives, but there is nothing inherent in me that makes me “deserve” my fears, nor anything that makes her “deserve” hers. So, it struck me as vastly unfair that I’m scared someone will take my wallet, and this woman (a stand-in, really, for the people I care about) was afraid of being sexually assaulted.

I didn’t know what to do about this, but I wanted to do something. Then, one of my BARCC friends sent out an email inviting people to the walk.

The walks themselves are token gestures. I spent both walking and chatting with friends, and building connections with them. I aimed to raise more money this year, but ran out of time (that said, the Walk for Change donation pages are still open for contributions).

The speakers at the kick-off events insist we are making a difference, and I’ll admit that I don’t really feel like I am–at least, not directly. I know that my presence alone supports my dear friends who are working on the front lines at BARCC. That my friends appreciate me being there to support them, so that they can go and support survivors through some of the roughest times in their lives.

That is kind of priceless. That is worth coming back for next year.

 

Stealing Luck

10 a.m. on a Saturday is apparently when all the runners are training. As I discovered, coming around the corner of Beacon Street at the Cleveland Circle end. Runners going with and against me, as I tried to navigate the already crowded commercial street.

I was following one group of runners–some of whom were wearing the same shirts; all of whom seemed to know each other–when another group started to run past, outside of the Eagles Deli. As the two groups neared each other, there were cheers. Then hands shot up to snag hi-fives. Never one to be left out from a good time, I stuck mine out as well. This prompted some odd looks, but some (possibly reluctant) hi-fives.

What was odd, to me, was the short speed boost that came with it. I was suddenly keeping pace with these more seasoned (I am guessing) runners–for a block or two–and feeling less tired. Some weird sort of crowd-photosynthesis was taking over, and propelling me through the blocks.

(The Eagles Deli, home of a challenge burger of the same name, is famous in my mind for the attempt a friend and former manager made to complete that dish. Each time the meal is defeated, the restaurant adds a half-pound each of meat and fries to the edible obstacle. By the time he tried it, I believe it was 5 pounds of meat, 16 slices of cheese and bacon, served on a bun (with three skewers holding the thing together) served with 5 lbs of french fries.

What they neglected to tell him, as he started methodically going patty-by-patty through his dinner, was that there is a  time limit–they charge you $50 if you don’t make it.  He was informed about 1/3 into the repast, that he had about 20 minutes remaining. He ate burgers for the rest of the week.)

It wasn’t until I hit my T stop when I encountered the runner training turnaround point. Three women stood off to the side with a sign bearing the logo for the “Marathon Coalition.” A symbol some of the runners had on their shirts. The Boston Marathon is coming up again–and the city is preparing for it, and for the anniversary of a terror attack. It is expected to carry a record number of runners–and sales dollars–into the city.

This revelation also explained the confused look, as I usurped encouragement from a group of strangers. With a smirk, as the runners I was behind turned on their heels back at me, I kept going through toward my 20-minute running route.

Cut my run a little short, a few minutes after the run. Just ran out of steam, and was eager to get home so I had a few minutes before work to go home, take a shower, and see a visitor I was eager to spend time with.

Shirt of the Day: The Apathy Coalition (Join us. Or don’t. Whatever.)
Current FundraiserBoston Area Rape Crisis Center’s 2014 Walk for Change.

Back At It

A weak cough escaped before I laced up and set out, determined to at least put some miles (at least one) on my shoes. It had been a week since I was last out, and I was considering a new schedule because of my typically crazy Wednesdays: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, was how I aimed to proceed with my running.

A week off from being sick, and a spotty performance in the prior weeks because of weather. Tuesday morning, as the alarm went off, waking me an hour early for my work shift, I grumbled to life and slipped into my running pants.

New England shook off the last dregs of winter, which were fading slowly like a particularly odd dream, and was finally starting to reach reasonable weather. In fact, I was starting to doubt the long pants were the way to go about halfway through the short, 20-minute route I had planned for myself. I would have to remember to pull out shorts when I got home.  (Spoiler alert: I totally forgot).

The halfway mark, as announced by RunDouble, the same app that brought me through the C25k program, came a lot further down the track than I expected. Legs were starting to feel the burn–I was a little out of practice from being sick.

15 minutes I made it. After fifteen minutes running, my legs and lungs decided it was time to call it a day. I was also needing to get myself organized and out the door for work. Home and a short shower, glad I started my week with a run.

(Note: This post is a week late, because last week was a little busy. I didn’t have a chance to update when I was actually running! For those who were worried last week, I was on the run! Conveniently, the BARCC donation page is still open, which means I’ll keep that as the fundraiser until I sign up for the 5k).

Shirt of the Day: (Fallout/Doctor Who mashup) Tennant’s Timepiece Repair.
Current FundraiserBoston Area Rape Crisis Center’s 2014 Walk for Change.

Link

75 Thoughts Every Runner Has While Out For A Run

75 Thoughts Every Runner Has While Out For A Run

Or, pretty much this entire blog, only succinct.

 

As for me, the week has been off. I’m still feeling that lingering mild cold. Irritating, but just enough that I’m hesitant to strap on my shoes. Frustrating, because the weather is getting really nice out there. There are birds and stuff flitting about my window! That’s what I’m missing. That, and the endorphin high.

Which, is also possibly why my head is more full of paranoia than usual. I could be turning into someone who needs the running to function. This is also weird.

 

Please don’t forget my Current Fundraiser: Boston Area Rape Crisis Center’s 2014 Walk for Change. The walk itself is next week, and BARCC is a wonderful organization that not only employs some of my friends, but performs an invaluable service. If you are so inclined, I welcome donations, or just sharing the BARCC link with those who might be moved.

Elementary

Putting off the run on Wednesday was a conscious decision. In my head, Thursday makes more sense anyway: no stores to open, no evening plans.

Something that looks like plastic has collected along the edges of the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. Inches thick, long angular shapes, shining slightly in the noontime light. It takes me about the distance between the pump houses to realize that those are sheets of ice. Large, rectangular sheets of ice that have stacked up on top of each other. It looks as though the wind blew the sheets up onto the shore, where they broke and sat, and were then covered by a second sheet of ice, which also broke and stacked.

Spring is, slowly, starting to come through. The ice sheets are a sign, I choose believe.

What strikes me as interesting, as I piece all of this together, is how strikingly complex and powerful the human mind is. I have no evidence, aside from what is in front of me. I am also in the middle of running, and arguably distracted by that process. Yet, somehow I am able to reach all of these conclusions because of my ability to form connections and imagine.

The brain is a laboratory. I can test my hypothesis a thousand times inside it, all while exercising, and form a working explanation. I’d have to test it scientifically to be certain, but at least in my head, the plastic-looking ice sheets have a reason for being, and the reason is: Winter is nearly at an end.

(Full disclosure, I have spent the better part of the weekend watching Sherlock Holmes.)

Of course, come Monday, I am disappointed to find that I somehow picked up the tail end of a cold. A sore shoulder, and the general brick-headed feeling I have disincline me to start my day with a run. Which, considering I missed a third run last week, makes me feel a little lazy.

Or, it’s a chance to adjust my running schedule to one that fits better. In my mind, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday runs could fit better, considering Wednesday has been a day I’m tempted to fink out on

Shirt of the Day: Retro Gaming Heart (8-bit drawings of game consoles arranged in a heart shape)
Current FundraiserBoston Area Rape Crisis Center’s 2014 Walk for Change.

Randomly Recalled

“If anyone ever tells you that they’re from Chestnut Hill,” the police officer is chatting idly with me while the funeral service runs inside, “You tell them ‘Bullshit. Are you from Brookline, Newton or Boston?’”

I laugh, and remark that a fellow Patch reporter and I fight over who doesn’t want to cover things in Chestnut Hill. “Fighting” is a strong term, and mostly it ends up being me trying to pry a story off of her already-overloaded plate. I am standing outside of the first funeral I’ve ever covered–for the first journalism job I’ve ever held (I hesitate to remark that it may be my last, but journalism is not an industry I am actively keeping my resume open for).

Today, I ran past the same funeral service and remembered that brief exchange. I can’t recall for whom the service inside was. I recall she was a humanitarian of some kind, and active in the Jewish and/or Russian communities in town. I am trying to say ‘Myla Goldberg’ is her name, although I realize a few blocks later that this is because I am a hipster, and am thinking of a Decemberists song (about a real, but different person).

In spite of it being spring, temperatures have dropped back below freezing. In protest, I am out for a run, but in deference to the fact that it’s cold, I am shortening that run. Which is why I find myself passing the funeral home, and why I also find myself thinking about the way memory and location works. I am very much prone to forgetting things when I walk through a door, but I am also prone to associating certain events with certain locations–after a tough break-up, it took me months to walk past a particular tree where we had met up a few times over one summer.

In the same way, I had a hard time breaking the association with the Reservoir and a missing persons case–which ended tragically–during my time as a reporter. A young man who went missing after a night out with friends washed up at one particular corner of the reservoir. I still feel for his family when I recall the story, heartbroken as they were. I got wistful for months passing the reservoir and thinking about them, and the man he must have been for both his family and his school.

The story hit me more than I had expected, and in a weird way, I am glad. I am glad that that kind of thing never became commonplace to me as a journalist. I am glad that I could still connect to the sorrow of a situation, even as an outside observer. It may not have made me a fantastic reporter, but it’s what makes me a good writer and a good human being.

In the same way, I always remember that one time I turned a corner at what I like to call False Corner Cove and discovered I still had about a third of the Reservoir track to go, each time I hit False Corner Cove. I recall slipping and falling whenever I hit the appropriate intersection on Comm Ave. I recall turning around when the ice got too thick around the back of the Reservoir, and heading further up Commonwealth.

I also recall the feeling of glory–long after the fact--when I realized I’d completed my first 5k (equivalent).

If memory is a part of what defines us as people, then I really hope that more of the memories of good runs and odd moments continue to make me into a better, more determined runner.

Which, remember, I still find a fairly odd sentiment to actually write down.

Shirt of the Day: “Trust Me, I’m the Doctor”
Current FundraiserBoston Area Rape Crisis Center’s 2014 Walk for Change.

Nothing Of Insight Happened Today

Having had a fairly hectic week, and finally getting around to writing about my runs this week, I find myself with an interesting form of writer’s block: I have nothing really insightful to say about it.

I went for a run on Friday afternoon. I was tired: my Fitbit tells me I’d hit my 10,000 steps before I even laced my shoes up. I nearly collapsed on my couch for the afternoon, but was able to drag myself out to help a friend with a project first; they live a five minute walk away, so I showed up in running gear.

Then, I went for a run. Around the Reservoir and home again. Listened to some music.

It still seems odd how routine running has become. Which, I suppose, is all of insight you’re going to get out of me. It’s gone from something I have to force myself to do, into something I feel weird when I don’t. This is a shift that I still don’t fully understand. But, I have noticed it in my writing here: It’s less about the pain and effort of running, and more about the context in which I am running.

Which, I suppose means that it takes about 5 months for something to go from a good lifestyle change into a routine. Although, your mileage may vary.

(Regarding the title, George III did not, in fact, write in his diary for July 4, 1776, that “Nothing of importance happened today.” If for no other reason than King George did not keep a diary)

Shirt of the Day: Pitfall cover art
Current FundraiserBoston Area Rape Crisis Center’s 2014 Walk for Change.