26.2 Reasons

WHY AM I TRAINING FOR A MARATHON: 26.2 Reasons

Attention, as in paying, not asking for,
Adventure,
facing Adversity
Absorption: more time outside to take in the world.

Breathing in and out,
reclaiming a Belief in myself and in possibility,
Because I want to and I can.

Commitment,
Conservation of energy, sanity, exuberance, joy,
Care of soul/body/intellect.

A desire to be Dedicated and to redefine Discipline.

a way to Experiment,
Escape,
Endure.

Form as a Focus for my creative explorations,
improved Form in running,
a stronger, healthier Form.

an expression of Grief and evidence of surviving it,
Gravity: defying it by flying.

Humility: practicing it, confronting it, learning to embrace it.

Inspiring, as in inhaling and feeling motivated to create and to Imagine new ways of being.

Joy!

Knees that I used to believe couldn’t, but now know can, run for hours without stopping.

Limits, pushing at them, playing with them, accepting them,
for the Love of running
and
 being Long, Lean and Limber.

Muscles: tight, compact, strong,
Mind/body split: proving it doesn’t exist,
Mom: a runner for many years, dead now for almost ten,
Mystery: in the woods, on the long runs,
Magic: in the movement.

Nihilism-avoidance,
No excuses,
Nostalgia for an athletic childhood.

Opportunities: to open up, to commit to something important, to try something new.

Prayer,
Presence,
Playlists,
Podcasts,
Purple toes,
a big fuck you to Pancreatic cancer, the disease that killed my mom and that made me question how much I could trust a healthy, strong body.

Questions! So many Questions about running, training, enduring, the body, breathing, injury and more!

Runner’s High,
Rituals,
Repeated practices,
Routines.

Student: to be one again, learning new things about the body and creativity,
Something to Share with Scott,
Seeking the Sacred.

Triumph,
a lack of Traffic
ignoring, surviving, resisting Trump.

Unrelenting,
Uncomfortable,
Undulating grasses and waves to watch and admire.

Victory,
Vision: new ways of “seeing” the world without relying on diseased eyes.

to Wander,
Wonder,
acquire Wisdom,
celebrate Winter and
examine the Wind: how many versions can I name while I run?

Xerxes Avenue: I don’t want to train for any marathon, I want to train for the Twin Cities marathon. The marathon in which I can run through my city, by places I haunt, places I’ve lived, places I love, including right by Lake Bda Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun) as it intersects with Xerxes Avenue.

a Yearning,
to maintain a Youthful perspective,
Youngins: a role model for my kids.

an expression of a Zeal for living and being present/alive/healthy/active/energetic.

(æ)
æthereal or ethereal: an airy, other worldly, dream-like state that can be achieved during long runs and that makes me feel calm and peaceful and relaxed and removed.

(∫ long s)
to ∫tretch and
∫tay upright.

My Purple Toe

I’m currently taking a great class on non-linear narrative structures. This past week, we looked at lyric and all-middle narratives. I wrote an all-middle essay about a running injury and got some very helpful feedback. I wanted to post my updated draft here. This is the third version of this story. I posted the first version on my running site. And here’s the second version, the one I submitted for my class. 

My Purple Toe

I have a purple toe.

It’s not purple all of the time and maybe purple isn’t even the best way to describe it. Eggplant? Or electric purple or purple mountain majesty or grape popsicle purple?

Purple is my son’s favorite color. His computer case is purple. His clarinet case is purple. His suitcase is purple. His school binder, which he disemboweled in new ways all school year—first removing the strap, then shredding the front pouch, then taking out the cardboard insert that helps keep its structure, then doing something to the 3 ring binders that I can’t quite figure out that makes them only barely close and finally, losing the zipper and the handle so he carried it by cupping his hand under the gap where the zipper used to be—is purple. For the last month, he awkwardly carried that binder two blocks every day in one hand. It barely looked like a binder, but it still got the job done, delivering his notes and his homework and his pencils to school.

The purple my son prefers is royal purple or Tyranian purple, although he just calls it purple. He never considers that purple is fuchsia and pearly purple and phlox and Tyranian purple too.

Did you know that Tyranian purple is named after the ancient city of Tyre, where it was originally discovered, according to legend, rimming the mouth of Hercules’ dog after it had consumed some sea snails? It was the mucus of these snails, and a ton of it, that was used to create the shade. The mucus of 250,000 sea snails were necessary for producing just one ounce of dye. An expensive color reserved for emperors and kings and other elite.

