Showing posts from 2016

wounds, talent

When it was 10F last week, I was really careful to avoid the ice. My hair froze. I could not feel my face. But just as I was almost home, I fell, and not because I wasn't looking but because I was tripped. At first, it seemed too bizarre to be true, but what can I say. Moving on.
Though my knees are still oozing, one still swelling up at will; though there's nothing like being seen by colleagues limping down a set of stairs, or managing the scab-related litany (it's no longer Halloween to parade it!), it seems like I am beginning to get something out of this experience. Like, use out of my Mueller jumper's knee strap as of my return to running yesterday. But, seriously: I gained some time.
And now I sit at this computer and write, as fireworks are already going off - and will do so through the second new year in January. I am rarely a fan, but with my newly found time as I read a poem by Pindar, I found the fireworks perfect accompaniment to his paeans of physical glor…

till I should jump peninsulas

Could I but ride indefinite  (...) And dwell a little everywhere, (...) Or better run away With no police to follow, Or chase me if they do,
Till I should jump peninsulas — Emily Dickinson, XX
Today it snowed. Tomorrow I begin marathon training, and thanks to help from kind folks at the Runner's World forum, picked a plan. It sounds so competent to write that: "pick a plan".
I remember this time last year, jumping into a Higdon plan late, amping up its miles, and all the winter runs with the funny encounters typical of where I live now: the most frequent being misted greetings exchanged with a certain kind of pensioner who goes out in inclement weather, usually so glad to see someone else outside. Then, at the tip of spring, the marathon came, and although no Pheidippides, on completing it I felt like all those miles actually built a distance between me and what was ailing me. Like I'd loosened a noose.
All those constricting, suffocating situations have nothing on me when…


Was how I felt when I watched Jamil Coury's footage of Zach Miller (NF SF Endurance 2016). And also interested that it reflected how life can feel like sometimes: the sheer effort of will that is pushing through; the amount of effort that can be required just to make that "extra minute", or, in life terms, to make it to that next stepping stone.
I admit that watching Zach, it occurred to me that this was not an example of sprezzatura, which I guess I am aware of because that is something I am always wishing for (and also as a former asthmatic, kind of aware of my own heavy breathing which especially seems to last well into the first 10k of my runs). I wonder if I am fascinated by the breathing because I realise that even at the elite level, there are runners whose expressiveness betrays the earnestness of their endeavours. I learned from a Ginger Runner interview with Zach that he is a heavy breather - and find that I am rethinking my understanding of running style, even…


Not even a few days ago, my feet were tracing the (cement) path I used to run in the 1990's, up to Victoria Peak in Hong Kong. I was only back for a tiny number of days, but the first evening in, jet-lagged to the core (swollen ankles, punchy outlook), my body took me up to the Peak. It had been almost two decades since I'd been back, and though I could not visualise the entire road I needed to follow to get to the Peak, it was like my body did remember it - what a bizarre feeling that was. And though I was not dressed to run, I sped-hiked it up the 550-some meter elevation until suddenly, along the way, views of the loud-fairy-light-city sprang up between the trees, getting more and more panoramic. Also, I remembered so clearly some turns of that path, and where the little temples were - and the smell of the greenery surprised my mind with its familiarity. It seemed like the only way to truly be back in the city where I grew up was for me to sweat onto it, to be reunited in t…

you don't need a mirror when you've got the society of long runs

Nevertheless, although the deep salt sea holds you around the middle, strain against treacherous plots. We will be seen arriving in the light far above our enemies. 
I have kept on keeping on. In running, this ceded a small victory: the work I've done on arm swing continues to have knocked up to 20 minutes off my 23.4K, which I do three to four times a week, and I finish runs so much more energized. My arms are now more like in a T-Rex starting position - who knows what I was doing before. Well, people who saw me do. Since I have a terrible habit of talking to strangers, which is probably not recommended as a foreigner, I do wave and have brief chats with these people and today I was stopped and told that my arm swing is now awesome: "Before you used to do this!" the man said, moving his arm in all manner of directions...
Thence my mirror and at least one small victory over an obstacle, if self made.
I was thinking today about athletes who bound over further distances i…

the race of avarus - fie!

I truly wondered to myself today as I was running whether or not in mind I was attempting to 'run away from my life' and 'trade places' - in the manner so efficiently satirized by Horace (Satire 1). "How comes it ... that no man living is content with the lot which either his choice has given him, or chance has thrown in his way".  I am finally beginning to realise in my imagination that the idea of running away is a fallacy. The imagination seems to be the last stronghold of lies...
So, there is no such thing as running away. Horace explains if a god were to allow those who envied each others' lives to trade places, they would refuse, "yet 'tis in their power to be happy".
But there is such a thing as running towards.
As for physical running, I am so pleased about the advice - from the internet not from the trainer, to bring one's hands to the heart. Most of my runs are 15 miles (with a 13 mile as the short run), and ever since trying t…

