Thursday, June 2, 2011

Run:) and National Running Day

As might be apparent from the fact I've posted three times in three days, I'm pretty excited about this whole run:) idea, because its everything I love about running, and everything I like writing about. I had just decided to give my self-permission not to catalogue every single run on my blog, to relax and let my blog not be about accurate recording of miles and times but for it just to be about joy. And that's when I stumbled across Katie's blog, and the Run:) collective.

There is a marked predilection in the running community to take itself too seriously: from technical gear to hear-rate monitors t0 VO2-max workouts to obsessing over negative-splits and timed post-run protein refueling windows, outsiders can be forgiven for sometimes viewing runners as a group of masochistic kill-joys. There is often an implied false dichotomy between juicy-cheese-burger-cold-beer-lawn-chair living and the whey-protein-isolate-Gatorade-track-work life, as if one must choose between joy and effort, choose joy and health, choose between joy and running. Not that I am an official spokesperson or anything, but the Run Smilies reject this division. Actually, we don’t reject this division, because we don’t even see it – we are two busy having a blast running to even bother with such silliness as either/or propositions. I barely know any of my fellow bloogers, but I am sure some of us are vegetarians, while some scarf down a post-run burgers; some of us are barefoot runners (or moving in that direction), while some are devoted to our motion-control shoes; some can run a marathon fast enough to qualify for Boston, while some waddle through 5Ks and declare it an epic accomplishment; some run after a cold beer (or two, or three), and some, I’m sure, are straight-edge teetotalers. But we all run for one simple reason: it makes us happy. It might make us sweat, we might want to lose a few pounds, and sometimes we might strap on a heart-rate monitor or hit the local track for quarter mile repeats, but all these motives are secondary: our real motive to run is that running always makes us happy. It makes us smile.

I’m excited about joining this community of runner-blogger-smilers, and look forward to sharing my thoughts and ideas with a group of likened runners, as well as reading about their reflections on running.


Yesterday was “National Running Day.” At first, I wasn’t going to actually run at all. There were practical reasons: I’d gotten just about 4 hours of sleep for the last two night, and the temperature was supposed to top 95 degrees with high humidity. There is also my innate rebellious, contrarians nature, which chafes at participating in “days.” “National Poetry Day,” “Bike to Work Day,” “Cancer Awareness Day.” I reason that if you care about those things, you should do something about them regardless, and agreeing to do them all on the same day strikes me as somewhat contrived and superficial (“phony,” as Holden Caulfield would put it. I just finished teaching Catcher in the Rye, so allow me some latitude). But as the day went on, I not only itched for run, but my twitter feed was filled with other runners heading out for their #nationalrunningday runs. I was jealous, and yes, maybe I wanted to be part of a “day.” So I headed out the door. Since I hadn’t planned on running, I didn’t have any of my running clothes, not even my shoes -- I jogged the half-mile to the track by Yankee stadium in my work-shoes, then kicked them off to go barefoot.

And this is where smile running becomes so important. Everything about my run should have been unpleasant. It was 95 degrees with high humidity, just before noon in the direct sun of an exposed track sandwiched between the Major Degan expressway, the elevated tracks of the 4 train, and the grey edifice of Yankee Stadium. I had no running clothes, so I was wearing cotton underwear and running in my heavy cargo-shorts, with my wallet and keys weighing down the pockets. With no wicking-shirt, I just stripped to my waist, and with no shoes I was barefoot on the hot track. And yet . . . every step was joyous. Not “fun,” mind you, or even “enjoyable,” buy it filled me with joy. It made me smile. The rivulets of sweat coursing down my back and the slight burn as my bare soles brushed against the rough surface of the track; the smell of fresh-cut grass from the mower circling the nearby baseball diamond. Every time I came around the southern end of the track, the breeze off the Harlem River would caress my warm skin, sending goose-bumps along my arms before I slipped out of its narrow current back into the stagnant heat. If it wasn’t for the merciless sun, the cold bottle of water I bought wordlessly from a tanned latino crouched in the shadow of the scoreboard would not have felt as refreshing, the fresh-cut pineapple chunks from the corner bodega would not have been as sweet in my mouth while I ate them, juice dripping down my chin, as I jogged back across Grand Concourse. I was flushed and hot and dripping with sweat, but I was smiling. And for the rest of the afternoon, as I tried to coerce teenagers into writing about epiphanies and coming of age, the slight burn on the bottom of my feet filled me with a secret joy, and made me smile again.

(adapted from the orginal post @ . . . whenitalkaboutrunning)


  1. I think you pretty much summed us up. The diversity in the Collectives' Author's we are seeing is exactly what I hoped for. When I started this a couple of weeks ago (I know it seems longer), my only aim was to get people of EVERY walk of life; people who have such diverse running histories talking about how running makes us happy. Running with a smile was to be our ONLY unifying factor.

    I never expected more than sharing experiences with existing friends. However, all of us are making new friends and I really like that.

    Thanks for posting - keep at it. Share that joy. Keep being excited. Keep running :)

  2. So true!! Well said! Thank you :)