Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Few, The Proud, the Arboreal: Run:) Challenge Results

When's the last time you've had an excuse to use the word "arboreal?" That's just one of the many benefits of climbing a tree on a run (see Vanessa's recent post for at least six others). Now in case you're lost, and wondering when this became the Climb :) Collective (oooh, perhaps we can franchise!), here's a quick recap:

[Cue deep, serious narrator voice]
"Previously on The Run:) Collective . . ."
Nine days ago, I issued a challenge: climb a tree. More specifically, climb a tree while out on a run. Why? Why the hell not? And I'm not being flippant -- part of the ethos of Running Smily is
summed up in that most hallowed of aphorisms, "why the hell not?" Because traditional (a.k.a. "normal") thinking will give you a lot of reasons NOT to do just about anything: running will ruin your knees, running barefoot will destroy your feet, not doing speed-work will make you slow, if you take time to enjoy your race you won't set a PR, not following a strict 75 mile-a-week training program will mean you'll choke at Western States. There are lots of good, logical
arguments NOT to take the time to enjoy your run, to enjoy your race, to enjoy your life. Sometimes, we have good, logical rebuttals to these arguments, but sometimes the answer is just "why the hell not?"
"Because I want to."
"Because it makes me smile."

My challenge was a bit random (I just happened to have climbed a tree that week and liked it), but there was also a method to my madness: climbing a tree on a run forces you to take the run
itself less seriously. It can't be a tempo-run if you stop to climb a tree; it ceases to be just a run, and becomes part of something a bit larger: part of an adventure. No one sets a PR when they climb a tree at mile 2 of a 5 mile run, but they do come back smiling.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a lot of people sending me pictures or tree-climbing stories, but I'll assume that was because you were all too busy getting yourselves up trees to respond. Here's a few, however:

Our first set of feet come from Vanessa, who didn't see this so much as a challenge as my showing up late to a party she's been throwing for years, since she seems to climb trees on her runs on a regular basis. And she climbs them barefoot! Extra credit for getting her assignment in early, and double extra-credit for shimmying up a rough trunk with naked feet.

The next picture I received was of Kate up a . . . okay, yes, if you want to get technical about it, she's on a rock, not up a tree. But that just goes to show what crazy iconoclasts we are here: tell the woman to climb a tree and she climbs on a rock. The spirit is the same, however: stop the run, climb on something your average person wouldn't, and enjoy life. Extra credit for thinking outside the box, and honorable mention for including such a cute kid.

Speaking of cute kids, it took me a whole week, and a few false starts, but I eventually got myself up a tree. See, I came up with the challenge after a week on a farm in Pennsylvania, but after I issued it I was back in Brooklyn. And a tree may grow in Brooklyn, but most of the time its pretty scrawny and lining a sidewalk and not at all fit for climbing (and good luck trying to look up what species it is on-line: google "what sort of trees grow in Brooklyn?" and all you get is literary references and spark-notes plot summaries). I've also had precious little time to run this summer, since I'm home alone with the kids during the day. I made it out for 3 miles on Friday, and ran right to our closest park to look for a tree. And that's another thing that made this challenge interesting -- it made me look at running and trees in an entirely new fashion. I was out "hunting," so my run had a new purpose, and it was less about just running and more about searching, a quest, if you will (see my recent post on how The Lord of the Rings ties into running for more on questing). I didn't find one that was all that great, and I didn't get nearly as high as I would have liked, but I was up a tree, on a run. Success!

Okay, fellow Smiley's and Smiley Affiliates, that's one challenge in the books. Stay tuned for Challenge #2, which will be your chance to play along at home and win one of our many fabulous prizes. Or at least have a little fun while on the run.


  1. I have to beg forgiveness for not doing my homework. I could say my dog ate it ( or barked up it or something just as lame) but that would be dishonest. I did plan to do it. I even put fresh batteries in my camera. But then, well, I won't bore you with the excuses. I can only hope that the good professor will allow me to turn in my assignment late if just for partial credit.

    Great job by you teacher's pets who did your work in. I enjoyed the pics and the report. What's next teach?

  2. Very awesome!! I didn't do it either.and just have no excuse :)