april 30/5.75 MILES

57 degrees
ford loop

Windy. Almost raining. A great run. Signed up for a 10k in 3 weeks on the same course as the one I just raced. I’m hoping to redeem myself and feel strong in the second half. Hoping to run the route many times and practice better pacing. I ran it today, starting at a slow pace. It was great. Listened to my playlist. Felt like I was in a daze for the first few miles. Disconnected, almost floating. Love that feeling. Running across the bridge I put up my pink hood because of the wind; I was worried that my almost destroyed green hat would finally blow off and into the river. I imagined the log entry I’d write memorializing it. Encountered a few runners, not too many walkers, 1 or 2 bikers. No Daily Walker. No roller skiers. Thought a lot about keeping slow and strong. Anything else? Didn’t feel any rain drops. Didn’t see any more snow. No puddles to dodge. Just wind to run into. A few hills to climb. 2 bridges to cross.

april 28/RACE

45 degrees
6.2 miles/55:43/get in gear
ford loop

A beautiful morning for a bad, disappointing race. As usual, I ran too fast in the first mile and then fell apart in the second 5k.

What do I remember from the race?
  • the giant American flag and Scott remarking, “not sure where it fits on the ‘perkins/gander mountain spectrum’ but it’s big!”
  • the funky black and white shorts on the runner just in front of me
  • listening to other people sing along with the national anthem and feeling unpatriotic, tired of nationalism
  • feeling like the 15 minutes we were waiting in the start corral was taking forever
  • not seeing or hearing any of the annoying pacers
  • hearing the steady striking of moving feet of all the runners around me
  • a runner who hovered near me smelling like watermelon, which made it hard to breathe.
  • running close to the curb in the grit (mostly soft dirt, some sand), shuffling along–a satisfying, calming noise.
  • feeling like I wanted to stop, feeling like the St. Paul side of the river road was taking forever
  • a runner running by blasting heavy metal music through her headphones, so loud I could hear her approaching from a few seconds back
  • hearing a kid calling out, “mommy, mommy” as we approached the ford bridge and then a runner stopping to get a hug and drop off their hat
  • running on the sidewalk of the ford bridge with most of the runners while only a few ran on the blocked-off road
  • a car horn honking loudly–was it in support of us runners? annoyance for blocking the road? a warning?

april 26/4 MILES

55 degrees
minnehaha falls turn around

Pretty much perfect weather for running. Sunny. Not too windy. Not too warm or cold. A clear path. A sparkling, shimmering river. Ran with my shadow today. She was never ahead of me, always beside or just a little behind. What do I remember from the run? Encountered lots of runners. One roller skier just finishing up. Many walkers, some with dogs, others alone, some in pairs. I greeted one runner with a “good morning.” The falls were rushing fast and loud. The wind was in my face on the way there and then at my back when I turned around. I felt too warm after the first mile. My foot hurt slightly for a few minutes then stopped. I kept thinking that a runner was running at my same pace, but across the river road and on the sidewalk. I would glance over but never see anyone. Did I hear anything? I don’t remember sounds today. Not even the scratching crunching noise of grit on the path or a bird chirping or cawing or trilling. Maybe that was because I often felt like I was in a daze–sometimes floating, sometimes too focused on the movement of my legs and arms. Always trying to keep my shoulders back and raise my chest. Before starting my run I had given myself the task of trying to hold onto thoughts about inner and outer/inside and outside. Perhaps I was too inside the moment of running to think beyond it?

april 24/5.2 MILES

58 degrees
ford loop (almost)

58 degrees! Not used to running in such warm air. Sunny. Wore my favorite 50ish running clothes: black shorts, black tank top, pink hooded jacket, green baseball cap. No headphones. No running tights. No long-sleeved base layer. Yes! Was able to run by the rim of the gorge in my favorite spot, near the old stone steps. Glanced down at the floodplain forest. A sea of brown. Brown floor. Brown branches, trunks, dead leaves. Felt like a late fall afternoon until I encountered a patch of snow not yet melted. Ran up the Summit Hill on the St. Paul side in preparation for Saturday’s race. This hill is at a weird spot where the path curves sharply around and above a big gulch* (or gully? or what? not sure how to describe it).

