Archive for the ‘Running’ Category

An LA Afternoon Run

Five miles–
past urine,
then past dogs who are too big
to live in the little houses
to which their Toms wearing
owners will walk home,
then back past the blankets,
and carts which are a home, too,
but not to dogs.


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M— and I went on a first (of what I hope will be many) summer rides.  It is painful to retrain the body, reminding it of the motions with which it was once familiar.  I do find it strange (although it might explain some of my enjoyment of physical activities) that even a bad ride, one for which the body was not prepared, brings with it a sense of accomplishment.  At least I finished it.  I did something, even if I did rather slowly and not particularly well.

(M—, I’m not certain this is our exact route, but I think it’s close).

I have trouble getting to this same sense of accomplishment in other areas– say, job applications, for instance, or reading/writing projects.  It is easier for me to push through difficultly in my body than in my mind.  I see the top of the hill.  I can keep forcing my legs to move through one more rotation.  But in these academic and spiritual arenas, the hills are harder to define.  I never quite feel that I’ve gotten to the top of anything.  C’est la vie.

But, back the point, the 35 plus mile ride through Shady Canyon, up Newport Coast Drive to PCH (with a coffee break in Corona Del Mar), around Back Bay and home via the San Diego Creek Trail, made for a lovely morning with my brother and the glorious muscular ache of having completed something strenuous.

R. Card Hyatt

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Several years ago, the day after returning from a semester studying abroad in Oxford, I found myself driving across Orange County to drop my younger sister off at a party. I say, ‘found myself,’ because it was a surreal experience. I drove through at least five cities on two major freeways and a half dozen major streets to arrive at our destination. The journey, not a long one by any means, took us around thirty minutes. I remember sitting in the car after my sister had walked in the house, dizzily considering the fact that I’d just traveled several times the distance that I had been used to traveling in a whole week in Oxford. This was, I think, the first time it occurred to me that suburbs, and their means of transportation, are scary.

Driving a car through one city smashed up next to another city, one after another after another, on freeways that either lift me above the streets, shops, and pedestrians or sink me below them, preventing me from comprehending the distance that I am traveling. I cruise past hundreds, thousands of people while never seeing their faces. I rarely think about the terrain that I am covering, but only about how quickly I can reach my destination, or, how much I can distract myself from the terrain with music , poetry, and books on tape. The all-consuming concerns of my thirty-five mile (La Mirada to Laguna Hills) daily commute have been ease, speed, and safety. Avoid traffic, avoid tickets, sliver away the average forty-five minute drive. My desire is to make the thirty-five miles as easy as possible.

But herein, my dear readers, lies the problem. It is not easy to move a body thirty-five miles. Because I am far-removed from the physical work of getting my 5’4″ body from La Mirada to Laguna Hills, I forget that movement requires effort and that there are 5280 feet in each of those thirty-five miles. It is a mark of this age that I am so comfortable relying on the ‘effort’ of a machine to replace my own physical labor. I take this machine, this car, this robot, for granted (which, if I am learning anything from my science fiction reading this summer, is a Very Bad Thing).

In Dead Man’s Cell Phone, a play I saw in Ashland recently, a man remarks that the subways cause our bodies to move faster than our souls are able, leaving subways full of soulless men (I apologize for the poor paraphrase, I’m looking for the direct quotation), which is often an accurate description for the commuter’s expression . This may be one problem with my rushed miles down the freeway, but I suspect that there are others. Let me try some on for size.

First, it [my rushed miles down the freeway] encourages a lack of concern for conserving energy and resources. It is so easy to “run” down to the store that I won’t wait until my weekly grocery shopping tomorrow to pick up more coffee. I am used to having what I want quickly, with little effort.  Second, it accustoms me to being disconnected from people. Unless I stop on the way, I do not have to talk to any other human, or even look them in the eye. Third, it develops a false sense of closeness. I don’t think that Caitlin is far away because I can drive to her home in an hour. But actually, she is very far away; there is an actual mountain range between her and me. In summary, I don’t understand the ground that I cross everyday and I am both crowded and alone on the freeway.

So, how do you get to know a mile? Do you take it out to coffee?

When I run, my body has to touch the ground that I am traveling and I move slowly enough to take note of my surroundings. I count the turns, the hills; I wave good morning to the old man with his scotty dog. I compare those thirty-five freeway miles with a marathon (my longest run to date) and begin to wrap my mind around distance. It takes me just over four hours to run those 26 miles, my body will be exhausted for at least a week. Movement requires time, energy.

My bicycle is a machine of sorts, but solely powered by my legs.  Over the fifteen mile ride to the beach, the San Gabriel River ebbs and grows as smaller tributaries join it. The river banks alter from grime and concrete to rocks and trees and back again. Riding to the beach and back (30 miles, round trip) took a little over two hours, although I stopped in the middle for a cup of coffee and then to change a flat. I am very hungry when I get home. Movement requires sustenance; movement wears objects thin.

Knowing a mile is strenuous. I am limited in the distance I can travel without the assistance of car, train, or bus. I am tired when I get home. I think twice before heading to the store.

And, none of this seems bad.


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I found this advertisement many, many years ago– before I was teacher, girlfriend, or much of a runner.  It hangs above my desk now, a reminder that guidance comes in all sorts of packages.



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Today I am grateful that I can bookend my school day with running and swimming. A healthy body is not something to be taken for granted, and neither is time to exercise. Rolling out of bed before 5:30am, or slipping in the pool on the way home from classes– these are not even really sacrifices in comparison to the gains. After the fall’s hiatus from regular exercise (due to class schedules and billions of wedding), my body is delighted to be enjoying regular and strenuous activity. I’m trying to keep a three runs/two swims per week schedule at the moment, but will up my runs to four a week soon.

Exercise moderates the rest of my life. When I run (or swim), I want to (and find it easy to) eat well, drink enough water, and sleep a full night. CD noted a couple weeks ago that regular exercise helps us really sleep when we’re asleep and be awake when it’s morning.

Hooray for bodies!


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Today, I swam one mile.

Today, in 5/6 grade we discovered the identity of the Disinherited Knight (in Ivanhoe).

Today, I got so engrossed reading “The Silver Tree” (the final book in S. Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series) that I was late to a teachers’ meeting.

Today, I see a part of God revealed in 1 John; physical words enlivened by Spirit.

Today, my younger sister turned thirteen.

Today, I was disillusioned by the Protestant tradition’s lack of concern regarding the secularization of St. Patrick’s Day.

Today, I told my boss that I accepted her offer of a continued job at SACA next year.

Today, I am more than a little terrified by the fact that I make decisions that will affect the directions of my future.

Today, I am in love with one of the most amazing, well-rounded, intelligent, caring men I have ever known.


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Triathlon, check!

Caitlin and I successfully finished (times to follow) the Pacific Coast Triathlon this morning, here are a couple pictures:

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