One of the best expressions of thankfulness and gratitude I can share this holiday season is an introduction to my friend Beth Howard and her amazing and inspiring mission to help heal through the making and sharing of pie. Magnificent in its simplicity, powerful in impact. Lots to explore on her website, from the books which make great gifts to exploring pieces of her story. Enjoy and pass along.
Um, right. Parking this here for future reference.
Absolutely on the mark. Hatred and resentment of women is behind an amazing amount of right-wing aggressiveness. Guns, education, healthcare, child care, reproductive rights, right down the line. So clear and easy to see. Harder to deal with, but we must.
The romance of the American farmer is a total myth–straight out propaganda–in today’s America, representing only 2-3% of food production. The rest is from food factories that are destroying the planet, backed by the most powerful lobbying groups in DC.
[from The New York Times]
Not many things–nothing, in fact–gets to me the way this issue does. Now, because of what happened to them, their children have to undergo active shooter drills, expanding the concentric circles of trauma.
In addition to overheating the planet, we have chemically altered its makeup.
“The rate at which novel entities are being developed and produced by industry exceeds governments’ ability to assess risk and monitor impacts.”
Not everyone has $2.5 million, but it probably works with less.
“Own your house. Have a couple bucks in the bank. Don’t drink. That’s all I have to say to anybody on any social level.”
Essentially my Twitter feed, beautifully compiled.
“I understand climate change as doing something similar to what Dr. Johnson said the hangman’s noose did for focusing the mind. It’s not words that I’m worried about wasting, but experiences. What’s needed is an aesthetic imperative that we somehow live in each moment as if it’s eternal and also as if it’s our last. Our ethical imperative is similar: to do everything as if it might save the world, even if it’s unlikely that it will. Tending one’s own garden need not be selfish, though if everyone does so, well, that’s something then, right? “
So many others have overcome so much more. Serious diseases and debilitating medical conditions. Addictions of all types. Chronic injuries, and surgeries. Brain tumors. Prison time. Obesity. Poverty. Mental health crises. Litanies of personal loss. Bike crashes. Car crashes. Literally being run over by a truck.
And that’s just the people I know, my people who keep the lights on, people who have made or are making their way back to running, inspiring everyone else in their paths. So while it seems trivial to share my recent struggle, it’s the only struggle I’ve got, and in attaching myself to these others and in saying everything out loud comes revival or maybe even resurrection, I hope. Running resurrection.
In last year’s year-end post, The Year of Unrunning, I asked and answered “what do we want out of this,” and committed to some things: slowing down, continuing to find new places to run, rededicating to new goals or choosing to choose none at all, and especially to relearning the things I thought I already knew.
Fate and fortune had other ideas, little did I know how many. The trials and trails of 2020 crossfaded to the starts and stops and starts and stops and starts and stops of 2021, yielding the lowest mileage I’ve run since I began more than 20 years ago. Even as the year ends, and I try to pick myself up yet one more time, I’m back to a walk-run regimen with paces that make me want to shield my Strava activities from public view (I don’t, but still).
At the beginning of the pandemic I predicted it would be a marathon, 26.2 months, and it looks like I was right. If we count from February 2020, that puts us into April 2022 before we see some exit light. (I also predicted 1 million US dead, and sadly, it looks like I was right about that too.) What I didn’t predict is what a toll two years of isolated inactivity would take on my body, especially in this last eight months.
Of all the running injuries I’ve had, and I’ve had them all from IT bands to shin splints to plantar fasciitis to whatever (except for knees), back injuries are the absolute worst. Most painful by far, puts you down the longest. I’ve gone into some detail about the how and the what in other posts and won’t repeat myself here, but man is this different. And now I’m forcing myself to live my physical life differently. Standing up and sitting down differently. Rolling in neutral position when I lay on the couch or get in bed. Thinking before bending or lifting or pushing or pulling. Getting nervous about making the bed or doing the laundry or pulling on my socks or tying my shoes. Actually listening to (and obeying!) my physical therapist, and reading Jay Dicharry’s Running Rewired like he’s the second coming of Danny Dreyer and Chi Running. Promising to pay more attention to hip flexor strength and flexibility than to distance or pace—it’s all in the hips. Moving back from less shoe to more shoe. And yet, there’s always a motion that generates a twinge that makes me acutely aware of where I am right now.