huff on high

He can never set foot in the bronze heavens; but whatever splendor we mortals can attain, he reaches the limit of that voyage. Neither by ship nor on foot could you find the marvellous road to the meeting-place of the Hyperboreans   (Pindar Pythian 10) The Hyperboreans lived beyond the north wind. Pindar's lines seem to take us to that mythical place: the "limit of the voyage" that can be reached "neither by ship nor foot" is the road that reaches the meeting place of the Hyperboreans - a road through words that follows the wind.
I felt like I was on one such road on yesterday's run. It is really quite something to have a meaningful interaction with something for two hours that is invisible! It was so exhausting, I could not run all the way home, which is a foreign experience. So I read up about that wind that exerted my breath, aided by the Beaufort Scale that describes winds in words of their effects - and realised I had been out in gale force gusts (>…

running biography

This post is a continuation of yesterday's pity party. So, here's what gets to go into the biography of my life based on today's experience, still with calves that don't know me and running like an experimental dancer who does not understand what it means to go "straight forward", possibly for abstruse reasons. But as I got around twenty minutes into the run I took, I suddenly found my very own body vying to run with a forefoot strike, despite all the pain, less while in motion. The coach was right, and also right that the pain doesn't seem like it will be hanging around. Which is not to say that I am walking normally now the muscles have cooled down, just that it seems like that kind of pain of adaptation.
In addition to making these experiments on today's run, I also added in a metronome, which I set to 173BPM to start with - as suggested by a Sage Canaday and Sandi Nypaver video. I was actually looking to avenge myself knowing that I have read that…

writing running wrongs

If I had been running like a gazelle, I would not have been told to run on my toes (forefoot strike). With a blow to the ego, I found out that I run like a marionette. Actually, the coach lacked the poetic turn of phrase, I offer it now. As I ran off after seeing his expression - the brave man having volunteered to watch me run a portion of the track - the words that came to me were actually less forgiving: "runs like a handicapped chicken" would perhaps be the most apt description. He trains national teams, and then there are runners like me. He told me to run on my toes. I live to tell that experience.
My quads hurt so much now that I cannot walk down stairs without hanging on the banister. This evening  a friend recommended not turmeric but Mg tablets - and I am now singing the praises of minerals.
This is the first time in 15 months of running that I question what on earth I am doing. The pain I felt at the beginning was very real, there were actually weeks I could not s…

the difficult starts

There is an old Latin proverb (omne initium est difficile) that means beginnings are difficult. I've just reached the proverbial hill but I still feel like I am a beginner in most everything, because for most of my life, I've been thrown in the middle of things: growing up as an expat (not where I live now), being put in different schools every few years across continents, changing careers three times, and as a transplant (as opposed to a scion, or cutting - which is removed with a plan, which is given space and nourishment in the new roots) have often felt the lack of mentorship - which means figuring things out as best I can on my own. That's why I think beginnings are difficult: if we aren't shown the steps, we waste a lot of energy and time along the way. I try to be mindful of this when I teach but I think that the system itself is far from ideal because it doesn't cater to individual attention: we're all beginning from different places, with different too…

arcane trails

Another of the reasons I wanted to start this blog is to document the variety of disappointments running brings. That probably sounds bleak, but disappointment is a fact of life, and I think part of living well means learning to cope with disappointment.
Learning is a word I try not to use lightly. In my mind it is related to philosophy, which gave rise to the sciences and had valuable words for the arts. Classical philosophy had for its aim the good life and contains plenty of values we equate today with character building. (The things that character builds on a run - "call for comments"! - I quote irunfar, which ends posts that way, love that.)
That philosophy, and approach to life, was still very much practiced by Victorian educators and thinkers. One of my favourites, who founded what is today the outdoor survival camp Outward Bound, Kurt Hahn, wrote: "Education must enable young people to effect what they have recognized to be right, despite hardships, despite dang…

two-cent running tips

After I started running, a few of my friends started running, too, but went about it totally differently. Soon, I was being told, suggestively, how great learning to land on the forefoot was, or such things. All that, however, by runners going far shorter distances, and with even less time spent running than me. I felt so glad to have read in Runner's World or Running Competitor - both great regular reads in early months of running - that it is possible for different people to have different running styles and respond differently to given techniques. (Those magazines do not always spread that message; sometimes, they rather obviously promote one style over another.) Anyway, my mentality was that I was going quite far quite fast injury free, so since nothing was broke, I wouldn't fix it. While I definitely need to improve my form, I still maintain my overall approach that we must all listen to our own bodies and try to figure out what works for us. My friend, for example, is a …

why my running spills onto the page: about this blog

I have only been running for a year, fifteen months to be exact. Ten months into it, I ran a marathon, because I hate sprinting and love running far. Before that, I ran during three separate phases of life: as a journalist in Asia; when I worked my way through college; during high school to escape from campus. Back then, I tried to play soccer, and the coach would point to me and say to my team mates: Look at her, she is a terrible player, but tries harder than all of you. I am pretty sure I run as terribly.
Sometimes I feel shy when I run through the part of the city that needs crossing to get to a beautiful, very long stretch of park. There were days this summer when I felt like - probably due to overtraining - I was flapping my arms a little, or doing the Snoopy happy dance. But something draws me to those longer distances: sometimes, so much frustration with life that it takes that long to unwind those inarticulate scribbles behind me; sometimes, a wish to see certain of those vie…