Archive for the ‘Running’ Category

Runner’s ‘High’

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

A few words this morning from Fiction Dailyland … I’ve missed writing for the past few weeks, but there’s no doubt it’s been a busy, fun time so far.

Regular readers know that I currently am running for City Council here in Greenville, to represent District 3. It’s been a steady stream of meetings, planning, letters and spreadsheets, but I’m on my way.

I came across an article today about running. A new study has shown that the Runner’s High we love so much is a real phenomenon, and its effects may equal those of opiates.

‘Runner’s high’ can turn into a real addiction

Study finds brain chemicals that mimic same sense of euphoria in opiate use

By Dan Peterson
updated 7:59 p.m. ET, Wed., Aug 26, 2009

Just as there is the endorphin rush of a “runner’s high,” there can also be the valley of despair when something prevents avid runners from getting their daily fix of miles.

Now, researchers at Tufts University may have confirmed this addiction by showing that an intense running regimen in rats can release brain chemicals that mimic the same sense of euphoria as opiate use. They propose that moderate exercise could be a “substitute drug” for human heroin and morphine addicts.

Given all of the benefits of exercise, many people commit to an active running routine. Somewhere during a longer, more intense run when stored glycogen is depleted, the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus release endorphins that can provide that “second wind” that keeps a runner going.

Little to add here except that I can leave the house feeling tired, old, hollowed out and ready for my rocking chair … have a big run (I favor seven miles, though slowly) … and return home ready to take on the entire world.

Yet running is not easy, at least when I head out the door. There’s heat in summer, rain, cold, high grass and ice; cars and bugs. Yet if I can stay with it for 30 minutes, that’s when the rewards usually start: the great feeling of elation, dare I say transcendence, that begins.

Of course, after an hour in the heat, when I find myself with goose bumps and skirting heat stroke, I wonder how I’m going to get home. That’s when I remember why I’m doing it: The rewards are always more than the effort. And the effort is simple: One foot in front of the other.

Happy Trails!!

Winter Running

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

We’re waiting for the arctic wave to arrive today … how nice to have winter in town … how important to reduce our carbon emissions … bike to work … turn down the heat … recycle … so we can have more winters.

I went out for a three-mile run yesterday in what was a cold rain. Instead of making me feel worse, I felt energized. Today I wake up, euphoric still from that run, with plans for another one this morning.

It’s so easy to let it go … especially in winter and when I’m busy … to simply say, well, not today, I’ve worked so hard I deserve to just sit here and have a snack … surf the Web … flip through a magazine.

And sitting at this desk I get antsy. The more I sit, the more I crave snacks … if I can get myself to run three miles … just out the door, down the street and back … everything is better, brighter, happier. I managed to eat right yesterday, somehow … and the combination — exercise, eat right — is cheap, simple and life-changing. Yet nearly impossible to maintain!

We can never know the tangle of impulses and urges that make us human. Sometimes, despite them, we manage to rise above.

Three Mile Challenge

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

For the past three days, I’ve tried to run three miles each day. I fell short Monday and Tuesday, but now I’ve at least run several days in a row, no matter how I felt.

And so today I’m launching the Three Mile Challenge.

Other people manage to run every day … I read about them in Runner’s World, Trail Runner … even see them on Oprah. My sister manages to run most every day and she has a 4-year old!!

So I’m going to try. The goal is to run every day … if I swim at the pool, no run required … one day a week I’d like to do a 7-mile run, other days 3 miles.

We’ll see how it goes. Running 3 miles is not hard, physically. The mind, however, cowers in the corner, afraid … and throws up barriers … you’re too tired … it’s too late in the day … too cold … you’re too busy.

Sitting at this computer sucks away my energy and by 3 p.m. I just want to eat a chocolate pie and go to bed. (Writers and eating … that’s another post for another day!!)

The Three Mile Challenge is now on. Off to the races!!

Of course looking out my office window I see it’s gray … raining … probably cold … I have a feature article to finish today … plus writing and editing a Web site … the house is a wreck … clothes need to be washed …

Guess that’s why they call them challenges.