Because 2021 was also a year of wonder and miracles. Dropping to one knee not knowing if I’d be able to straighten up again (she said yes!), then, a few short months later, marrying this incredible woman who will be running by my side for the rest of my life. Being blessed by the birth of my first grandchild. Seeing my son and his own beautiful bride celebrate their marriage after three postponements. And although Omicron pushed the holidays to January this season, there’s peace in knowing that everyone has made it through so far, that we’ve been and will continue to be brave in the teeth of crisis, and that the hugs will be so much more powerful and sweet when we’re all able to get together in one place again.
With all that do we really want to talk about what’s next for running?
Yeah of course we do but let’s make it quick. Future training plans? Strength and mind before mileage. Future race plans? Four on the calendar instead of the usual 20, for now at least. Refocusing on 5ks to half marathons only, and nothing longer than 10k in the summer months. I see some friends returning to the sport, and some new runners, which prompts me to remind myself of some unsolicited advice:
Run every run like it’s your last. Every single one of them. Because you just never know, it just might be. All of us have an expiration date, a best-if-used-by date, and we damn well better use it all because eventually that tank does empty out and sometimes it explodes without warning.
In parallel, as I approach retirement (this is what 65 looks like), and no longer feel like I need to control things, and no longer want to let things control me, there’s some stuff I want to do for the first time in a long time, or for the first time ever. I’ll save all that for another post in another place, but I will say this, for running and for everything else:
I don’t have a bucket list. I only have today.
If you run long enough there comes a moment—maybe it’s when you’re running through the forest with the bunnies and the butterflies, maybe it’s when you cross the finish line of your first 5k, maybe it’s slogging through your neighborhood in the cold rain, maybe it’s at mile 23 of a marathon—a moment comes when you pause and lift off whatever you’ve been carrying on your shoulders all this time and lay it gently on the side of the road, when you make your final peace with everything you’ve been running away from, and make a new peace with all the things you’re running towards.
For a long time I thought maybe we’d only be lucky enough to get one of those moments. Now I know they are endless, and are something we create, and are all on a path of possibility I’m beginning to call Running Resurrection. One of those resurrections is possible every day if, like their cousins miracles, we only look for them. Sometimes the path is lit, sometimes it’s not, but we can always bring our own light.
So as I start over again, as I embrace the period of my life when simply waking up means it’s a good day, I’ll end this post in hope with my usual mantra:
There may be younger runners. And there may be faster runners. But every once in a while, into the setting sun on a warm summer’s night, there is no more magnificent runner, than me.
Thank you for sharing the road in peace and love. Have a great 2022—I hope to be out there with you all! Running, in resurrection.
I’ve taken to calling myself plant-based. This is a helpful and empathetic discussion of terms, definitions, and what they mean in practical life.
Decarbonize the grid.
“Endowments, portfolios and pension funds worth just shy of $40 trillion have now committed to full or partial abstinence from coal, gas and oil stocks…that’s larger than the gross domestic product of the United States and China combined.”
Having been at a couple of dying companies, and a dying industry, I can say with some authority that it’s exactly as described.
What I’m talking about is a kind of slow, steady decline that anyone who has ever seen a dying company up close can recognize. It’s a cloud of existential dread that hangs over an organization whose best days are behind it, influencing every managerial priority and product decision and leading to increasingly desperate attempts to find a way out. This kind of decline is not necessarily visible from the outside, but insiders see a hundred small, disquieting signs of it every day — user-hostile growth hacks, frenetic pivots, executive paranoia, the gradual attrition of talented colleagues.
Two interesting ideas from down a ways in the essay:
One: “At the turn of the 20th century, the twin infectious disease threats of tuberculosis and the Spanish flu combined with faddish ideas on wellness among people rich enough to afford their own architects, and led to something new. As the architectural historian Biatriz Colomina has written, that was Modernism, with its clean lines, honest materials, porous relationship between the indoors and outdoors, more sunlight, more ventilation, and solid surfaces that were easy to clean. It was more than an aesthetic. It was disease control.”