Running up it, I glanced down below, happy to see so much of the sloping hills of the gully gulch before the leaves return and block my view. The hill wasn’t too hard but it did tire me out. Not too long after reaching the bottom of the other side, I entered into some serious negotiations with my legs. They wanted to stop right away, my brain didn’t. We finally decided we could all take a walk break when we reached the Ford bridge, which was at 4 miles. So windy on the bridge. Looking upstream, the gritty wind irritated my eyes. About 5 minutes after restarting my run, I encountered an older man–late 60s or 70s?–plugging away on the path. Slower than me but steadier too.

* Asked Scott what he would call that area and he offered ravine which is, according the online thesaurus, a synonym for gully or gulch. Ravine does seem like the better choice here although I do like gully gulch

Walking Delia the dog around the neighborhood after my run, I kept hearing footsteps from behind. Every time I looked back it was a lone leaf, dragging slowly on the sidewalk or the road, moved by the wind. I wanted to make note of this strange sensation of mistaking leaves for footsteps and of my thoughts about how certain sounds haunt but I forgot. Now, hours later, I remembered as I reread this part of a beautiful poem by Lisa Olstein:

I expect you. I thought one night it was you
at the base of the drive, you at the foot of the stairs,

you in a shiver of light, but each time
leaves in wind revealed themselves,

the retreating shadow of a fox, daybreak.

april 22/3.3 MILES

54 degrees
greenway bridge turn around + extra

Bare legs this morning! And I wasn’t even cold. Decided to run for 30 minutes to earn the apple watch “earth day” achievement. Was able to run almost the entire time on the walking path. Saw the Daily Walker from a distance. Greeted some other runners and walkers. Encountered some annoying runners taking over the path–warmer weather always brings them out. Saw some rollerbladers. No roller skiers. Some bikers. Hardly any dogs. Listened to my breathing. Felt my strong legs moving rhythmically on the un-puddled path.

april 21/3 MILES

47 degrees
greenway bridge turn around

Another beautiful morning. Don’t remember much because I was listening to my headphones. I think I saw my shadow a few times in the bright sun. Saw lots of runners, alone and in groups. A few bikers. Walkers. No roller skiers. No puddles. No ice, except for under the lake street bridge. Ran faster and felt the joy of working harder. I definitely need to do some more speed work to get used to pushing myself.

Encountered a wonderful poem that reflects my feelings about the slow arrival of spring:

The Change/ Alicia Ostriker

Happening now! It is happening
now! even while, after these
grey March weeks—
when every Saturday you drive
out of town into the country
to take your daughter ot er riding lesson
and along the thin curving road you peer
into the brown stuff—
still tangled, bare, noting

Nothing beginning, the mud,
the vines, the corpse-like trees
and their floor of sodden leaves unaltered,
it makes you want to pull
the steering wheel from its coket,
or tear your own heart out, exasperated
that it should freeze and thaw,
then freeze again, and that
no buds have burst, sticky,
deep red, from their twigs—

You want to say it to your daughter.
You want to tell her also how the grey
beeches, ashes and oaks on Cherry Hill Raod
on the way to her riding school
feel the same, although they cannot
rip themselves up by the roots, or run about raving,
or take any action whatever, and are almost dead
with their wish to be alives,
to suck water, to send force through their fibers
and the change! to change!

Your daughter, surly, unconversational,
a house locking its doors against you,
pulls away
when you touch her shoulder, looks out the window.

You are too old. You remind her of frozen mud.
Nevertheless it is happening, the planet
swings in its orbit forward,
she cannot help it. And what has melted
trickles under the ground, to ends of roots.

april 19/4 MILES

45 degrees
5% snow-covered
mississippi river road path, north/south

Spring is coming! Spring is coming! High of 50 today. 60 this weekend. So much snow still on the ground and the walking path, but the sidewalk and the bike path above the river were clear. And the sun was burning bright. And the birds were chattering.

Before heading out to run, I reread Jamie Quatro’s wonderful op-ed about Running as prayer. I wanted to think about what happens to the inner and the outer as we run. What is the relationship between the inner (soul? mind? thoughts? imagination?) and the outer (other people, landscapes, the air, the path, trees, the river, the gorge, etc)?

