I was at a conference called NewsFoo this past weekend. In sessions and in conversations throughout the event, folks shared a number of impressive or memorable cultural artifacts they'd encountered; I wrote down as many as I could. I often stupidly neglected to note who pointed out what. Where I've remembered the source, I've included her. Thanks to everyone who shared!
I hear you’re embarking on a running career tomorrow. And I hear you’re a skeptic. I thought it might be useful to write this up. (Edit: Whoa! It’s longer than I thought it’d be!)
I was also pretty skeptical when I started running. I was no athlete. In high school, I thought the days we had to run a mile in gym class equated to corporal punishment.
At the time I started running, I was living in Fresno. I had nothing resembling an “exercise routine.” I would on occasion find myself in the tiny “gym” in my apartment complex, pushing some machine back and forth for half-an-hour until I felt I’d filled a quota. And I was perfectly satisfied with this.
What I wasn’t satisfied with was my iPod. Poynter had given it to me as a parting gift when I left the Institute for Fresno the previous summer. And as delighted as I was with the thing, I hadn’t found any good time to use it. My ride to work was too short; I needed my ears free for the workday; and I usually ate lunch with friends from the paper.
One beautiful fall afternoon, I happened to arrive home early from work to find my iPod staring at me, guilting me out over not enjoying the gorgeous weather. I decided to create an iTunes playlist including some of my favorite weather-appropriate songs, and load the playlist onto the iPod. I figured I’d go outside and walk, but the blocks immediately surrounding my North Fresno apartment complex weren’t the most soul-stirring things. A sudden impulse presented itself: why not jog for a spell? Moving faster, I’d see a bit more of the neighborhood, and possibly discover some previously unseen scenery. No obvious counterarguments presented themselves, so I strapped on the closest running-shoe equivalents I could find in my closet, booted up the iPod, and stepped out.
I made a few key promises to myself as I walked out of the gates of the complex. I recommend these to you:
1) Go slower than you think you should. I had no interest in setting speed records, and I wasn’t really even all that concerned about elevating my heart rate.
2) Turn back when you know you’ve got more than half your energy left. I figured I’d probably jog about 10-15 minutes, and that I could always walk if I overestimated my stamina.
So I started my trot. Nothing magical happened, but the music paired with the scenery was pretty nice. And when I got back home, I wasn’t all that tired. It was pleasant, in its way.
So I went back out, the morning after next – a tiny bit farther, a tiny bit faster. The early morning adrenaline was a treat, and I found myself starting to love the way the pace let you appreciate the scenery – more varied than a walk, more unhurried than a bike ride. And my music mix was the *best.* So I went out again.
Before I realized what was happening, I *loved* running. I craved it. I couldn’t do enough of it. There was always one gorgeous instant when I’d pass over railroad tracks and a grove of walnut trees, typically shrouded in an early-morning fog. (This was where the grove used to be; it’s since given way to development.)
By the time I got to Minneapolis – a runner’s paradise – there was little more miraculous to me than an early morning run around a beautiful lake. Soon, I was going on 6-mile runs, three times a week. I didn’t even need the music anymore. It’s impossible to describe how peaceful it is to run around a frozen lake before dawn, warmed by your own breath inside a balaclava, all the sound in the air absorbed by the snow around you, the white ground glowing beneath a dark sky.
How I stopped running
This was originally going to be a convo btw. Richard Linklater and Randall Poster, but Linklater couldn’t make it. It’s still pretty interesting. Here goes: