Running for Your Life: So You Want to Live in Park Slope Dept.

“You keep an open mind long enough, your brain will fall out.”
        Kirk Nicewonger

Paid poster at R Train, Manhattan-bound station:

Sizable image of a mixed race boy (think African American/Jewish) with mop of black curly hair, million dollar smile, one pointed tooth, eyeglasses with tiny hearts on frame corners, writing with a pen before open books and papers in blurry foreground:

Words: Where can you learn Mandarin in kindergarten, study Logic in 7th grade and Economics in 8th Grade?

Next: Running for Your Life: Track Work!

Running for Your Life: Reverse Age That Body

I’ve written a lot in this space about turning back the clock. You’d think in the years that I’ve been running for my life there has been some slowing down. And, yes, I suppose that’s true. I’m unlikely to test that Steamtown 2010 time of 3:33:08 ever again. But when it comes to reverse aging that hardly matters. Performance is not measured in time alone.

Two days after April Fool’s Day I woke early from persistent jet lag. (M and I returned March 31 from a two-week trip to Hong Kong and Thailand, more on that at another time.) For about a week after arriving home, I found sleep difficult. Two, three hours of hard sleep and then I’m up, wide awake at 2 a.m., 3 a.m.

I manage four hours of deep rest, but at 6 a.m., it was all over. Soon I was out with T, did errands of various sorts, fixed myself a little breakfast, and then, exhausted, went back to bed at 9:40 a.m. I went out like a light but was up again at 10:20 a.m. Why? Because my body is attuned to run at that hour. Even dead tired, barely able to life my leg up and out of the covers and over the side of the bed, I wasn’t going to miss my run.

I did it, a modest 4.5 miles, and I felt writing in the subway afterward like a young man. Hardly slower, hardly weaker. In fact, if as my mother and father, who are a healthy 82 and 84, respectively, were once fond of saying, You’re only as young as you feel, this running for your life deal hasn’t failed me when it comes to living that saying out loud.

Next: Running for Your Life: Track Work!

Running for Your Life: March!

There comes a time when all good people tire of putting on Canada Goose down coats (like, really, in my neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn, Canada Goose are everywhere – I wouldn’t have a clue where they were being sold – Macy’s? Certainly not in this ZIP code) and knit caps and lined gloves and thick woolen scarves and hideous Ugg boots. Off we March! to the subway, the only year in twenty-five that I’ve been in New York City that it rolls around to the month of March and this notion of an enforced troop action in this puffy uniform has occurred and I accept it like a slap in the face from an aggrieved stranger, someone, who, and this has happened to me, or more to the point feels like it is happening often enough that I’ve imprinted it as a memory strikes out at me solely because they don’t like the look of my face, they think that my impolitic smirk is meant for them when it’s not, it’s meant to convey how fed up I am with this practice of putting on ALL these clothes in the fruitless attempt of keeping warm in this f—ing winter that just doesn’t end, which brings me to a video that was posted on a Facebook page from snowbound Watertown, New York, by Brian Ashley, my childhood pal from Owen Sound, Ontario, where we both saw snow to last a lifetime. This winter, though, Brian and I are over it. So with a tip of the toque to Brian, here it is, the last word in the winter that never ends:

Next: Running for Your Life: Track Work!  

Running for Your Life: Rock 'N' Roller

Twenty years – no, thirty years – ago this message had one tell. Music and dance. “My Own Way to Rock” by Burton Cummings, “Old Time Rock and Rock” by Bob Seger, “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets. Rock! Rock! Rock!

In those days I never gave rolling much thought. Or any thought for that matter. What was it that rolled? Your ankle bone in the socket? Your head on your neck? Your stomach on the floor? What?!

Rock, though, that made perfect sense. When Burton Cummings belts out “My own way to rock!”, I get it in every fiber. But when he follows that with, “My own way to roll!”, I’m puzzled. He’s into baking pies?

Happily, after thirty years, I’ve found it. My own way to roll. If you are a runner of a certain age, you gotta roll. On a roller, that is (see at right). Three decades of running leads to muscle tears, pulls, damage of all types, and fifteen to twenty minutes a day of rolling those muscles (hammies, calves and groin) does absolute wonders in repair, making it possible for you to not only run every other day but to build the foundation for training another marathon. For me, that’s July 27, my mom’s birthday, with K! at the Nova Scotia Marathon.

So join me on the road, sure. But don’t scrimp on the roller. Frankly, it doesn’t matter what your age. Find Your Own Way to Roll!

Next: Running for Your Life: March !

Running for Your Life: Marathon Mental Space

People will ask me why I don’t wear headphones when I run. Part of the reason is that when I began running, portable music players didn’t exist. Believe it or not, the first Walkman didn’t infect public space until 1979. I’d been a regular runner for four years before that.

The answer comes down to mental space. How during the time that I run every other day – be it twenty-five minutes, a half an hour or an hour – I want, no, need, to clear my mind. That means it is free to wander to the beagle straining on a leash that I see from the treadmill window of our neighborhood gym, or to a long-suppressed memory about home that surprises, or the mood of the walking public (are they as collectively depressed as yesterday, and if not, why not? . . ..) I feel that bordering the experience with a soundtrack invades the marathon mental space that is the drug of my addiction.

A word about time. I was greatly moved by David Grossman’s latest novel, “Falling Out of Time,” which goes to the heart of how time need not be how we normally experience it. I find in the quiet of a run that time will fall away. There is something about practice here. If the body is being fed, rested, the muscles relaxed and supple from stretching, the conditions are right for that slipping away. On the treadmill that doesn’t mean you look at the readout clock and – Shazam! – five minutes vanishes into thin air. Rather the pace, the miles traversed, and the clock become like water not stone, the body in command as the mind follows in the flow, I trust, without any regard at all to what has happened before the run or what will happen after. I am in, a pitman drilling down his personal mine.

Running for Your Life: Rock ’N’ Roller