ARTICLE OF INTEREST: No matter what ideas and opinions have prevailed, or what’s considered “mainstream” thinking … or for what reasons … there’s no doubt that a time has come when we are required to take a good, honest look at the authentic and lasting same-sex relationships shared by our friends.

It’s time for human-kind to be brutally honest in its appraisal of marriage … especially for those who condemn it … and those who do so because of their readings of religious scriptures … and accept that those opinions are based on preconceptions and emotional knee-jerking.

Hats off to Newsweek for this examination of the Bible’s depiction of marriage.

Reindeer Dash for Chris Cash

Monday, December 8th, 2008

What a great run yesterday … despite the temps … with wind that felt like 30s … during the 4th annual Reindeer Dash for Cash. It’s held each year in honor of Capt. Chris Cash, who died in Iraq. He lived in the Greenville, N.C. area before he was dispatched to Iraq and was an avid runner, marathoner and exercise physiologist at a local health center.

He obtained degrees from N.C. Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount, as well as undergraduate and graduate degrees from ECU.

I ran in the 5 K and my goal was an 11-minute mile … done!! Though for some reason (a slight cold?) I was very short of breath, especially in the first half-mile.

A shout-out to my friend Tony P., who ran with me most of the way until he passed me in the last quarter mile (you dog!!) … we had a marvelous conversation for the better part of a half hour, talking about movies, families, everything from Cesar Chavez and migrant workers to Ian Curtis and Joy Division … Dogtown and Z-Boys (great movie) … The World’s Fastest Indian (another film) … of course Steve Prefontaine and Bill Bowerman were discussed.

After the race, this 47-year old felt 20 years younger … it burnt off the slag of laziness and tupor, both physical and intellectual, that had been seeping into my psyche for the past few weeks … revved me up, inside and out, for better habits, running goals (11-minute miles weekly!!) and a new outlook on life.

People wonder why in the world anyone would force themselves to pound out mile after mile, in such a strange and nebulous pursuit as running.

Just do a 5 K, in honor of a great soul, in the freezing cold, with fascinating conversation, finished off with a cup of coffee at the finish line (!!) and a V8 juice and you’ll be hooked, too.

Trail Run

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Yesterday another perfect autumn day and despite the chores that could use my attention, I escaped to the woods of Goose Creek State Park outside Washington.

I wore my running shoes and ran through all the park trails, about eight miles. My overall pace was about the same as walking (no trail records here!!) but I went at a brisk running clip. I started at Tar Kiln Trail, the newest trail at the park which just opened last year. It is a nice flat trail, with fascinating tar kiln sites marked along the way. These were places where sap from the pine trees was collected by slowly cooking the wood. The sap was sold for tarring ship keels and the like. An important trade in Colonial America.

From there, I scooted to the Observation Deck on the old Mallard Creek Trail, then to the other side of the park. I passed the old cemetery, that dates to the 1880s. From there, onto one of my favorite trails, the Goose Creek Trail.

That second hour of running went by very fast. By then, I reached Ivy Gut Trail and into my third hour of running, started to feel strange … my legs were numb and the tree roots began to torment me … I saw people where sunlight hit the tree branches. My mind had no thoughts. One foot in front of the other … breathe …

I wrapped up at about 2h 20 min, and it took another 15 minutes to meander along the marvelous boardwalk back to the Visitors Center. In all, about 2h 30 minutes. When it was over, I didn’t want to stop running. I felt on top of the world … what a great return for a slender time investment!!

No doubt the ibuprofen helped and today, I’m not nearly as stiff or tired as I could have been.

Running is a special pursuit, that takes me out of this world and into a state of bliss … if I can just get past the first half-hour or so. For devotees, running is a deeply held commitment.

Recently I’ve watched movies about Steve Prefontaine, the spirited University of Oregon runner who set records an taught us all how to push ourselves. He died tragically in a car accident before he could compete in the 1976 Olympics.

“Without Limits” and “Prefontaine” tell his story. While they take a predictable approach, this runner is worth learning about.

