March 30, 2009

What I blog about when I blog about running

Taking out the trash just now, I was talking to my neighbor and he asked me whether I had run this morning. I had, and I mentioned I was running just about every morning these days. He seemed impressed, as you might be impressed by a man who's just swallowed a hundred goldfish - an exceptional feat, that inspires little envy.

I get that look often enough these days. My friends know me for a runner of recent vintage. Only three months ago I was running a maximum of three and a half miles, once a week, originally to have something to do while my wife ran, and then we would meet up to get greens at the farmers market. These days I'm attempting 50 mile weeks (more on that next time), and I appear to be, as my neighbor says, "really into this."

It's true, this is my new religion. I'm running with the ardor of a convert (a phrase applied slightly cruelly by V.S. Naipaul to fanatical Pakistani Muslims, but that's kind of what it's like). In the three months since I started adding miles to my occasional runs, I've acquired 13 running books and read, well, most of them. I bought tech shirts and tights, I own two pairs of training shoes and am eying a third pair, and I just bought a ridiculously fancy watch (yet I have not named it - there must be limits). And I think I mentioned the 50-mile weeks. I seem to be really into this.


Let me sidestep that question for a minute and ask, why is every single runner out there a running blogger? Every morning, in that bleary half hour in my office before the green tea kicks in, I peruse a hundred times a hundred running blogs. I have only to google the name of my last race to find pictures of all my competitors and learn their diets, hangups, and the names of their sports watches. When I run early in the morning and see the serious runners chuffing along the damp, dark track, I can practically see them composing their blog post between stance and swing.

Hi. Welcome to my blog.

Haruki Murakami is not a writer I'm much attracted to but I read, a in rather scathing review of his horribly-titled What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (a clumsy allusion to Carver's already-horrible story title), about the intimate parallels he draws between running and writing. How both take discipline, patience, time, etc. And there's something very true about that. I guess there could be just as many weightlifting, basketball, and gymnastics blogs. But there ain't. There's something about running that causes narrative to rise up in the gorge.

So to return to the question, why run? Or why write? Why swallow that many goldfish? Or for that matter, even just one?

I go to the ancients when I need an earthy answer. My first blog entry was as far back as I, or anyone, can go into the paleontology of running. People run. People have been running longer than there have been people, properly speaking. People run to live. Maybe to hunt, maybe to migrate, maybe to worship, probably to mate, or just to fit into that smaller-size animal skin. And it's not at all implausible that our ability to run gave us the reason to grow our big giant brains, gave us reasons to tell stories about what we saw and felt on our runs.

So: Today was a recovery run, after yesterday's long run, in which I trotted the length of the Brooklyn Bridge and back across it, through the quaint glories of Brooklyn Heights and its Promenade, Red Hook's faded docks and gleaming big-box cluster of Ikea-Lowes-Fairway-stan, back up Park Slope (oh right, that's why they call it Park freakin' Slope - pant, pant), once around Prospect Park, and over to my dear friends' house for delicious blueberry pancakes. Because of all that, I felt stiffness this morning, and in need of a little running love to loosen things up a bit. Today's shorter run, all in the park, relieved and relived the whole of yesterday's run for me.

There you have it. As Stravinsky said, "One hopes to worship God with a little art if one has any, and if one hasn't, and cannot recognize it in others, then one can at least burn a little incense." Or write a little blog. Et voilĂ .

The photo? That's my daughter this morning, eating her goldfish. We are raising her in the faith.


  1. Wow, that critique was harsh. I thoroughly enjoyed "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" and suggest you add it to your queue of running books, but then again, Haruki Murakami is one of my favorite writers.

  2. I've read Murakami's book and I do see the compatability of writing/blogging and running. It's a sweet marriage that compliments each other in its' cadence and rhythm. The mere thought of running effects collequy both with runners and non-runners. You can't help but write about the run. ;)


  3. @Cowboy Hazel (and @copia) - You mean the NY Times was harsh right? I only meant to disdain Murakami's title. I haven't read the book, though I will definitely think about it now.

  4. You really are an awfully good writer!

  5. Enjoyed this post, and I agree with CH, the Murakami book is a good one

  6. I'm a Murakami fan, but also hate the title. I expected something fresher from him. Have yet to check out the book though.

    And yes, I was impressed, and inspired! Though I haven't added more distance (I'm attached to my route around the park, like a hamster to his wheel) I've added some strength training. I credit your contagious zeal, as well as the mysterious arrival of some Runner's World magazines.

  7. hey daniel, cool blog! keep on runnin'/writing!