Two: “Humans build cities as fortresses against failure: economic collapse, natural catastrophe, human venality and cowardice. The city walls keep those things out, when they work. If houses are, as the architect Mies van de Rohe said, “machines for living,” then cities are places where those machines get daisy-chained into a society. Cities are machines for cooperation, and survival.”
Also reminded of a companion piece about the work of an acquaintance from college, an architect who has turned to imaging what truly inclusive, pandemic-resistant buildings might look like.
[from The New York Times Magazine]
Astonishingly insightful essay. We have a real problem here.
“The defense of white freedom in U.S. history might more accurately be thought of as racialized anti-statism, in which the federal government is understood as a usurper of individual and states’ rights.”
Excellent and powerful analysis of the digital world we’ve built over the last 20 years and the underlying, and perhaps catastrophic, problems that are at its foundation. Not only is the Internet we imagined in 1995 better than the Internet we have today, it wasn’t nearly as harmful.
Can’t say I’m a happy camper right now.
Second setback in two weeks, both triggered by bending the wrong way doing household chores. Each time it’s been a little less painful but a little more discouraging.
Missed the weekend, looks like I’m on the shelf for a few days more, and I’ll need to use them to sort out some things. Was getting overconfident in how good I felt, probably pushed the strength training too much, don’t think I pushed mileage or pace but who knows. Even though I backed off everything in the last two weeks since the first incident, reaching for anything is an adventure right now and running seems like a distant hope.
I know I’m not a young man any more. Haven’t quite accepted thinking and acting like an old man though and you know, that may never happen. There are ways through this: break it apart, be more careful and thoughtful about the pieces, be a bit more patient with the road, be accepting enough to tamp down some of the goals, for this year at least.
Talking it all over and sorting it all out with Mary has helped tremendously–she’s been there herself, and is always there for me. I’ll live through her marathon training for the summer. Seeing my crew and everyone else around the world accomplishing amazing, magnificent things–did you see TTB Chicago Friday night?–keeps the fire hot. My training activity may look a little funky over the next few weeks or months, but I promise myself and promise you I will be advancing best I can, and will be accountable for every day. And if that means walking + cheer squad is all I get, that will just have to be it for a while, and I’ll make the most of it.
Maybe I have 10 years left in this sport, at least that’s what I told myself when I tattooed ‘Finish Strong’ on my shoulder: carry it to 75, then see. Taking the time now to make sure I get every last year being out there with you all: that’s my primary goal right now. Every other goal– age graded PRs, medals on the wall, notches on the belt–is secondary. So if you don’t mind, I’ll be drafting off you for a while longer, tapping into your energy, evangelizing the message of an experience runner, bearing witness like an experienced runner, right up until the body says ‘no more.’ And that my friends I hope is a long long way off. Thank you for listening today. Cheering you all on with all my heart.
Straight from the gamer trolling wars to the main line of American politics
Absolutely spot on.
“In this environment, cruelty — in the form of demonizing religious and ethnic minorities as terrorists, criminals and invaders — is an effective political tool for crushing one’s enemies as well as for cultivating a community that conceives of fellow citizens as a threat, resident foreigners attempting to supplant “real” Americans. For those who believe this, it is no violation of American or democratic principles to disenfranchise, marginalize and dispossess those who never should have had such rights to begin with, people you are convinced want to destroy you.”
Taking and names.
International lawyers, environmentalists and a growing number of world leaders say “ecocide”—widespread destruction of the environment—would serve as a “moral red line” for the planet.
The call is coming from inside the house, and the house next door, and the house down the street. Or maybe it’s the voices of the miniature parents in Mulholland Drive. Or maybe the only way to win against machine-enabled synchronized and synthesized human revolt, as in War Games, is not to play.
While online behavior is certainly shaped by platform mechanisms, the fear today is less of the mechanisms themselves than of whom they’re enticing. Prior emphasis on the machine threat warned of the unpredictability of automated behavior and the need for humans to develop policies to control it. Today’s emphasis on the social media terror inverts this, warning of the danger posed by unchecked digital mobs, who must be controlled. The risk comes not from the machines but from ourselves: our vulnerability to deception and manipulation, our need to band together with others to hunt down and accost our adversaries online, our tendency to incite and be incited by violent rhetoric to act out in the physical world, and our collective habit of spiraling down into correlated webs of delusion, insanity, and hatred.