Once More, With Feeling

Monday, October 6th, 2008

This morning despite having five million items on my “to-do” list I sacrificed all for a long run. For more than a week I’ve longed for a big run, but I spend my mornings working and by 5 or 6 p.m. who wants to run seven miles? And then wake at 4:30 a.m. to start over again?

Sundays are usually my big run days, but the past few weeks I’ve actually spent at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church … in the sanctuary, doing the rituals, confessing, reciting and singing hymns.

It’s not as strange an exchange as it may seem, running and church. Running is my church — a time of profound reflection and focus. Moreover, running fills me with ecstasy and peace — and that’s worthy of the best church service.

Church and worship, however, can lead to an even more sublime moment as we are able to share the very air with a presence greater than ourselves — the hymns, the beautiful sanctuary and stained glass windows, yes, even the robes and all the formality. They give a sense of immaterial being, bliss and hallowedness.

There is also a sense of connecting with the best parts of myself. Prayers are said not to a paternalistic father “God” or lord (sounds so feudal and harsh); rather, those prayers are sent out to the universe and back to me — so I can manifest these positive effects and also so they will take shape among all mankind.

During my Buddhist studies I continued to see myself as a Christian Episcopal. I take seriously the advice given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who suggests any disciple of spiritual enlightenment hold true to the religion of their upbringing.

Now I see the wisdom of his advice. We are shaped and formed by the cultures and frameworks of faith that vary by region and nation. We must, however, find the commonality. Only by probing our own native faith will we be forced to find that commonality.

The world’s faiths are many languages: Different words for the same experiences and longings.

Running Down the Past

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

Originally posted 28 November 2007

An interview took me to Rocky Mount, N.C., yesterday, about an hour from here — my hometown.

I felt myself step backward as soon as I took the Church Street exit and drove down that street, where the first Hardee’s restaurant once stood, the restaurant we visited for hamburgers and fries after church on rare occasions.

My interview took place in the old People’s Bank building which has been remarkably restored. It was crumbling for decades, but now has been replastered and painted, and is in use.

I walked up the five flights of stairs, the gray granite I remembered so well from my childhood when, in the late 1960s, I would visit my grandfather’s insurance office in that same building.

My interview completed, I visited the cavernous lobby. There was the large safe; the tall two-story ceiling, the windowed area where the teller counters once stood.

After the interview, I stopped in a restaurant near City Lake to change into running shoes and went for a tour-de-old-haunts.

I ran around the lake, saw the ducks and thought of the times Billie Thompson, a dear, late, family friend, took me there, starting when I was 3 years old. Once I waded in and she was furious!

I ran through West Haven, saw the lovely old houses, many of them washed away by the ’99 flood. I wound my way to Edwards Junior High, where I attended eighth grade. Not a bad year, but I enjoyed seeing the school robbed of its power over me, to stand in line, ask for permission to go to the bathroom, eat and leave by others’ schedules.

When I returned to City Lake, I had other feelings, some sadness for classmates who have passed, or whose troubles I’ve heard of. I also felt whole in an unexpected way, seeing my hometown’s natural beauty, the heritage trees, well-maintained yards and businesses that go on no matter what.

It was a treasured interlude to my so-called grown-up life in Greenville and all that means — e-mail and text messages, responsibilities, my sometimes inflated sense of importance.

Running through those streets I felt myself just a wide-eyed girl again.

From Gene-O:
A bittersweet idyll and remembrance of things past. Reading this short, beautifully written personal essay has given a great start to my day.

From Marion:

I looked out from that building and saw the aqua-colored water tower standing 500 feet from our old apartment … I used to think of it as an Eiffel Tower. The memories were powerful yesterday but in a way that felt very grounding.

TOMORROW: Figuratively Speaking Friday.
Tech Thursday returns Oct. 9.

Running away

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

With fall’s cool days, there are few things better than a long run. Yesterday, I headed out into bright sun, down the highway and reached the nearby neighborhood where I was able to enjoy the shade of overhead trees.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, The Great Carp, October 1889Crossing the first stream on my course, I stopped to look into the water and saw the fish. If I sneak up to them carefully I can gaze down at them for some time.

