New blog I’m contributing to:
Broken Glasses and Wytches: Dumbledore Won’t Save You Now – http://wp.me/p6uC1Q-4j
New blog I’m contributing to:
Broken Glasses and Wytches: Dumbledore Won’t Save You Now – http://wp.me/p6uC1Q-4j
The wind whips up slightly, kicking up gentle clouds of sand which skitter across the track toward me. Soft, fluffy wisps of airborne dust rise to about chest height. This isn’t exactly a sandstorm coming my way–if I weren’t running, it might even look kind of pretty.
Still, I close my mouth and hope it doesn’t get behind my glasses.
One of the things that initially drew me to running was the low cost of entry. At the time, I was freshly unemployed. The prospect of a gym was beyond me, I could probably spring for some cheap running shoes, and was going to go for a free app to get me started.
Shortly after, I think I picked up the armband for my phone. It was a matter of convenience, really. I was starting to realize something practical about running: you need more than just shoes.
This is another story of me figuring something out the hard way…
In May, my girlfriend and I went with some mutual friends to Virginia’s Outer Banks. We had a week, and I was determined to enjoy myself and also get back into good habits–I had re-re-re-started my C25k program about 3 weeks prior. Expecting beach-weather, and beach-quantities of shade trees, I bought a hat and picked up a couple of bandannas on the way down.
Real talk for a minute: I am amid the long, drawn-out process of balding. Despite my best efforts and mostly my own denial, the hair on my head is thinning. For a while now, it’s done little to shield my scalp from the machinations of our nearest star. The combination of Fair British Isles skin and ineffective shade cover means I sunburn my head a lot. The bandanna was an effort to prevent that while running on the beach.
However, when I wear them now, I wonder what I did without them. They trap head sweat, so I don’t come home with stinging eyes. They somehow make my headphones and glasses fit together better. Come Winter, it’ll keep my head a bit warmer than nothing. While I feel a little silly, I simply tell myself that I’m a pirate exercising and I feel better about the world.
And, I don’t roast my dome.
So, I guess this post is mostly an endorsement for bandannas while running.
It’s been a long time. I think nearly a year since the blog dropped off. I’ve been thinking about it, though. About picking up where I left off, about how to do it, about how I kind of missed it.
Yes, I know the image of a roller-coaster is cliched. But it’s fairly apt in this case: the year has been fraught with various and sundry highs, and some steep lows. I could detail them, like two people catching up on months apart with a laundry list of details. But I always feel as though those conversations always end with more months apart.
We have time, I realized, we have months for this conversation. It’s not coffee and catching up, it’s starting to run into each other. It’s rekindling a friendship.
At least, I hope so. In the time I’ve been away, I haven’t necessarily gotten any better at keeping promises.
Apparently this is also my 100th post on this blog. I’m going to pretend that’s more impressive than it is.
Dust is once again collecting on my shoes. As I squint in the fading sunlight, I can hear my breath over the sounds of the highly under-rated Harvey Danger. After several months off, and several weeks of another take on the Couch to 5k program, I am getting close to where I was around this time last year, when I was in better shape than I am today. But, I have clawed my way back today.
Over the sounds that wall me into my own head, I detect the crunching of someone else’s footsteps. After a few endless seconds, a figure in red passes me on the right–then one in blue. The man and a woman–around my age–pass me handily. I want to speed up, but I already know how it will feel at the end of the run.
Then I start thinking about comparisons: I never feel it’s wise to compare myself to others. I know that where I am at my stage of life is a result of a complex, indeterminable series of variables and interpersonal connections. There are an immense number of factors that can have immeasurable impact on a person. The mere flap of a butterfly’s wings, metaphorically, can put me in a different place than someone else who starts the same thing at around the same time.
So, why can’t I make that connection with running? Because here I am, comparing myself to two complete strangers. For all I know, they’ve been running since high school. For all I know, they’re running an entirely different program to me: shorter sprints, compared to my longer runs. For all I know, a million other things are different.
A few paces ahead of me, Red and Blue stop at a bench–she adjusts her socks. I pass them handily. It’s not for another quarter-turn around the reservoir until they pass again, then stop and leave the path.
Perhaps with a little more time, I’ll let myself off the hook.
“We should go running again. Soon.”
By the sixth week of my new job, Girlfriend and I were saying this to each other three or four times a week. Usually with a vague plan to do it again tomorrow, or maybe the day after. Sometime before the week is out, we thought.