While amenable in theory to fears of machine malevolence, there is no real mechanical equivalent in this picture to the central role played by the runaway machine of old. Actually, the roles of humans and machines have switched: The machines must now restrain the dangerous humans.
“We are incentivized, by the coded logic of the social media platforms where public engagement now takes place, to find reasons to hate each other…The conflicts taking place over freedom, justice, and other noble ideas are captive performances in the most technologically advanced human cockfighting enterprise ever designed—one that has converted the essence of human struggle into a sure-win bet for the tech platforms who play the house.“
The heightened scrutiny of the political uses to which social media has been put is necessary and important. But it tends to miss a critical aspect of our situation. Much of the analysis tacitly assumes that our underlying political structures and values have remained relatively stable, that they will not fundamentally change — even if they must be defended against the usual illiberal suspects, who deploy digital media in their efforts to undermine the legitimacy of democracies. If only Zuck would take more aggressive measures to purge Facebook of fake news, and if only Jack would ban all the Nazis from Twitter, then all would be well and we could proceed with business as usual. Much like the proverbial generals who always fight the last war, however, we will be undone in our efforts to make sense of our moment and to respond productively if we don’t recognize that digital media is reconfiguring our politics at a more fundamental level.
Who will write the digital update to Elias Canetti’s Crowds and Power? Where he excavated primal cultures and orthodox religions, the dynamics of our political world are enabled in a digital layer of meta-activities.
One of the nicer things you’ll see online today.
In Tom Wicker’s A Time to Die, his personal account from being an observer during the Attica prison uprising in 1971, he described the unfolding dynamic of the scene when he first arrived and had to pass through camps of heavily-armed State Troopers:
… so many guns must sooner or later become a force in themselves, an imperative acting upon the men who supposedly control them. If the weapons are in hand, the question of those who have them ultimately becomes, “Why not use them?” The more weapons, the more insistent the question; and the burden of explaining why not to use them falls on those who have no guns. But those who have no guns have little credence with those who do.
[p.32, Haymarket Books edition]
And in this, we have a description of the state of America today.
Some updated perspective for athletes as we start to move outdoors again—what do we know now that we didn’t know last summer and fall, and how far apart do we need to be? This is important for people who may come in contact with runners and bikers as they venture outdoors as well.
Second headline: six feet is not near enough, especially when considering well-established slip-stream airflow dynamics for runners and bikers. You should never run or bike or walk directly behind someone else, and even with offset the distances you need to leave are 15-20 feet for runners, 30 feet for slow bikers, and 60 feet for fast bikers. That’s if you’re moving in the same direction; if you’re coming at each other, best to step off the path completely. Updated article about aerodynamics:
Third headline: just because you’re vaccinated doesn’t mean you can’t contract or spread the virus. Vaccines do not give you sterilizing immunity, only some measure of effective immunity which is also impacted by the vaccine rates of the people around you. Even after completion of a vaccine protocol, you can still be part of a chain of disease, spreading virus even if you are asymptomatic. It remains critical to continue to wear masks in public–this especially means us, runners and bikers. Helpful information:
Just finished Elizabeth Rush’s amazing book Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore. A climate change book but not laden with scientific explanations—it’s more of an elegy for places we’ve lost and places we’re about to lose in this next Meltwater Pulse.
We’re already far down that road in Louisiana, in Florida, in the New York City area, in the San Francisco Bay area, and the human cost of the inevitable organized retreat the the will be not only inimpact the loss of property and the relocation of infrastructure, but in the mourning of those places we know and love and will not be able to take care of: beaches and wetlands, towns and cities, and for tens of millions of Americans, home.
We tend to think in human periods of the five generations we know (grandparents, parents, us, children, grandchildren) or in financial terms (30 years mortgages) or political cycles (4 year presidential terms, 6 years Senate terms); the earth has a different ebb and flow, and we’re about to be flooded out not with gradual rise over centuries as we’ve been telling ourselves, but in a short pulse of melting ice. The world has been here before and scientists know exactly what’s coming, and coming quickly. While we’re in the phase of desperately trying to buy some time, this book is well worth reading so we can start to make peace with the future we have cast for ourselves and our children. Highly recommended.
