musings on running, life, and everything in between

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Finding what feeds you or at least doesn’t kill you

I don’t know if other professions talk about their work or communities “feeding them.” Higher ed is definitely a strange place and not typical of many other contexts, so it’s hard to know what is “normal.” Awhile back, I saw a fairly well known scholar-educator post about their job not being one that “fed” them, and they felt like it was suffocating them if anything. The post didn’t say specifically (vaguebooking anyone?) about what they were talking about, but I can think of a million possible examples or scenarios from others’ situations. My response, though, was “huh, that’s a weird thing to expect.” Without getting into the politics of my own specific position or context, I have accepted that my job isn’t going to be what keeps me afloat emotionally. Even as a high school teacher, I snarled at the oft-quoted “teaching is the hardest job you’ll love” or some other derivative dribble. Teaching IS hard, and it IS rewarding, but if you expect that to be your sole sense of purpose and meaning in life, you will burn out faster than a Roman candle. I wish someone had told me that earlier…

I am not saying that you can’t find meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in your work. I definitely do. But I also don’t expect my work to be the only place where I get that, or even my main source of those things. And while that may seem obvious to some, it’s taken awhile for me to figure that out. I think one of the reasons I was so miserable in my 20’s was that I couldn’t figure out what I needed emotionally, spiritually, psychically, so I expected work or friendships to be the only place I would find validation. As I’ve gotten older, my priorities and understandings of the world have shifted through marriage, kids, running, adult jobs, etc. And I’ve realized that no one place can be my sole source of nurturing or cultivating of self.

Maybe that’s obvious for some, but that’s some hard-fought knowledge for me. Just as my life-long battles with managing depression happen through many ways–prayer, exercise, medication, therapy, community–I’ve realized that finding happiness in life has to happen through many ways. JUST surviving or NOT being miserable is NOT the same thing as actually seeking happiness and comfort. It’s not merely enough to not be suffering, but you also have to find ways to “suck the marrow out of life” (a la Whitman). And that will change throughout your life, which is why it can feel like a balancing act. Just when you think you’ve got it, another piece shifts and you have to reconfigure the whole thing.

Even though the trip to Boston was a whirlwind around the marathon, I was really happy to see and stay with my friend Swati. I can’t even begin¬†to catalog the myriad things she’s gone through in the 8 years I’ve known her. But through it all, she is constantly on a journey to be balanced, to be happy, and to seek ways to be spiritually and emotionally positive. We talked a lot about what’s been going on in our lives–she just finished her doctorate, woohoo!!–and it made me reflective of how we have a choice in how we react or respond to various situations. Obviously we can’t control others or control the situations we sometimes find ourselves in, but we can choose how we react. And sometimes we have the choice to extract ourselves or disengage as well. But first, we have to recognize and acknowledge what our situation is and what our choices are.


Even in terms of my running, when I was beginning to feel disenchanted with all the speedwork and the demands of qualifying for Boston, I chose to start running types of areas and get out on the trails. I’ve loved how running has taken me to places I normally wouldn’t have gone. Case in point, down the street from Swati’s place is Forest Hills Cemetery. There are a number of famous people buried here, the most literary relevant being e.e. cummings. Sadly, I did not realize this until after my run so missed visiting his grave, but Mr. UnRunner did see it. It is a huge cemetery, with a mix of both old and new grave sites, and they day was crazy warm and bright.

I’ve always found the very fancy statue tomb stones (is that what they’re called??) intriguing. I loved the pose of the woman on this one.

I loved the idea of this one. This was a tomb stone (I’m just going to keep calling it that because I don’t know what else to call it) that had a very large birdhouse built onto the top of that. Even in death, you can continue to be a source of life ūüôā

There was a section where a large number of Chinese were buried. There were even some families celebrating/holding a memorial at some of them. Burning incense, eating, meeting as a large group, etc. There was one group of plots that obviously belonged to an entire family. These Chinese dragons marked the entrance to that section.

And there was even this gorgeous water feature sent on the side of the cemetery.

I’ve been wrestling with the post-race blues, or maybe just the blues who knows, so I decided to try a new running route. I’ve been meaning to head south on the Centennial Trail by the I & M canal near work, and I finally did it the other day.

This area/trail is a very odd conglomeration of heavy industry and nature, as you might be able to see in the picture below (on the far right edge of the picture are a series of smoke stacks belonging, I think, to a petroleum processing plant).

The path itself is a pretty straight crushed limestone path that runs parallel to a rail line hidden by bushes. There were some pretty features along the path, though, including this fireplace/structure thing.

The path runs between two parts of the canal. To the right (or west of the canal) is the rail lines I spoke of and some industrial buildings set way back behind tree cover. To the left was some kind of excavation site. I saw bulldozers and earth movers at various points, and I know that it wasn’t public land. This was a particularly pretty spot and there was an even a snowy egret but my clumsy feet made too much noise and scared it off. If you look towards the back of the picture, though, you can see some kind of yellow metal barricade from the site.

The children are rumbling so it’s time to get the day started. Hope your running adventures take you somewhere new today, and you find ways to feed yourself emotinally!


