Some days there’s nothing better than getting back from a run, heating noodles while you rinse and curling up on a chair with a book. I’m sitting in my sister’s bay window watching squirrels shake up the evergreens outside her window. Donald Hall’s book Life Work is open in my hand. He’s talking about his love of work. How he wakes up sometimes at 3 am and can’t wait to get up to work, but he forces himself to lie in bed and nap until 4 or the day will be ruined. By 10 am his day’s work is done. He’s worked on drafts of a poem, done a chore then switched to prose until he loses steam.
At 140 pages, this is the kind of book to take your time with. Knowing he drafts some poems 60 and as much as 600 times makes me want to slow down and give each sentence its due weight. Hall talks about how important it is for people to have work that fully absorbs them whether that’s writing, knitting, canning veggies, laying stone walls, swinging a baseball bat or running mile after mile. These aren’t hobbies, they are the real work because they give us purpose that goes deeper than paying bills.
I need to pass on two useful running bits I came across in other sources to make room so I can wrap my brain around some of the points Hall so eloquently makes.
A while back I read Rich Roll’s memoir Finding Ultra. In it he mentions one running coach advising him to run as slow as necessary to keep his heart rate in the 140 range in order to tone down exertion. The suggestion was made in response to his lung and heart rate capacity as measured in one of those stress tests where they make you run on a treadmill while hooked up.
My boyfriend, a.k.a. MoonPie, and I took this as a tip (even though we’re not ultra runners) and tried to apply it to our own running for several months. We wound up running way slower than our usual pace thinking it was better for the heart and lungs. A recent trip to a doctor, who also happens to be a marathoner, set me straight. He said it’s best to run at a comfortably sustainable pace, which varies for everyone.
This sounds pretty obvious now, but in the moment I wanted to give him a big hug for setting me free. I don’t really care about improving my speed, but some days the body wants to go a little faster and now I know that’s okay. My heart won’t break!
And that’s not all:
Last night I started reading this other fantastic book by Paul Bogard called The End of Night. It’s about the necessity to reign in light pollution before we lose our connection to the universe, that sense of wonder at seeing stars. Before reading this, this is going to make me sound like a dummy, but before reading this I didn’t know there were still places in the U.S. where the Milky Way is visible to the naked eye, where you can see thousands of stars. I realize I’ve never seen a truly dark sky, never experienced “celestial vaulting”, which is that feeling when you’re in darkness looking up at thousands of stars and have the sensation of falling up into them.
Anyway, I’m taking my time with this book, too, so the review is a few weeks away. But in one part he’s talking about how blinding street and exterior lights are. Apparently, our eyes need shadows and contrast to see well at night.
This struck me for a few reasons: I like running at night and I’m starting to do some driving to get comfortable behind the wheel again before we move out of the city to a more isolated area. The few night drives I’ve done made me realize signs need way bigger fonts or I need better eyes. Also, cyclists and runners are really hard to see.
Bogard writes that the safest outfit to run in at night is one with high contrast – dark bottoms and neon top, ideally. That probably sounds obvious, too, but I’ve been bumped by cars before at night. And I’m guilty of running in mostly dark colors thinking I’m on the sidewalks or off the road so it’s okay. But it’s really not. I’m not a ninja or an old timey bank robber. It’s time to get some bright clothings.