Showing posts from 2017

slower roads

It has been a strange summer. For a while, I was doing regular 18 mile runs in 95F+ heat, until I suddenly lost the will to run, totally exhausted. This week, I jumped back into mid-range mileage, and feel less out of shape than encouraged because my running form seemed to come together, which was confirmed by a friend, who called it "finally harmonious" (!) This took two years to accomplish - admittedly, with no coach and along the slow road. The past two years have felt like the trial of investing an immense effort, more than I can fathom, unsure if I will finally arrive "somewhere", with something to show for it, though I have felt moved to "keep on". But like my now-improved running form showed me, a run I took yesterday also illustrated that there is something to be said for perseverance, even sans the coach one wishes for.
At one moment during the run, I thought, how can I possibly go 2/3 further, and the next moment, the distance - seemingly of lif…

vampire moths!

I am still trying to shake off that unwanted running buddy of midsection kilograms - and marvel at how I have less of an issue showing off my running-induced blue toes in sandals than coping with the war trophy of the end-of-term stomach (induced by sleepless nights writing, marking, or invigilating). The blog post I had been composing was supposed to be about the pleasure of running far enough to see swans puff themselves out like cumuli on hot days, or the pheasant I found that lives in a park; the indescribable pleasure of feeling the weather and its hourly changes as opposed to intellectually understanding what it says in an app. But what finally prompted me to open this Compose page were the two vampire moth bites I sustained - which frightened me so much, that I now prefer to do regular 17 mile runs on a totally different route in order to avoid the chance of seeing these insects again, for a time.
One day, I was running along, minding my own business, when I felt something on m…

pursues you in your flight

This will be a brief post because during this unusual window of recreational off-time, I have decided to keep up with the WS100 updates. Like, I feel life is like a race now, so it's therapeutic to watch a race, just like once upon a time, in the midst of giving too many exams, I felt cured by watching "judge shows", specifically "Chopped", which depersonalised my understanding that assessment can verge on the arbitrary. But let's talk about races. Specifically, the feeling of where the good old college try in the race is foiled by sudden changes to the course, different from what was trained for. This is all figurative - but two running-based passages got me back on track in my losing 'race', which is why I thought I would write about it on this blog.
First, were parts of AJW's WSJ100 speech, which inspired my will to continue with relentless forward motion. He says things like: "I want you to go into the race confident, resilient, and fai…


How glorious it is to blaze a new trail, and suddenly to appear in learned society, a book of discoveries in one’s hand, like an unforeseen comet flashing through space! While that line was written somewhat ironically, by a person of leisure placed under a 42-day house arrest for duelling, at which time he composed this "palliative" (i.e. relieving, if not curative) account of a 42-day "voyage around [his] room", I often think of it, maybe also ironically, when I fortify myself with runs before reappearing in society.
But it is tough when running time is infringed upon by the very activities a person wants to strengthen themselves for. That's been my life since my last post. I've needed to shift how I look at my running.
I've thought back to the old people I would once run past after newspaper shifts, around five or six in the morning, making their way up to a Chinese mountain peak - walking and stretching their arms in various directions, often accomp…

almost religious

In "Run For Your Life",  NY Marathon founder Fred Lebow's brother, already tearful, says with gravitas of his sibling that, "Running was his religion". I immediately wondered: would I even recognise if it was becoming a religion for me? I already meet the definition by following the pursuit "with great devotion". Moreover, like many others, I see it as a system capable of addressing universal questions - some, at least. Running is also emotional, and can get deep.
I've already mentioned how at the marathon finishing zone I met other runners upset over the training investment not yielding desired results. I felt my own struggles - betrayed by my now dog-eared training log, thumbed through over and over as if it would cede answers (is it enough? will I get injured?) like an oracle. This seems like semi-religious behaviour. I might be saved from more of it because I literally cannot afford to take limit-pushing risks, not having the means for physica…

