June 28, 2009

Achilles Hope & Possibility

Originally uploaded by niznoz
My favorite races are the ones without the money prizes. Less competitiveness, more celebration. Today's Achilles Hope & Possibility doesn't even count as a marathon qualifier, so everyone was there because they wanted to run THIS race.

I had planned to run a mile before the start, but I found myself drawn to the start of the hand-cycle race, about 20 minutes before the foot start. At the front of the crowd of recumbent contraptions was a group of young veterans, most missing one or both legs. They wore khaki t-shirts that said on the back, "We were just doing our job." I was struck by how young they were, you know, half my age. I was moved and misty-eyed for them. They had gone to war, and lost body parts. I felt sad, but filled with admiration that they were racing.

I had a great time running, cheering on the cycle and wheelchair racers, watching the cheering crowds. All the racers seemed to be in a good mood. On the last stretch my speed was frankly falling off, I got passed by a guy, then a woman. As the next guy was passing me he leaned in conspiratorially, pointed to the next runner, and said, "I'm gonna catch her".

Today was my long run day, so after I finished I took another loop around the course, to take advantage of water stations. Now I started noticing other racers. There was a boy, no older than six, running on a prosthetic right lower leg. His dad would lift him every so often, but then he wanted to be put down and ran joyfully, like all children run. There was a girl in braids, maybe 8 or 9, on a prosthetic blade, also running just like every kid in the world.

I found myself filled with happiness, and I realized I had made a mistake at the handcycle start. I had felt a kind of sadness or pity for those soldiers, for what they'd lost, whatever they'd been through, for whatever feelings they might be having. But that was my hangup. Everyone seemed to be having an awesome time. The kids I might have felt bad for were doing kid things in a happy kid way. They were complete.

Every race is a celebration. Sometimes its theme is mourning or memorial, sometimes commemoration. But whether or not it's a race "for" a cause, essentially everyone races like kids. Kids run and are happy. It's enough.

Happy child
From New York Road Runners

June 25, 2009

Running Krap Tcepsorp

Happy Birthday niznoz
During my Tuesday run I noticed for the first time just how crowned the Prospect Park loop road is. Since I always run the same way (I dislike all the tiny negotiations that running against traffic causes) one leg has to reach down farther than the other almost the entire way. Essentially, my regular route makes me run as if my left leg were 2 inches shorter than my right. In a strange coincidence, my left leg is having problems.

So today I ran the opposite direction, clockwise around the loop rather than counter-clockwise. The park is completely different in that direction. The lake, for example, is shown from a much more advantageous angle and takes a different shape. The trees, obnoxiously lush from the insistent rains, now create unfamiliar blind corners. The park is always changing, from any angle, but in its mirror state it's a parallel universe.

My college film teacher once made a short film called "The Wonder Ring," recording New York's 3rd Ave. El just before it was to be demolished. Joseph Cornell then cut together the outtakes from this film and showed them sort of reversed and upside down, calling his film "Gnir Rednow". The original is musical and lovely, a record of form and light. But I remember thinking Cornell's mirrored version was transformative, showing hidden aspects and a sort of animist spirit in the condemned trestles. Cornell always preferred time that flowed backwards, or at least turbulently.

I had a good run, with some quick, gentle intervals. When I got back home my watch had stopped.

June 17, 2009


tree heart
Originally uploaded by niznoz
Dear, sweet Running,

Do you have any idea how much I missed you? Six weeks ago you told me, I think we need to take a break. You said, It's not you, it's me. You said, I just need some time to think this through. And then you were gone. I was sure I'd die right there.

It was hard to be apart.

And then you came back. Last Sunday in the park with you, it felt just like before. It was so good to be back together again. Like the day we first met. That morning the leaves were greener than they've ever been, the sky bluer, the ground softer. The trails rose up to embrace our every step. Little children yelped with joy as we passed. Dogs looked up from whatever they were gnawing on to watch us in wonder. Old men on benches bowed their heads in nostalgic reverie.

Last Sunday I knew as soon as I saw you again that we can make this work. And I think you knew it too. But a few things have changed.

Running, let's sit down.

Well, here goes. I've been seeing other workouts. Let me explain. While we were on our "break", I was so lonely. Long story short, there was Yoga and, um, I don't know, it just happened. Don't look at me like that. Nobody planned it. It's just that Yoga was there and you weren't and I desperately needed someone. I don't think it's a forever thing. And anyway, between you and me, Yoga's really high-maintenance. It could never be like you and me, Running. I need you to know that.

And don't be angry, but I've also been thinking of trying something a little unusual. Yes, a bike. Because here's the deal, and I have to be totally honest with you: you and I were so intense, seeing each other every day, I think that's what caused our problems. I wanted more of you all the time, it was like a craving, and eventually it got unhealthy. So I think it's best for me - best for us, Running - if we keep it to three or four times a week. At least at first. Yes, I might hang with Core Workout or Bike on other days. But you know you're the one I love. Core Workout makes me feel good, but it's never the same as when I wake up to find you there.

Are you OK, Running? Good.

A bond as deep as ours won't suffer just because we explore other things. In fact, that is what makes us stronger! And no, it's not you, you're awesome. It's just how I'm built. I thought I wanted just one workout all the time, every day, but I need to be free to discover life. Frankly I'm not getting any younger. And you're not getting any older.

I'm so glad you're OK with all this. I was sure you would be. You’re so best. In November, when we're together for the Marathon, it'll be just golden. Nothing can ever take that away from us.

Right, Running? Right?


June 12, 2009

Brother Sport

Originally uploaded by niznoz
I don't usually work blue, but:

I can't fucking wait to get running again.

June 10, 2009

I break horses

my friend
Originally uploaded by niznoz
I rode out on a broken horse. . . .

It's hard to know what to write, as long as I'm not running. The rubber therapy band isn't as inspirational as the long, looping ribbon around the park. But my blog needs some sugar every once in a while, if only to keep it in shape.

I'll be running again soon, with no other goal than getting the most out of every second of the summer and early fall. Those weeks of sun and honey. At the end of it, just before the rigors of winter, there is the New York Marathon.

I've tried to replace running with yoga and some weights, in totally good faith and with all my heart, but it's not the same. Nothing tastes as good as the stillness of the park before sunup.

To all of you who are starting your own marathon run-ups, I'll be with you. And to those who have other marathons to win, be it getting out the door, or sitting through 16 straight episodes of Lost, or cleaning out your wallet, or finally finishing 2666, or whatever, I'll be with you.