5 years ago today I landed in Paris on Friday to run this race on Sunday. Still have raw GoPro footage somewhere that I never got around to editing, but this recap video from the race organizers captured the spirit of the day beautifully. I feel like I was one of the portraits in the opening sequence, and in the final moments.
Every runner will tell you that if you run long enough, you will have a moment when you stop running away from something, when you lift whatever it is that you’re carrying on your shoulders and set it down gently on the side of the road, and then start running towards something new. Sometimes we only get one of those moments in our lives, sometimes we get a few. This race was definitely one of the most important of those moments for me.
More than suggestions, really. Highly recommended for every American, and for every white American, very necessary. Even the best-intentioned whites don’t know what they don’t know, about the history and foundations of the country; about the institutionalized conventions of race and caste embedded throughout our society, our language, our behaviors; about what is still walking the streets and the halls of power trying to return to a dark time most of us thought was long past; about the sheer terror of that past, and how it still plays out and plagues us all today.
Reading does not and cannot replace experience, and understanding only goes so far, but we can start. Everyone in America lives in one house, whether we built it or not. Knowing how we are defined by our surroundings and our relationships, knowing that the truth is not always the one we have been taught or choose to hold on to, those are the first steps to being able to repair that house and to make the reality of our country after the vision which, in this century at least, so many of us claim we share.
These are my personal recommendations, non-fiction edition. (Next time I may address fiction and film.)
Nota bene: these are life-altering books. You will be challenged, especially if you are white. You will cry. You will come out different on the other side.
If I could name only two, I would start with these two masterpieces by Isabel Wilkerson. Absolutely magnificent. Neither are tremendously long, but they do require a commitment; both can be easily read within the month. The first tells the story of the Great Migration using a narrative non-fiction convention tracing the lives of three real people, one who migrated from Mississippi to Chicago in the 1930s, another from Florida to New York in the 1940s, and a third from Louisiana to Los Angeles in the 1950s. Absolutely riveting and illuminating, and one of the best books of any kind I have ever read. The second is an examination of America today, recent history through the pandemic, and why it became that way, calling out parallels to the Indian caste system and America’s contribution to the Nazis, who modeled the Jim Crow era to advance their own drive towards white supremacy.
- Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (2010)
- Isabel Wilkerson, Caste: The Origins of our Discontents (2020)
These next are much shorter reads, and in their condensation, very intense personal accounts of what it is like to be a person of color within our lifetimes. Ta-Nehisi Coates writes his story as a letter to his teenage son. I was so moved by this book that I gave a copy to my own son, who will soon be a first-time father, as a reminder to him that fathers of one are fathers to all, and that we all have accountability and responsibility to a larger good. James Baldwin wrote several autobiographical books, none more powerful than The Fire Next Time, which is a great companion piece to Between the World and Me. Each can be read over a couple of nights, Baldwin in one sitting.
- Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (2015)
- James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963)
I read Taylor Branch‘s series America in the King Years over ten years ago, before the most recent wave of racial tension. These histories are what most white Americans think of when they think of Black History: the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. And this is an excellent and thorough accounting over thousands of pages. Well worth the time. The limitation is that it is written by a white man, and once you read Isabel Wilkerson’s books, you can easily see that this kind of reporting is only part of the story, and not necessarily the main part. Necessary and valuable but don’t stop here.
- Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-1963 (1988)
- Taylor Branch, Pillars of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-1965 (1998)
- Taylor Branch, At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-1968 (2006)
What’s on my list for this February? I’m continuing to make peace with Toni Morrison after that unfortunate personal incident 40+ years ago (will write a separate post about that soon). Have been long overdue on Michelle Alexander‘s book, and have too wide of a knowledge gap on Malcolm X and his influence.
- Toni Morrison, The Origin of Others (2017)
- Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010; new edition 2020)
- Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)
- Les Payne, The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X (2020)
Also, already purchased, and on the reading stack for later in the year:
- W.E.B. Dubois, Black Reconstruction (1935)
- Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (1961)
- Chancellor Williams, Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race from 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D. (1992)
- Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2016)
Obviously this list of recommendations is not complete, and there are so many others to add — certainly much more Toni Morrison and James Baldwin, Angela Davis’ Women Race & Class, Joshua Bloom’s Black Against Empire, many others. I can say with some confidence that none of the books I mentioned here should be left off. Good reading, and please let me know what you think.