I started packing my running shoes in the giant blue IKEA bag I used to shuttle laundry between our houses. I found my Tunebelt running band, and packed everything neatly in a green drawstring backpack (which had been bought for last year’s Finn the Human costume, but definitely didn’t work).
Then with all of my equipment and supplies in hand, came two more weeks of not running.
You’d be surprised how many excuses there are. Or maybe you won’t, depending on where you fall on the discipline V laziness scale. If we’re honest with ourselves, most of those excuses boiled down to ‘I just don’t feel like it.’
To backtrack slightly: When last we spoke, I was working three part-time retail jobs. I was spending two days a week at two of them, and three at the highest-paying. I was cobbling together rent from these checks, and struggling to make ends meet. I was also running regularly, until I added my third gig to the mix.
Things changed about two months ago now. I was offered a full-time job that a friend vacated. The check would cover most of my living expenses, and I could reduce my hours from 50+ scattered around 7 days a week, to 40 centrally clustered around 5 days. A no-brainer, non?
“Naturally, when I realized I had freedom and free time again, I picked right up where I left off with running, and am now training for a Marathon,” …said not me ever.
Naturally, when I had free time again, I used it to catch up with old friends. Catch up on reading. Catch up on comics. Catch up with some TV shows, and with some discarded hobbies. Catch up on video games. Catch up on sleep. Catch up with Girlfriend’s cat Peanut.
You know, exercise.
So, on a lazy Saturday afternoon, as we were making plans for a daring daytime raid on my house the following afternoon, for spices I’d need at her’s to make the recipe we’d planned for dinner, Girlfriend tossed out: “How about we go to the reservoir, run, shower at your house, get the stuff we need, and come back.”
“Yeah. We really do need to go running. And to stop talking about going running and actually do it.”
By the next morning, plans were already more definite. After painting, but before the trip to the pharmacy, pet store and comic shop. We shall see what comes to pass.
It has been about two weeks since I was able to get a good run in.
Work took over a lot of my time, as did a few fun social obligations (obligation perhaps not the perfect word for it). But, after two weeks of working instead of running, Thursday, I was in my running shoes once more.
And I was feeling good. Time tracking has been off since switching between apps, but I know that for a 20 minute run, I got further than I had ever before. By a lot. Today, my app informed me I was at the halfway mark, as I passed a street I have sometimes turned and given up at. That’s three full Brookline blocks away from where it usually tells me this.
My conclusion was this: I had clearly forgotten everything I knew about what my body could do, and was simply letting muscle memory (whether I understand the concept correctly remains to be seen) take over.
Either way, I was surprised. The hip pain I was experiencing from work–and a little as I made my warm up–disappeared. There was some mild stomach cramping at one point, which also disappeared. I had forgotten about the wall of breath, the point early on where my blood isn’t pumping quite fast enough and my breathing is starting to feel strained, but once I pushed through that, my only real obstacle were pedestrians.
I had chosen a slightly poor time to make the circuit around my block, and through one of the busiest intersections in the area, as T commuters coming home were flocking to and from public transit, and cars were poorly parked picking up directions, take-out, and people. However, I am not flummoxed by this particular obstacle, as we already know.
The run finished further from my house than most other runs I have completed. The cool-down walk home ended as I stepped under my awning. It was good to be back out, and good to be running again.
Hopefully, I can start making this at least a weekly occurrence again.
Saturday, I was on the track, shading my eyes as the sun beat down mercilessly into them. My shoes were stiff, solid, a little uncomfortable. I had long sleeves and pants on, as well as a vest. I was even wearing a tie. It was a good thing I wasn’t there to run.
I was there for a wedding. Two dear friends were tying the knot at the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum, across the street from the reservoir. I was among the wedding party, dressed in a tux, and out on the track for photos. For those concerned about my health, I was also only an hour away from dancing. More to the point, my girlfriend was an hour from dancing, while I was an hour from rhythmically flailing in hopes people would think I was dancing with her, and not simply in her proximity.
It was a cool, beautiful, and immensely fun wedding. I’d met both the bride and groom in college, where they also met. Lived with the groom, and learned much of what I know about running from the bride.
Unfortunately, the day got away from me, and running again fell by the wayside. With my schedule in hand, I made a date with myself to go out on my quiet Thursday, when I had a short shift at just one of the jobs.