Later in my run, at a larger stream crossing, I see turtles and more fish. It’s often at this bridge I see the familiar large carp or trout, about 15 inches long.

This particular fish has been something of a spirit guide for some time. It was gazing at him one day that I felt the full meaning of words from His Holiness the Dalai Lama — that all beings want to be happy and avoid suffering.

I imagined this great fish going about his daily business of avoiding hooks and herons, turtles and raccoons, and doing so long enough to grow to this size. Somehow, I was with the fish, looking for food and minding my own small daily affairs in the world.

Seeing this fish is always a highlight of my run, reminding me to stop and consider my kinship with all sentient beings around me.

One time I saw some teenagers perched on that bridge with fishing poles. I asked them to reconsider what they were doing … because there was a large fish down there I was fond of. It probably sounded pretty flaky, but the thought of that old fish getting hooked and then discarded was unbearable. Sometimes being an adult has perks … I must have seemed like some kind of authority figure.

I’ve seen my buddy from time to time since then, although not yesterday, and I know one day he’ll be gone. And when he goes, it will remind me that what we call reality is always changing, and that everything will pass and fade away — the stream, the bridge, the neighborhood, my running shoes and these runs, my breath, my world.

That’s both unsettling and reassuring. It means life goes on, with or without me. I’m not in charge. The best I can do at any moment is just breathe in and run.

Playlist Week-Wednesday

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

The best times always have a soundtrack … 1982 it was Joe Jackson, the Clash, XTC, Talking Heads, the Police, all the New Wave bands that gave every moment heightened meaning.

These days, there’s no club-hopping, but I manage to have fun every once in a while … usually when I’m running. I’m slow, but generally cover 15 or more miles a week.

Music can get me through the first half-mile when I want to turn back, or take me through miles five and six when I’m dragging.

Here are some good running songs.

Mr. Blue Sky (ELO) — If this song doesn’t make you happy, then you’re not breathing.

Beautiful Stranger (Madonna) — The pace is perfect for mid-run. Another sunny song that gets my legs moving.

Nearly Africa, English Roundabout, Snowman (XTC) — XTC is rooted in ’80s New Wave sounds, but they’re so much more. Complex polyrhythms, percussion and melody distinguish these songs. Anything from 1982’s English Settlement and I pick up the pace.

Hours (David Bowie) — This eerie song played over the credits of the film “Memento.” Strange film, strange song, but the chameleon gives it the drama of an opera aria.

Focus on Sight (Thievery Corporation) — Also from “Memento.” Hopping, mysterious, with echos of India.

She’s Electric, Champagne Supernova (Oasis) — Just happy. I am still stuck on these guys, and their Wonderwall ways.

Man out of Time (Elvis Costello) — How can you not include such a great song? It’s an epic story of a fallen relationship, and you can dance to it.

Tears Dry on Their Own (Amy Winehouse) — This young singer’s album Back to Black is unmatched. Enjoy her talents while she’s still with us.

Every Picture Tells a Story (Rod Stewart) — Complex narrative of a young man’s heyday trying to find himself.

Milk & Honey (Beck) — I have an entire playlist of Beck songs, but this one is, well, the cream of the crop.

TOMORROW: A star-gazer’s list of space-age songs

Finish Lines

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

It’s 65 degrees this morning so before the temperature rises much more, I am heading out the door to run.

It’s nearly impossible to write all day if you don’t go full out at some point, either swimming, running or floundering around in tap dancing class.

Still working on two pieces that are after weeks of work, taking shape: an article about the Spanish in early 16th-century southern U.S. and a short story I’ve been calling “Poison.”

Last night I lay in bed for two hours, unable to sleep (Sunshine Madness), and in my mind, ran through the article and raced to the end of the short story.

I realized I had no way to end the short story!

So lacing up my running shoes, out the door and back, to figure out where to take the Spanish, and where to take Poison.