race day affirmation

Affirmation of life is the spiritual act by which man [devotes] himself to his life with reverence in order to give it true value. ... At the same time the man who has become a thinking being feels a compulsion to give to every will to live the same reverence for life that he gives to his own. - Albert Schweitzer, Out of My Life and Thought Today was race day! I met some really wonderful people. But let's get into the 'race': When I finally found the 4:00 pacer, which was my goal marathon pace based on my training, I discovered 10k later, so at 30k, that today was not my day. I finished 10 minutes off - but before I knew that, as I approached the final uphill, I had a completely unexpected sensation of being exactly where I was meant to be today.
Up until that point, I had made a firm commitment to just keep 'running', which felt more like a generous walk, so I was not anticipating a positive outcome, though I definitely put through the motions what I've lear…

aesthetics on the go: an oxymoron?

I've adopted a flagrant blogging style here, publishing first drafts that are edited later, which must be conspicuous, like yesterday when I was hazardously and unsuccessfully attempting Woolfian extended syntax. Despite that, however, I suddenly found in the short interim that I have become fond of this blogging outlet, and out of fondness came a wish to improve. I changed the blog layout and labels, and plan to be more careful with the Publish button. I will now swiftly draw a parallel between the bid to prettify a blog written on the fly and the beautifying techniques that the conscientious runner soon finds necessary during training blocks. What happens to the toes?! as one is merely breezing past the scenery, picking one's feet up just a little faster...
Hopefully, that parallel highlighted a dilemma: the earnest pursuit can, at moments,mangle one's mien, until just enough practice is gained to maintain it again.
When it comes to maintaining those material toes from t…

better when tested

Ten days ago, I got a gift of a bottle of Pocari Sweat from a really nice person, which I took on the only training run I got done at that time. A little gesture can cultivate courage, as in, a wish again to find that ever-surprising abundance that nourishes but only in the everyday, which doesn't last forever, and can only be accessed by making something anew, investing effort yet again, something like the sign of being alive, day after day, this thing that we create that doesn't begin as something material but can materialise. The opposite of doubt. Doubt, that poison that comes from others through a look, through incomprehensibility over why something is to be pursued just for the sake of it; doubt from the internalised reason behind such thoughts: because who wants to find themselves astray, alone in a land of pipe dreams (where such are produced by opiates, so tragic)? Who, with a rational mind, can explain "for the sake of it"? Have courage, man! This is what I…

scorpions to desire

Yesterday, in a pocket-hour of warm air, I was reminded of my spring running lament: is one really a vegan when one inhales gnat sandwiches? The absurdity of that thought of a bug diet was not unlike a sign for a neighbour I read on my return to my building: "Crazy woman! Stop throwing cacti about the building! Clean up that mess." (Indeed, we all heard a moment of anger and something being jettisoned in the early hours...but, a cactus?!) It's the element of the unexpected that's the theme of this running post.
Last time I wrote, I was sure sick days off were going to ruin my running gains. As it is, for over a week now, several minutes have been shaved off my time per mile, without my trying since I try to execute "easy days easy". It's unexpected. I also noted that even though I thought that I'd finished getting all the new fancy muscle through just running, I keep visibly gaining muscle. I keep planning to add in strength work, but up to now, I t…

masters in training

There is an old story from the monasteries in the Eastern church that tells of an abbot who had lived a chaste life but who, on his death bed, was visited by the devil who complimented him on his achievements, to which the abbot, instead of saying, thanks be to God's great mercy, took the compliment for himself, and so, the story goes, lost his soul in the final moment after an entire life of spiritual exploits and accomplishments. The story has been on my mind because I was reminded again this week that the battle is daily, and it is never like one will wake up on this earth and get to say, good on me for that final victory, now, let me rest on my laurels!
After a surprise day of full-on sun shininess, today the rain came bringing with it that special silence that is so nice to run in, conducive, too, to the philosophical mantle I have put on (in case you didn't notice from the previous paragraph) since last week when I sequested myself in my version of sick bay for a few da…

trudge, trudge, streaka!