Quatro writes about a deep layer of consciousness that we can access during long runs:

a state of prayerlike consciousness. Past the feel-good vibes, past the delusions, my attention moves outward: I’m intensely aware of the cadence of a bird’s song, cherry blossoms weighted-down after a rain. Things light up and I experience an interior stillness that somehow syncs me more profoundly with the exterior world. It’s a paradox: only when I’m fully present in my body do I begin to experience the absence of myself.

I read the op-ed with the intention of thinking about inner/outer while I ran. In the first mile, I did. I kept thinking about how porous my skin is and how I inhale and exhale the outside air and how my feet strike down on the path and how the inner and outer work with and against each other. And I wondered about what it means to be a self moving through a landscape–when are you just admiring the view, looking down at the river while perched on the edge of the gorge, and when are you a part of that landscape? Am I part of the Mississippi river road path more than the person driving their car next to it because I am moving through the outside air, feeling the path, smelling the melting snow? I want to shout Yes! but why is it the case? Looking down on the river today, I felt connected and removed from it, like I was admiring the scenery. Does my self dissolve in these moments of moving, becoming a part of the path, not feeling anything, just moving and being?

All of these thoughts came to me about 5 minutes in. I tried to hold onto some of them–and maybe I did, fleetingly–but other thoughts about how fast I was running or whether or not my left thigh was working as well as my right one or if I should try to catch up to and pass the runner ahead of me or how to slow down my breathing kept creeping in and taking over. On most of my runs, which last around 36 minutes, I would guess I spend 10% on deep thoughts, 25% on smells/sounds/textures/interesting images and the rest (65%) on mundane running things: form, breathing, pace, possible injuries, how sore my legs are, how to avoid people or debris or other animals on the path. Is that accurate?

Anyway, that was how I started my run. What else do I remember? Mostly the wind was fine, but occasionally, when the path curved slightly, I ran straight into it. Yuck. There was no ice on the path. Few puddles. One or two dogs. Less than 5 other runners. No Daily Walker. I smiled at people, but didn’t greet anyone. Heard some geese down below the Lake Street bridge. Saw lots of bikers. I encountered one biker coming from the other direction who was playing music on a radio. As they passed, the music warped–must have been the Doppler effect–and I couldn’t recognize it. Another biker, this time a fat tire, slowly creeped up from behind as we were both climbing a hill. They were biking so slow I was almost able to keep up. Then they crested the hill and disappeared. Running north, with the wind in my face and the sun on my back, I was pleasantly warm. Running south, I was hot. No wind. Bright, burning sun. An extra layer of clothing that I couldn’t remove. After my run, as I walked back home, I noticed all of the melting. Water slowly streamed down the alley into the street and also dripped down from the gutters. I think this is “The Great Melt, part 4”.

Addendum: Just discovered this amazing short film. Wow! I want to write about this soon. So fascinating. I love the music and poetry that accompanies it.

april 17/7 MILES

32 degrees
35% snow-covered
washington ave bridge turn around

Before leaving the house for my run I decided to try and focus on the different types of water that I noticed. But, how much would I be able to focus on this task? It’s hard to hold onto thoughts when you’re running–or walking. As I walked to the river, it started out well enough. I made note of the drip drip drip of melted snow trickling down from a roof gutter. I thought about the particular sound snow that has partly melted, turned into a slushy mess, and then refroze over night, makes when it crunches. So sharp. Almost like walking over broken glass. But then, I noticed how that crunching sound mixed in with the chirping birds and all of the wind chimes. And then I heard the wind passing through a pine tree. I had to stop and record my thoughts on my iPhone. Here’s what I spoke:

The sharp crunching snow. Almost like walking over broken glass. The small drops of water slowly melting, mixed in with the birds chirping and the wind chimes and then: I finally get it. I heard the wind through the pine trees and I understand why there are so many poems about the wind and pine trees (I think my idea about pine trees comes from this article which also introduced me to a word for wind moving through the trees: psithurism).

Shortly after this revelation, I started running. So bright! So white! The snow sparkling, my shadow leading me on the path. The river was ice-free and a beautiful blue. I greeted the Daily Walker. Ran down the Franklin hill and into the flats. Heard the water gushing down the gorge in a spot fairly close to the site of the mudslide that shut the river road down for 2 years. Saw a lone goose, standing motionless in the snow, looking pissed that it was spring and there was no grass. Running back from the Washington bridge I had this strange feeling that I had dreamed about running this stretch recently. Had I? How much of it was a dream and how much of it was forgotten thoughts from the last time I ran this stretch a month ago?