Technically speaking, I suppose, I have a purple toenail and not a purple toe.

Toe is much more pleasing to write and to hear and to imagine as purple than toenail, don’t you think? Plus, anyone can have a purple toenail; just slap some nail polish on it and it’s purple. But, a purple toe is special. A purple toe is a sign of a runner. Before I started running, I did not know that this was a thing, that your toe could turn purple when you run a lot.

It’s called runner’s toe or black toe or BT, for short. I like purple toe because that’s what mine looks like to me, so that’s what I call it, or “my purple toe” or “my perfectly purple, not painful at all, toe.”

I have this rare eye disease, a form of juvenile macular degeneration called Best’s disease, that makes me fail color-blind tests and that has scrambled my macula so much that I can’t always see faces clearly or the color red or objects that first appear in certain areas of my central vision, so just because I see my toe as purple doesn’t mean it is purple or anything close to purple.

If you looked at my toe, would it look purple to you, or black or gray or blue or just gross?

I was diagnosed with Best’s last August at the age of 42, when my vision got too bad to ignore, but I’ve been unknowingly living with a milder version of it for decades, unconsciously adjusting for my vision quirks.

A toe turns purple or black or gray or blue or ugly or awesome, depending on your perspective, for many running-related reasons: friction and increased mileage and burst capillaries and blood pooling under the nail and maybe ill-fitting shoes with a toe box that isn’t big enough or running down lots of hills, which often causes your foot to slide forward.

Here’s how it usually works for me: After a random long run, my toe hurts slightly and feels strange. It doesn’t turn purple right away, but I know what’s coming: in a day or two, hello purple toe! The toenail never falls off. It just grows back in delightfully grotesque ways: twisted, bent, doubled and thick. So thick! So filled with layers of toenail, mashed together. So marvelous in its ability to accommodate the crowd!

I think it should be called “my perfectly freaky purple, not painful at all, toe” because it doesn’t usually hurt and doesn’t do anything except look gross.

Do you have a purple toe? If so, don’t worry. Approximately 3 months after your toe turns purple, a new nail will grow and the old one will fall off, or it won’t, and you’ll have a double toenail, like me. Throughout this process, you can keep running or forgetting that it exists until someone sees it and either shrinks away in disgust or breathlessly asks, “what happened?” or just admiring it and your body’s ability to restore itself.

That is, as long as your black or gray or blue or purple toe doesn’t hurt a lot or keep hurting or turn totally black. If that happens, you probably have a sub hematoma. A sub hematoma occurs when there’s more serious trauma to the toe and the blood flow pressure builds up with nowhere to go. You need to relieve that pressure by creating a small hole in the nail with a sterilized needle and then pushing down while the blood oozes out. Oozes. This was the word that the online source that I consulted used, a site called Lazy Runner.

For the record, I have never had a sub hematoma and needed to make blood ooze, although I have had an in-grown toe nail and needed to make pus ooze.

Runners often take pleasure in talking about the gross things that running does to their bodies and the gross things that they do to their bodies to keep running. They do this to shock others, to distract themselves and to marvel at the resilience of the body in responding to and recovering from trauma.

Also for the record, there’s a chance I might become legally blind at some point, but I will still be able to see trees and toes and shapes of faces and words, when they’re magnified, and the running path. I will be able to see these things, but just a bit differently. More fuzzily. Sometimes fantastically. Conjured images through words and sounds and memory. Containing beat-up binders and pleasing P’s and Hercules, well, his dog at least, and DIY surgery techniques.

I’m already training for when and if this happens.

Runners frequently take a longer view of what is broken in a body, what can be accommodated, what can be ignored and what can and can’t be fixed. They don’t panic. They adjust. They figure out new ways to build endurance, with one primary goal in mind: to keep running. Always to keep running.

Writing with Ro

After hiking in the gorge with Delia (our dog), Rosie and I had a lot of bug bites. We decided to create some counter-spell poetry, to ward off the itching. Here are a few lines:

Bugs, bugs go away
I don’t like you anyway
You’ll never live to see the day
when I stand up here and say:
Bugs! Bugs! They’re Okay!

Bugs, bugs they’re everywhere!
Even in my underwear!
I think I feel them in my hair!
eww so gross, I’m in despair!

Bugs, bugs go away
I know how, I’ll get some spray
spray you once, spray you twice
I don’t care, I’m not that nice.

Happy summer days
turn to
crappy bummer days
as you can see
I’ve been stung by a bee!

As the weather starts to warm
all the bugs begin to swarm
they like to dive, then they hover
in no time, your skin is covered.

OR

As the weather starts to warm
all the bugs begin to swarm
as their bites begin to cover
all your skin, it’s time for a glove or
something else to block out the pest
something that will put the itch to rest!

The Haircut

Lately, I’ve been writing a lot of poetry. Here’s one about my son and his recent haircut.

Yesterday, my son got his hair cut
for the first time in more than three years.
Well, that’s not quite true.
He’s had it “trimmed” several times.

And cut, very badly, once.
But that was only an inch or two.
This time, he had it shaved off
the sides.
And cut short on top.
Almost like the young George McFly but much cooler, I think.
Which I guess means it’s not cool at all because I’m almost 43 and he’s 14.
A pile of hair on the floor of the salon.
How many inches?
6? 8?
Seems like a foot.
That’s how much he’s grown since he’s had short hair.
At first I wasn’t sure if I liked it.
His head seemed tiny, untethered from the mop that made him a twin to Cousin It.
But when we got home and he turned and looked back at me,
standing there in the sun on our deck, I saw
my 4 or 6 or 8 year old son but with a man’s face.
Warm fragments of discarded moments,
the ones that had seemed lost forever,
came rushing back.
Such a beautiful feeling!
But the boy had only returned
to become acquainted with an older self.
A deeper-voiced version
that looks the same, but not quite.
And who doesn’t act the same at all,
except for sharing a similar caring disposition and unflappable spirit
that had grown harder to notice in-between the loud fake burps and
screeches and all that hair.
That thick, long, unruly hair
that covered his face like a mask or a shield.
Gone.
No hair to hide behind.
Now, a face.
Such a beautiful face!
I try not to stare, but it’s hard
not to look and marvel at what I’m witnessing:
time passing.
Then he notices me and stares back,
flaring his eyes and sticking out his tongue.
A boy again, but not for long.

Turning a Running Log Entry Into an Erasure Poem

For the month of April, I’ve been turning my running log entries into erasure poems. First I write an entry about my run. Then, after a few minutes, I reread the entry, looking for words or phrases that stand out to me and then I add in some html (<span class=”erased”>) to erase the words that I don’t want to use. Yesterday’s poem was unexpectedly dark, but revealed some of my ambivalent feelings about running alone in more isolated areas.

I don’t know that much about erasure poems, but I think that they are usually created out of found text written by someone else (a newspaper article or a page from a book, for example). I’m using my own text, but text that was created for a different purpose. It’s amazing to me how frequently these erasure poems reveal feelings, ideas, underlying themes of mine that I didn’t realize I was communicating. Pretty cool.

Hover over the log entry to reveal the erasure poem. For more on this poem, see An Unexpected Erasure.

54 degrees
mississippi river road path north

Ran in the rain. Didn’t mean to. Thought front had passed. It hadn’t. At the start, everything was just wet, still dripping from the heavy drizzle that had been going on all morning. Feeling the water on my nose, thought it was more dripping, then realized it had started to rain again. I don’t mind running in the rain, especially when I have on my favorite baseball cap and a jacket. Then I hardly notice it.

Not too far from the start of my run on the river road path, the walking/running path dips below the road, down to the ridge of the gorge. In the summer, when the leaves have returned to the trees, it’s a sea of green and nothing else. But from late October until mid-May, the trees are mostly bare. You can see how the earth steeply slopes down to a small bit of woods, with a floor of dirt and dead leaves and a worn path that leads to the river and a sandy beach. You can reach this path by walking down some stone steps that are closed during the winter. I remember the first time I finally noticed this section of the path. It was during early spring a few years ago, after the snow had melted but before anything had started to grow again. It was early morning and a fog was lingering on the tree branches. It was eerie and beautiful. A month or so later, my daughter discovered the steps, which had always been there, in plain sight, but I had ignored, and we hiked down them to the river. Now, it’s one of my favorite places. Today, there wasn’t fog there, just a soft, steady rain, but it was still beautiful. The grayish light made the colors of the early spring trees more intense: a rich brown mixed with vibrant shades of light green. It reminded me of some of the illustrations in one of my favorite books as a kid: Oh What a Busy Day! by Gyo Fujikawa.

Mundane things to note from the run: maybe due to the rain, my watch stopped tracking my run 1.26 miles in. My left leg started to feel heavy again, towards the end of the run. I probably should take at least two days off to let it rest. The wind was bad, about 17 or 18 mph. Running north, it was at my back. When I turned around, it swirled around me and then pushed the rain in my face.