Running isn’t easy. We all know that. Running is demanding and challenging and unforgiving; running is rewarding and meaningful and lifesaving. Running is a lot of things, and it’s never easy. But to say that running this year was hard, with everything else that we faced each day, no, that’s not a true statement. While running wasn’t hard in 2020, while running wasn’t cancelled in 2020, for me at least, 2020 was the Year of Unrunning.
Stepped off the scale this morning somewhat surprised and pleased that my weight was within striking range of my training weight, somewhat unsurprised and horrified that my body fat level is almost twice what it was coming off a marathon a year ago. And you know what? In this season of miracles, none of that really matters. After my health scare last February, I’m happy to be alive. After the world went on fire in March, I’m happy we’re all here talking about things, even if it’s not the usual year-end victory-lap wholesomely-positive messaging celebrating a full list of accomplishments, illustrated with spectacular photos captured on our spectacular runs.
My Year of Unrunning started with downtime recovering from whatever it was that almost killed me, and adjusting to new physical limits and new meds. A steady cadence of injuries on the way back, some old, some new. In the end all that resulted in half the mileage I normally run, and the least amount I’ve run in 15 years. Filled in with virtual races and virtual challenges that sort of kept me moving: there’s still a rack of medals and too many t-shirts. None of it was the same. Every time out the door was an issue, a hesitation, an opportunity for self-doubt to take over, and take over for good. I don’t know what it was that I was doing, but it didn’t feel like running, at least not like the running I remembered.
Unrunning came very close to becoming unraveling, and, until I caught myself this morning to bring myself here, I almost let it happen.
Many of the runners I know have been struggling in varying degrees north and south of me. I see the level of their workouts on Strava, I see the changed tone of their posts on Instagram, I see their confessions on Facebook as the brave faces and self assurance start to peel back a bit. Runners who were so strong last year have become content to be very ordinary this year, and when we look to them to find the motivation to start our own workouts, as has motivated us so well in the past, often we find ourselves looking in a mirror: so many of you too? Well if they’re having trouble, what can the world expect of us, of me.
On the other hand, some have absolutely thrived and have provided epic inspiration. Weekly mileage through the roof, PRs from a mile to 5k to marathons and beyond. I have special respect for the runners who had the courage to start and complete marathon training cycles even knowing that their race was cancelled, who then ran a virtual race, alone, even when it was their first time—I am in absolute awe of you. As I’m writing this, one friend is attempting to complete the 210-mile Chicago Outerbelt Loop this weekend, in freezing cold and pouring rain, after just crewing one of her friends on a run across the entire country. Absolutely amazing.
And yet…we miss our habits. We miss our regular routes. We miss our massages and our yogas classes that we want to do, and the strength and stretching that we don’t want to do. We realize how fragile our alleged mental toughness really is, how fragile our bodies really are. We miss our friends, our community—oh do we miss our community: the crew runs, the races, and especially the sweaty hugs celebrating accomplishment each and every day we’re out there, the chatter of hope and disappointment but mostly hope because tomorrow is another day and we know we will lift each other to a new level, today and tomorrow, with the incredible energy we pass to each other, friends and strangers alike, often without knowing it.
Instead, I felt like I spent most of the year constantly being brought down to a lower level in an evil parallel universe, this Year of Unrunning, exhausted, angry, dodging those who refuse to do their part and wear masks, whether they’re running or just out walking their dogs. The incident where I almost got punched out in Belmont Harbor is still with me, I still think of it every time I lace up my shoes. Running may be a privilege but life is a right and responsibility is a requirement. I have a very hard time with people who are so careless, selfish and lazy to openly threaten the lives of others.
Still there were benefits to the Year of Unrunning: learning to slow down again (side effect of mask doping), learning to run without predetermined purpose. Stopping to let the maskless pass by turned into stopping to admire the view in the moment, with or without a photo record of it, to catch my breath and clear my head without really needing to. Running off hours or off route led to new experiences. My summer was spent getting reacquainted with the joys of biking. My fall was a spectacular fall foliage tour. And…there were those moments we all know as runners: the moments when we pause and take whatever we’ve been carrying on our backs all this time and lay it on the side of the road and just keep on going. This time, that load may have been the entire year.