I didn’t experience any euphoric moments–no runner’s high, but I felt good for most of the run. Happy with a slow, steady sense of joy and gratitude for being outside and moving.

I thought about the Boston Marathon and how so many people suffered from hypothermia. How, with the wind, it felt like 20 degrees while they ran in pouring rain, their teeth chattering only a few miles in. I thought about the layers they wore and how it must have felt to run soaking wet and miserable. Then I thought about my own layers and how soft my warm, dry shirt felt next to my skin.

About 30 minutes into my run, I hit some strong winds. Looking ahead at my shadow, I could see my pony-tail swishing vigorously in the wind. Later, heading back, I could feel it dripping tiny drops of sweat.

I heard a shovel scraping somewhere, probably trying to get the last layer of slightly melted but mostly shard-like snow off of the sidewalk.

As I neared the end of my running, feeling tired, I forgot to look down at the river. It probably had a shiny, sparkling spot or two.

Running back, into the sun, I saw more puddles. Nothing deep, only shallow spots spreading across the path.

My thoughts about water were scattered and unexpected: rain-soaked skin, a sweaty pony-tail, slushing snow, a forgotten river, shallow puddles. I guess that’s how my running brain works.


april 16/4 MILES

32 degrees
50% snow-covered
mississippi river road path, north/south

This weekend it snowed. A lot. Almost 20 inches. 2 inches an hour, at one point. It started late Friday night and didn’t stop until Sunday morning. But then only for a couple of hours. before starting again. Difficult to run in. So much snow that school was cancelled for the kids. In April. This is very wrong and I am over it. Thankfully, the path was clear today and I was able to run. In some spots, the path was completely clear. In others, there was only a thin strip of bare pavement. On my way back, I encountered more puddles and big chunks of snow that the plow on the road had kicked up. It felt good to be outside running after several days of being trapped in the house. What do I remember for the run? The wind in my face occasionally. Then, beside me. Then, at my back. The dull crunching of the snow when I ran over it, then the soft thud of my feet on the bare pavement. The cars rushing through puddles and splashing up water. I wondered if the water would hit me (it never did). The running felt good, strong. I felt like I was springing off the path.

Watched the Boston marathon this morning. Such miserable conditions–38 degrees, lots of rain, strong head wind. Des Linden was awesome. Had fun cheering for the persistent underdog.

Not much else to write. This weather is crushing my creative spirit.

april 12/6.4 MILES

40 degrees
franklin loop + extra

Felt much warmer than 40 degrees. Was it the sun? The lack of snow? The belief that spring was coming? Had a great run. Decided to try a variation on my franklin loop route. Ran north on the west mississippi river road, crossed the franklin bridge, ran south on the east mississippi river road past the lake street bridge and up the somewhat steep hill to Summit. Turned around, ran down the hill, over the lake street bridge and then south on the west mississippi river road. I liked it–even the hill.

What do I remember from my run? Lots of birds chirping. Turning on the river road just behind a runner who, after passing the parking lot, held up 4 fingers in one hand, 1 in the other. Why 5? Was he signaling to someone? Reminding himself that he had just run 5 miles or 5 loops or what? He was running faster than me–not fast enough for me to catch him, but fast enough to make me run a little faster too. I never found out what he was doing and by the time I had been running for 10 minutes, I forgot all about it. Greeting the Daily Walker. Greeting a runner I was passing who said “good morning” to me first. Deciding to run onto the Franklin bridge instead of below it into the west river flats. Running on the bridge and noticing the east river flats. Passing a few more runners. Smiling. Deciding to keep running past the Lake street bridge and run up the steep hill to Summit. Running close enough to the trees by the bridge to almost reach out and touch them. Turning around at the top of the hill and thinking about how I would be running up this hill in 2 weeks for a 10k race. Checking to see if the eagle was perched on the dead limb of a tree. Feeling good, relaxed. Loving how clear the path was and wondering how covered in snow it would be after the winter storm hits on Saturday. Looking down at the floodplain forest: a little bit of snow, bare branches.

At the end of my run, I stopped at an overlook to take in the beautiful view of the river and to listen to the birds, especially the woodpecker. Here’s a recording of some sounds: