Running Fads

I like running fads. I think because running is so boring/simple, we occasionally need to pretend it’s harder than it really is. 


5 toed socks have been around a while. They are popular in Japan and have caught on here a bit with folks like me for whom normal socks are just too easy. 

Some will say they improve circulation, or foot grip. Other that they activate the foot muscles, whatever that means. 

For me, it’s just a chance to indulge a silly whim. 

Shaking Off the Winter

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I ran in a very long circle to get this picture.

When the dark and cold gets to be a bit much, I know the winter running doldrums have set in. There’s the long winter lull between races and the fact that morning runs involve putting on more layers than an Antarctic expedition.

Getting motivated for a run after work is always a little dicey, in that I’m lazy and don’t want to run after work. So the trick is to switch things up and shake off the winter ennui. New routes, new races, new gear. Or new routes.

A friend hosted a long (14 mile) run around Irondequoit Bay, an offshoot of Lake Ontario. I barely even ran the week before but actually got through the run feeling pretty good. We took it slow and easy and the next day I was sore but satisfied. I made a running plan for the week, looked ahead on my race calendar and felt better. The weather was warming up, January won’t last forever and afternoon runs aren’t so bad.

Mononoke-hime

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And now for something completely different. A week ago was the 20th anniversary of Princess Mononoke, an animated Japanese movie made by Hayao Miyazaki. The movie was shown as a special release in a few local theaters to commemorate the occasion. Miyazaki’s movies are all fascinating but Mononoke holds a special place in my heart because it was the first movie of his that I saw and it introduced me to his amazing work.

It’s a somewhat familiar story: a young prince goes on a quest to fight an ancient evil, meets quirky characters and the titular princess. (Skywalker anyone?) But the story is steeped in Japanese folklore and cultural traditions, which gives the story unexpected turns for an American audience.

Princess Mononoke herself is a wolf-riding bullet-dodging Valkyrie who has as much in common with a Disney princess as a sabretooth tiger does with a housecat. For all that gender roles in Japan are (stereotypically) more set than in the US, this movie gives us very empowered women.

The story also makes the audience reconsider good and evil. As the adventure continues, we see how there aren’t many true villians in the story, just competing agendas. Characters act in their own best interests or for the protection of their people but few characters are truly evil. The moral ambiguity makes the story more engaging and again, is something rarely seen in American pop culture.

I should mention that, as a bit of a warning, the violence in the story is graphic and brutal. Animation in Japan is not just for kids, and this movie pulls no punches, or swords or arrows or fangs. That said, it isn’t gratuitous either. War and battle are part of the world of the movie but not glamorized.

The dubbed version is fine but if you’re interested I’d recommend watching with subtitles. Some of the Japanese doesn’t quite work in English and it’s actually less distracting (I think) than the dubbing. This is an amazing modern-day fairy tale adventure.

Tiny Track

Sometimes winter running gets to be too much of a chore. The cold, the dark, the layers…yuck. But not running just causes irritability and binge-watching. So, maybe the treadmill? What am I, a hamster? 

My neighborhood YMCA has an indoor track which is kind of the perfect solution. I say kind of because the track is 1/32 of a mile. 


That’s short. I get a little dizzy sometimes. But here’s why it’s still better than the treadmill: the view changes. Not much, but I still get the sense of pushing forward. I can alter my speed at will, slow for a few steps to catch my breath or surge ahead on the balls of my feet to beat my previous lap time. I am not enslaved to a robotic personal trainer. 

Yoga

Everyone raves about yoga. I started going consistently this year, and y’know what? Everyone is right. Who would have thought that a thousand-year old strengthening and flexibility practice would be so helpful for a runner? 


Yoga gives me a change to appreciate all the small knots, bruises and contusions I’ve given myself. I have blackened toenail on my right foot and a bruised left knee. I favor my left side so my right hip and thigh are tight. I tense my left shoulder when I run so sometimes that aches. Doing yoga made me aware of all these idiosyncratic injuries and then took care of them. 

I go to yoga practice in running shorts and a Star Wars t-shirt. The running shorts are roomy and the t-shirt amuses me. As with running, I like that yoga gear is flexible and creative. 

Namaste.

Studded Shoes

I finally got my shoes studded (sheet metal screws screwed into the soles) for extra traction in the winter. I had resisted the idea for the last two winters because…really? It seems so…final. Well, now that I’ve run in studded shoes I’d say, do it or have it done if you plan on winter running. The traction upgrade is Spider-Man level. 

Also, the “stud” jokes almost tell themselves. 

Running in the Cemetery 

This should have been a Halloween episode but oh well. It’s no Treehouse of Horrors, but I love running through the cemetery near my house. It’s this lovely old Victorian boneyard with crumbly crypts and small hollows that seem like somewhere Gorey might have sketched. 


And there’s history. That makes the nerd part of my brain (most of it) so happy. Frederick Douglass and Susan B Anthony are buried here. 


Finally it’s quiet and neat. The groundskeepers keep it immaculate in the winter, which means I can always run here, even in the worst winter weather. 


Of course I don’t run there at night. The gates are locked and that would just be creepy.

Autumn Trails

In fall the leaves change and fall in lovely oranges, yellows and reds to coat the ground and camouflage roots and rocks. Trail running becomes even more pretty and potentially disastrous. 


This was also my first run with a GPS watch. I’ve resisting using one for a while but I finally gave in. I’ve tracked run with my phone before but I did enjoy the convenience of being able to check my progress throughout the run. 

I used a Garmin Forerunner: reliable if not too cool with a heart rate monitor. I didn’t bother to monitor my heart rate: better for my peace of mind. 


I love/am terrified by running down this hill.

Marine Corps Marathon 

Well, it didn’t go well. Let’s start at the end. I completed the Marine Corps Marathon in 5 hours and 25 minutes. 

Halfway through, my old IT band went crunch and said, Slow down asshole. 

From then on it was a run-walk situation, which was not how I wanted this race to go. I stopped at a medical tent and had my knee wrapped, which helped for about 25 steps. My knee strap was sitting in a bin 300 miles away, and I cursed my lack of preparation. 

My brother pointed out the fact that all the lateral running we were doing may have irritated my knee. It was insanely crowded. It was like through a crowd of Black Friday shoppers who were really fit.


It was also a hot day, and dehydration doesn’t help the joints. I slacked on the yoga as well, so that might have had something to do with it. 

Whatever. I finished, my second marathon this year. I ran with my brother in an amazing race. I came across the meme below which sums my feelings up.

Packing for a running trip

Soon I’ll be hitting the road for the Marine Corps Marathon. Here’s what goes in my pack: 

Running shoes (of course), one pair on my feet and an extra pair encased in a plastic bag for obvious reasons. 

Walking around clothes: all race t-shirts, of course. I’m a serious runner after all. Whats this all about if not the t-shirts?

Race gear: 2 sets, just in case. This way I can do a short warm up run the day before and not worry abou hotel laundry. 

Throw away hoodie: I’ll need something warm to wear in the waiting area, after I’ve dropped my drop bag. This time it will be an old trail race hoodie. Never fear, I’m running the same race two weeks after MCM.