So where are we gonna just keep on going to? In this pause as this Year of Unrunning comes to an end, during the time when my race dance card for next year would usually already be full, now I only see a very few deferred races that may or may not happen, pretty much a blank sheet of paper looking forward. There had been a plan for another Chicago Marathon next year, which I am more than happy not to run because the twice-postponed wedding reception for my son and daughter-in-law is happening on that date. So now is the perfect time to ask the question:
What do we want out of this.
To answer that, I’m looking again to the tattoo on my left shoulder, which will celebrate its five-year birthday next week., tattered wing and all.
Run Free. For someone who spent so much of my life feeling boxed in, or more honestly, boxing myself in, running has become an essential way to explore the world and more importantly, explore myself. Places I haven’t seen, destination races to the extent we’re even able to travel in the next few years…there’s always a new place to explore within an hour’s drive, hidden gems, other people’s favorite routes, and we’re going to find them.
Breathe Deep. For a child who suffered from asthma and an adult who sabotaged himself with smoking, being part of the running community, both in Chicago and around the world, has come to mean the most for me. Every run in peace and friendship, every run like it may be my last.
Finish Strong. May be entering this phase now. While I hope I have many years left, there is an expiration date and even if I ignore it, there will be an end. But not today. Today I will gather strength and energy and continue and keep moving with all that’s left.
Beyond that, I don’t know yet. I don’t know what my goals are or if I’ll even have goals. I don’t know if I even want to think about whether or not I’ll have goals. This is a chance to start over, to relearn the things I thought I knew, to experience new growth, to reconnect to my friends and the community and the roads and the trails and the air…to rededicate and start it up again, to bridge the Year of Unrunning to a new running life.
I’m excited for what I hope to reclaim. I’m even more excited for the new things I hope to create. Most of all, I want to be able to say once more, with confidence, and with refreshed enthusiasm and credibility: there may be younger runners, there may faster runners, but every once in a while on a warm summer evening into the setting sun, there is no more magnificent runner, than me.
Anything less is to sacrifice the gift, as Steve Prefontaine preached and as I’ve held close to my heart all these years. And in this time of giving, what a gift of hope and love it truly is, for ourselves and each other.
See you all out there in 2021. We need this sport and we need each other. Let’s make sure we get there. Peace all.
Supporting a discussion elsewhere on social media, here are my top 100 films of all time, highly subjective of course, arranged alphabetically. Cut it at 95 to leave some room for films I’ve probably forgotten about or which are on a near-term watchlist that have a chance to make it. Admittedly there’s a fair amount of junk and pop culture on here as I’m a product of my time, and I wouldn’t change the channel on any one of these. Sorry, no Citizen Kane. Documentaries would be a separate list.
- After Hours
- All the Presidents Men
- Animal House
- Annie Hall
- Apocalypse Now
- Belle de Jour
- The Bicycle Thief
- Blow Up
- Body Heat
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s
- Boondock Saints
- Brokeback Mountain
- Claire’s Knee
- Cleo from 5 to 7
- La Collectionneuse
- The Dark Knight
- Day for Night
- Day of the Jackal
- Dead Poets Society
- The Deer Hunter
- The Departed
- Do the Right Thing
- Die Hard
- Dr. Strangelove
- Dog Day Afternoon
- Easy Rider
- Field of Dreams
- Forrest Gump
- The Godfather (Part 1)
- The Godfather (Part 2)
- The Graduate
- The Great Escape
- Hiroshima Mon Amour
- House of Games
- In the Heat of the Night
- Lion King
- Local Hero
- Jules and Jim
- Jurassic Park
- Kill Bill 1 & 2
- Last Year at Marienbad
- A Man for All Seasons
- A Married Woman
- The Matrix
- Mean Streets
- Mulholland Drive
- No Country for Old Men
- Ocean’s 11
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Pretty Woman
- The Professional
- Pulp Fiction
- Raging Bull
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- The Right Stuff
- Rio Bravo
- Rome: Open City
- Scarface (1983)
- Shakespeare in Love
- Silence of the Lambs
- Swept Away
- Taxi Driver
- The Taking of Pelham 123 (original)
- Toy Story
- True Romance
- Vivre sa vie
- Without Limits
- Working Girl
“Once the glue to an imperfect type of social cohesion, whiteness now threatens to undermine the social contract altogether. The reluctance that we have witnessed over the past months of both millions of individuals to wear masks and for state and local governments to mandate it were just the most glaring examples of a trend that’s been building for decades. The massive loss of human life will do nothing to change this. The meaning of America, the role of race in it, and a peculiar brand of nation building have allowed the emptiness of whiteness to even pass as nationalism. And once again, as whites continue to shed any semblance of communal tradition, they grab onto patriotic symbols and ideology in an attempt to anchor themselves. But neither symbolism nor the constant attempt to reignite white cohesion by demonizing nonwhites both at home and abroad will make unhyphenated whites feel more secure in the world. The usual talismans will do nothing to keep them from falling through the latticework that is America. Meanwhile, they’re pushing the entire nation ever closer to the void.”