The wedding also fell a day before the AIDS Action 5k I had planned to attend. However, the three jobs had not given me enough to cover my bills and the entrance fee for the 5k. Which meant Sunday was for sleeping in, and sleeping off a late night with no more than two drinks too many.
I’m only at about half of this list.
Apologies, regular readers, for the relative radio silence. Unfortunately, working a third job into the mix has meant I haven’t had nearly enough time to actually go running of late. A lot on my plate means I’m running around a lot. Fortunately, the new job also has me on my feet constantly and running around like a crazy person, so it’s almost like exercise.
My hope is to get some more actual content up and running in the not too distant future. By which I mean, I hope to actually go running at some point in the not too distant future.
In the meantime, enjoy the TMI flavors of Buzzfeed’s interpretation of fitness.
As I turned the corner onto Commonwealth Avenue, and passed the construction site that had occupied the already-scant visitor (2-hour, non-permit) parking spaces for the last few days, a memory bubbled to the surface. As I finished the warm-up walk and started my half-hour run around the reservoir, I couldn’t shake it.
I was perhaps nine. Standing at the corner of the street below the hill waiting for the bus to take me home. I was with a couple of friends, and we were bored and young. The schoolyard where we stood had a fence that was under construction, just an upright post with a bar for chicken wire.
I had recently seen Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood Men in Tights and found myself intrigued by a pose adopted by Little John, where he wraps both arms around a staff held across his shoulders. It seemed leisurely and badass, and I wanted to try it out for myself. So, I approached the upright bar, just at my shoulder height, and did so, wrapping both arms lithely around it. It was comfortable, and I held the position for a few seconds.
“Check out strong man over here,” came a gruff call from an approaching construction worker.
I was just old enough to recognize mockery, but not quite old enough to know how to react properly. Instead, I dropped my arms, stepped away from the fence, and hoped to all the deities new and elder that the bus would hurry up. I don’t recall whether it came with “Get away from there” instructions. But, I do recall feeling very small, very weak.
Back in my late twenties, as I crested one of the early hills in my run, something occurred to me. The difference between that moment, and me teasing my friends and family–and sometimes strangers–was subtle and key. In that moment, I was being mocked, and I knew it, because I was not part of the joke, I was the butt of it. He was calling to his friends, with a “Look at this freak!” circus barker air. Whereas sassiness and sarcasm, at least how I aim to do them, are inclusive of the subject of the joke. “Look at this silly thing you just did. Anyone could make the mistake, but let’s all take a moment to laugh at it,” instead.
I then started to feel a little larger about that moment, so many years now gone. The old adage about bullies needing to put other people down to feel good about themselves notwithstanding, my thought now was: some construction dude in his thirties or so straight up mocked a nine-year-old. I won’t judge his self-esteem, but it’s kind of a dick move.
In other words, if I could go back to that moment with my knowledge of my older self, I might have reacted more appropriately. Flipping him the bird, for example, or just calling him a douche.
As I paced on the spot at the red light coming back across Chestnut Hill Avenue, the main obstacle between me on the reservoir and Beacon Street, a large black pickup truck blew straight through the red light. I was glad I had not been too antsy to leave, and waited until all the cars stopped. However, I also felt justified (as, in my old age, my tolerance for douchebags has decreased significantly) in flipping him off as I jogged across the street.
The Fitbit step counter, disguised as a watch, was strapped to my wrist all day. I am not sure whether it fit the dress code for my new job, but no one seemed to remark on it, as it quietly counted up to, and far past, the 10,000 step mark. By the time I had finished pacing the small room, greeting families and taking their photos (which we would later try to sell back to them), the count read over 16,000.
And about 15 minutes past my shift, I was relieved of my post.
I recently got a job at a new midway attraction opening in the Boston area, working in the retail department. I spent my whole Saturday there, and was then too wiped out to go for a run.
Sunday filled up quickly with family, and rushing to be supportive after my girlfriend’s car broke down. Monday, work, and more helping with the car situation took over. Tuesday, I was back at the attraction, and again feeling pain in my legs.
In the past week, I also read an article indicating that running may not be useful for my weight loss, and that some professionals prefer a long walk or sprints for fitness. I haven’t been able to turn up the exact piece I read, but one on Active.com (which I found while searching for the other) gives a slightly more positive light on my particular program. The notion was a little discouraging, but also made me feel pretty good about being on my feet at my new job so much.
But, my hope is that on Thursday, I will get back out to the track for a run. It still seems to hold some sort of psychological draw.