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Trying new things: Shoelaces and the Centennial/I&M Canal Trail

I work out by the Centennial/I&M Canal Trail. I’ve never run it, but some recent chatter on a local running group made me aware that people run it. And¬†most folks who live near me don’t run it regularly because it’s a little bit of a drive. However, I drive out there all the time to get to work and yesterday was a glorious day. Perfect for trying out something new. I spent way too much time trying to figure out which part of the trail to run and where to pick it up. I wasn’t looking to do a long run, and I hadn’t packed anything for water. That helped me settle on the Schneider Passage part of Centennial Trail. You can go here for more info/options. It’s paved, which wasn’t a plus for me, and everyone I saw on the trail was a biker. I think next time, I’ll head south as it’s more crushed limestone.

Anyhow, I parked by Isle La Cache where there’s a nature center and activities scheduled. As soon as I got on the little bit of the trail before crossing over Romeo Rd, I met a new friend. I almost stepped on it, but had moved to avoid what I thought was a large stick. Nope. SNAKE.

I have no idea what kind of snake it was, but I’m assuming it was harmless? I will admit that I did get a little nervous when it turned its head to look at me when I was taking a picture. I had visions of it striking me with deadly venom. It would have been most tragic because I hadn’t even started my run yet! Thankfully, it was enjoying the sun and not interested in me.

Alot of the run was next to a some¬†smallish bodies of water. Most of the time, though, the water was blocked from view by the trees. There were some nice clear spots and even benches to enjoy the view along the way. This area is pretty interesting as it’s a weird confluence of heavy industry and forest. In the distance across the water was some abandoned industrial-looking structures. In some later pictures, you’ll see the oil (?) refiner/quarry (?) [I’m not sure which is which. There are both in the area].

I took Schneider’s Passage just over 3 miles to the underpass of the highway and turned around. I was intrigued by the footbridge running parallel under the highway, but I was hot, thirsty, and tired. I forgot my Garmin so was stuck with Runkeeper app, which totally kept cutting in and out on me. I still need to Google map the route so I know what the total distance ended up being. I think it was somewhere around 6.5 miles.

I have to say that I was pretty excited about running in nature. For the first 20 minutes. Then the next 40 minutes or so, I was admittedly a bit bored. I forgot my headphones–which I thought was fine. Since I wasn’t sure about safety/seclusion of the trail, I wanted to have my wits about me, and I also tried to psyche myself up to “enjoy” the sounds of nature. Unfortunately, the fact that the trail was paved, flat, and relatively straight, there wasn’t much variety in running experience. So imagine this image replicated for over an hour.

Here’s that weird contrast of heavy industry and nature again. It was on the other side of the woods and fields. It looked like some strange post-apocalyptic survivor city in the distance.

Right at the beginning of the trail was this old suspension bridge. It looked awesome against the super-blue (cerulean?) sky.

I have no idea what this structure was, but it looked cool against the sky.

My friend told me that blog readers like to see the blogger. So I took a selfie but felt stupid doing it. I was pretty hot, tired, and thirsty. My snake friend was not there when I ran by again.

And, finally, my reward for all this. I’m pretty sure peanut M&M’s and fountain diet coke are recommended post-run recovery requirements–I think I saw it in Runner’s World. Really. Ha.

Finally, there’s been this crazy viral video of the “heel lock” lacing style floating around. I’ve seen it a billion times. I will spare you another visual of it–but if you haven’t seen it, you can quickly Google “what that extra shoe eyehole is for” and you’ll find a million links to it. Anyhow, I had tried doing that years ago, and I actually disliked it. I tend to be a fidgeter with my shoelaces. One always seems too tight/loose compared to the other, and the inevitable downward spiral of readjusting is maddening. Because it was so popular, I tried it again. Yup, still don’t like it. HOWEVER, there are some upsides to changing up the way you tie your shoes for running (or other sports), so I thought I’d share them here.

With the heel lock, you can skip an eyelet for the heel lock for even more comfort! I might try this to see if I like it better.

Here, you can find a¬†whole site, just on tying shoelaces.¬†I’m vaguely obsessed with post-apocalyptic survival skills. For some reason, I feel like knot-tying could be one. I actually bought Mr. UnRunner a coffee table book on tying knots. I’m pretty sure it’s not been perused since that first day. Also, because I’m too lazy to cultivate my own post-apocalyptic survival skills, I keep¬†a running list of friends who have those skills instead (Misty, the vegetarian, grew up hunting; Jill was a copy in a former life; Crystal can sail a boat; Brian has done bow hunting, etc.).

And, finally, there are a whole bunch of different ways to¬†tie your shoes for different purposes/adaptations for running. I had a pair of shoes that were too tight across my mid-foot/arch, so I skipped an eyelet. Here’s another link if you’re curious about trying some of them.¬†

Anyhow, got any post-apocalyptic survival skills to offer me as a friend? Do you have weird things you think about like that as well?

Other trail runs you’ve done locally or experiences you’ve had with the Centennial/I&M Trail?