The last two posts left draft to Publish kind of like how on sinister mornings, it feels great to start a long run a little fast, until it is no longer the beginning, and we poor sloggers reenact a solo version of the Muppets', "Trudge trudge, streaka streaka". Things happen, we move on, and edit, if we can.
I'd love to be able to edit my running - or even understand it. There can be streaks of days where I slow down: today's run was meant to be a mere 20 miles with over half at marathon pace: it was all I could do to just finish it, though, *clears throat: today began as "a sinister morn'".
These have been strange days: in this little city, things have been exploded underground; the pollution count has been "very dangerous"; many mornings begin with a thick fog that brings icicles to the trees which during a long run melt into hail while eyelashes freeze then shed water like tears.
It has been hard to keep up with the training plan, and …

ice and freedom

Last night, I looked at the google stats for this blog before writing (so low, it can't be limboed!) and decided to persist in writing, as one persists in running - towards finish lines of achievement currently out of sight, hopefully.
Since the ice began to thaw, there have been many sights to marvel at. I've included a few below. First, the ice that had kept me off my regular route for over a month was real, as you might imagine from this image:

Swans had been relegated to tiny pools of melted water, and boats were stuck in ice. I had left the treadmill as soon as it was possible to reach these views.

The wind has been pre-gale force: warranting the one red pennant that would warn small vessels from setting out, as if they could. I learned something from those birds that somehow remained in flight during these blustery days: they also struggle, but convey something of the normalcy of the intense effort required at challenging times. The activity of birds can reaffirm the…

running philosophically

Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi, in "The Old Fisherman", addresses the hopes of enhancing one's merit and fame. What runner doesn't relate to that first part? (Some say the second, too?!) The illustration he gives of the vices that can ensue from the incorrect way of pursuing these goals is of a man so afraid of his own shadow that he runs to escape it: of course, to no avail (4). The lesson is that any man who neglects to improve himself will be bound to expend energy in such a doomed, needless way.
But what is this elusive "right way", I wonder, if improvement functions on several levels (physical, mental, dispositional, etc). I think sometimes I live my life in such a way that I do everything wrong the first time round, throwing myself into something, learning along the way. I am not like Murakami, who, before taking up running, read about it. To my mind, my "right way" was more complex: I was first running to keep running, because I was going thr…

in praise of the pegasus zoom 33

The running corner of the internet that I frequent seems to be getting more expensive. I decided, in response, to write a paean to Nike's budget-friendly running shoe, the Pegasus Zoom 33.
It almost functions as a trail shoe, too - which is to say: I fell in them once, when the traction just wasn't there over a big rock. But for merely root-knotted trail, they are fine. They are great on non-technical trail. They are great on cement, which is largely what I run on, to get to trail.
I have run months of weeks over 60 miles in them, and am now doing marathon training in the same pair. And I am amazed that the soles still look almost brand new.
Perhaps best of all is that they can handle some ice. I tried to find other reviews on the internet that would tell me how they would perform on ice, but to limited avail: I only learned that they can handle ice where there is some traction from some snow. My winter here has been snow that turns to ice. So, when the sun was powerful enoug…

play at running

"Man shares a great deal with the other animals, whose enjoyment of play can astonish us - so much so that anyone who observes and studies animal behaviour ... is overcome by a feeling of delight coupled by horror. ... So overwhelming was the impact of Descartes' central insight ... animals [then mankind] were simply considered to be automata ... enthusiasm [of free will] has utterly disappeared." - Hans Georg Gadamer, "The Play of Art" I think that runners can feel the delight and horror of free will: the delight at the breeze and the views, the horror at the pain on a return from a long out and back. To be a runner is also to play at something, to take Gadamer's definition where the freedom of play is most visible in art: in art and running, humans try things out, reject things, create - and what is made through this effort is hardly determined by ultility.
When was the last time you spent three hours on a treadmill since the roads were iced over and sai…