Category Archives: runners i have known

5.2 miles on January 17

I was delighted to find that all the gates of Green-wood Cemetery were open this morning. And so, instead of finishing my run in Prospect Park with my usual bedraggled dash down the last two long avenues to my apartment, I veered into the cemetery to wander for a while. The hills in the cemetery are among the highest in Brooklyn, and you can see where the British troops overran the American forces in the early days of the Revolutionary War. Samuel Morse has a hill-top all to himself, and in one section, there is a series of increasingly gigantic toga-clad Roman statues gazing out towards their twin, the Statue of Liberty, in the harbor. This morning, I watched the boats move imperceptibly on the far water, and looked at the buildings of Manhattan rise out of the long scrum of Brooklyn. And so it was that I spent my entire morning in constructed landscapes of the 19th century.

Today is my dad’s birthday. As perhaps the first runner I ever knew, he has always been an inspiration, and I am quite sure I inherited his love for historical detail and lengthy outdoor endeavors. I was very grateful over the holidays to meet him on occasion in the Virginia fields — my father on his bike, me cresting some long hill.

4 miles on December 31

To usher in the new year, I sat under the blue moon with two of my closest friends and listened to the sounds of the fireworks and/or firearms of Virginia going off about us. The fields here are always echoing with noise, even late at night, but it is the kind of noise you have to listen for to hear.

Anyway, the advent of 2010 put me in a reflective mood, and, rather than elaborate on my entire emotional state, I thought I’d write, if this sort of thing is allowed on an exercise blog, about my first memories of running.

I was the kind of person growing up who dreaded running the mile in P.E., and couldn’t quite ever imagine that I might run for fun or profit. I have always loved long walks, though, especially those undertaken through the city streets that I have called home. Less a hiker than a compulsive wanderer, I have spent hours and hours aimlessly walking through urban landscapes.

I lived in Washington, D.C. for years with a friend who I’ll call A., a person who introduced me to many things in life, including flaming French drinks, heart-shaped waffles, and the art of reading poetry, out loud, in one’s bathrobe. One day we wrote scores of poems on his old type-writer and turned them into paper airplanes to float over the street from the balcony where we would sit. A fellow early riser, he was the one to first entreat me to join him for a run in Rock Creek Park one summer morning. I was surprised by his request. After all, I had never run, ever. Starting off through the streets of Mt. Pleasant, where we lived, we descended into the park at a rapid clip. I’ll always remember A. leaping down a flight of stairs and then turning to me to say, “I always like to discuss political science on these outings. Have you read much Locke?”

Although that first run left me winded and slightly embarrassed, the way that A. ran stuck with me. Now that I manage to traverse more than a few miles, I think of him every time I veer off the path to investigate some hidden place or run as fast as I can along some treacherous, unlikely route.

A. came to visit me in Virginia for New Years’ Eve and we took a long walk in the freshly-fallen snow along a back road not to far from my house. Nobody was around and we followed dozens of animal tracks: rabbit, deer, and other unidentified things with paws or claws. We found the highest point and stared into the gray beyond, which was just a barren nothingness in the sky above the burnt-out remains of last years’ crop of corn. We saw the abandoned house that I wish to visit someday, but, as usual, the water between us and it was too deep to ford.

I remember that there were two hawks that were wheeling about in the sky until they settled on one branch on a distant tree and watched us watching them.