Rodriguez’ famous essay from 2003, Mongrel America, is still timely and also worth a re-read.
An absolute masterpiece. Don’t forget to visit “The Grift Shop.”
Starting to make my peace with Toni Morrison after that unfortunate encounter in the ’70s, now best forgotten after her passing (about which, regrettably, I may have said some not nice things).
Picked up a release of her essays which included a portion of her speech on Racism and Fascism, delivered at Howard University in 1995. It’s the passage that famously starts…
“Let us be reminded that before there is a final solution, there must be a first solution, a second one, even a third. The move toward a final solution is not a jump. It takes one step, then another, then another.”
…and builds to this magnificent peroration:
“It changes citizens into taxpayers…it changes neighbors into consumers…it changes parenting into panicking…we find ourselves living not in a nation but in a consortium of industries, and wholly unintelligible to ourselves except for what we see through a screen darkly.”
The book is currently widely available in paperback:
“He also gave our unique brand of ugliness — rooted in racism, exceptionalism, recklessness, arrogance and a tendency to bully our way to power — a name. Trumpism is now rooted in the lexicon, and although white supremacy may be the better, more clinical term for what ails America, Trumpism is a useful, colloquial alternative. It encompasses an even wider category of people that includes not just avowed racists who have publicly supported the president but also those who downplay the problem, or align with it for personal gain, or are simply unwilling to acknowledge its history and persistence.”
“…merely adding a few unfamiliar names to the curriculum, something already fiercely resisted by the conservative and reactionary right, won’t advance global thinking, as distinct from the institutional aims of “inclusivity” and “diversity.” Something more radical and arduous will be required to avoid the total conceptual loss suffered by the Crow Indians: the interrogation of an intellectual tradition that distorts our sense of reality, and the relearning of world history, with the recognition that fundamental assumptions about the inferiority of nonwhite peoples have tainted much of our previous knowledge and analysis.”
[from The New York Review of Books]
ESQ: How can we get the black people to cool it?JAMES BALDWIN: It is not for us to cool it.ESQ: But aren’t you the ones who are getting hurt the most?JAMES BALDWIN: No, we are only the ones who are dying fastest.
Related, and later, and mostly about writing.
“I knew what it meant to be white and I knew what it meant to be a nigger, and I knew what was going to happen to me. My luck was running out. I was going to go to jail, I was going to kill somebody or be killed.”
[from The Paris Review]
- First, faced with a surge of labor that dampens growth in wages and productivity, elites seek to take a larger portion of economic gains for themselves, driving up inequality.
- Second, facing greater competition for elite wealth and status, they tighten up the path to mobility to favor themselves and their progeny. …
- Third, anxious to hold on to their rising fortunes, they do all they can to resist taxation of their wealth and profits, even if that means starving the government of needed revenues, leading to decaying infrastructure, declining public services and fast-rising government debts.
To help understand the underlying mechanisms of surveillance capitalism in general and the topical antitrust lawsuit against Google filed today:
For years I recommended this 2011 TedTalk by mathematician Kevin Slavin about how algorithms shape our world, to graduate students at Northwestern University, when I was invited to be a guest lecturer at the Medill School of Journalism. This may be the most informative and interesting 15 minutes you spend this week in understanding how the world around us works and why The quickest way to find out what the boundaries of reality are is to figure where they break.