Running for Your Life: If the Greats Were With Us Thursday

Some time ago we were in Freebird Books, a gotta-check-it-out used bookstore on Columbia Street, not far from Brooklyn Bridge Park. While browsing there, I found and purchased a treasure: the “complete stories” by one of my favorite authors, Alistair MacLeod, published under the title “Island.”

A few months before I was saddened to read that MacLeod had passed away. It was at least fifteen years earlier that I’d first heard of MacLeod from my friend Ray Smith, who with his wife Joyce Carol Oates ran the powerfully good literary journal, Ontario Review, until his untimely death in 2008.

At that time I got a copy of “The Last Salt Gift of Blood” and was amazed with the quality of the stories. I am not alone in thinking this way. In fact, and Colm Toibin and Carmen Callil included MacLeod in their book “The Modern Library: The 200 Best Novels in English Since 1950. “Knowing that I could tell other readers about [MacLeod] was the high point of The Modern Library Project for me,” Toibin said.

What a gift MacLeod has at describing a boy’s regard of his father: the proud working man. Here’s a sample, from the story “The Vastness of the Dark” …

“As long as I can remember [Father] has finished dressing while walking, but he does not handle buttons or buckles so well since the dynamite stick at the little mine where he used to work ripped the first two fingers from his scarred right hand. Now the remaining fingers try to do what is expected of them: to hold, to button, to buckle, to adjust, but they do so with what seems a sort of groping uncertainty bordering on despair. As if they realized that there is now just too much for them to do, even though they try as best they can.”

Alastair MacLeod: definitely a great who is missed. Get thee to bookstore and find out for yourself.

Next: Running for Your Life: Back On the Beam

Running for Your Life: Endless Summer

Here it comes, a New York City-style heat wave: 94 degrees Tuesday; 94 Wednesday; 97 Thursday and 88 Friday.

What to do as a runner – Get out in the early morning? Or late at night when the temperatures dip into the low 70s?

Well this runner heads to a treadmill in my neighborhood gym, where the temperature is always in the 70s. From here, because the machines face picture windows that look out onto busy Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn, I watch the foot traffic go by. The endless summer of young ladies in too-short shorts, children during their last days of no-school freedom on skateboards and scooters, my elders shuffling along in the punishing heat that is demonstrably too much for them, BFFs on their way to coffee or an early lunch.

If I’m to be in the city (and not at the beach!) during this early September heat wave, here’s what I do to cope (and keep up a semblance of training for that mid-November marathon in Brooklyn): treadmill-run, dine in AC comfort and if the spirit moves, put a little Beach Boys on the stereo !

Next: Running for Your Life: If the Greats Were With Us Thursday  

Running for Your Life: If the Greats Were With Us Thursday

 In the pages of the London Review of Books (August 27) is a thoroughly wonderful essay titled “The Sound of Cracking” by Pankaj Mishra in review of two books: “The Age of the Crisis of Man” by Mark Grief and “Moral Agents: Eight 20th Century American Writers” by Edward Mendelson.

In the essay, Mishra quotes a third author, Tony Judt (1948-2010), the European historian and brilliant essayist. Yes, if only this great thinker were with us today!

Here’s the money shot as they say in my line of work:

Though doused in Saigon in 1975, a retro 19th-century craving for universal mastery and control was rekindled in 1989 among many members of what Tony Judt called the ‘crappy generation’ – the one that ‘grew up in the 1960s in Western Europe or in America, in a world of no hard choices, neither economic nor political’. Judt’s indictment extended beyond Bush, the Clintons, Blair and neocon publicists to intellectuals at the ‘traditional liberal center’ – the New Yorker, the New Republic, theWashington Post and the New York Times – who, he wrote, had turned into a ‘service class.’ Researching his book in 2003, Greif seems to have been troubled by this spectacle. Liberal intellectuals who might have been interested in his book about the crisis of man were, he writes, ‘busy preparing the justification of the US invasion of Iraq … on the basis of a renewed anthropological vision of “who we are” [in the West] against a new “they” figured as totalitarian.’ 

A chillingly great essay by Mishra. Something for those of you out there looking to be great. Check it out!

Next: Running for Your Life: Endless Summer

Running for Your Life: Don't Stop for Nothing

Overheard recently (Aug. 25) in Prospect Park, from a high school running coach in conversation with a 40ish-year-old running enthusiast, who I’m assuming was seeking pointers about how to get more out of her relatively newfound pastime.

“Build in speed portions in your workout. If your jogging pace is a 10-minute mile, do some interval sprints. You want to regularly go twice that fast, if you looking to run stronger and faster. So bring some speed intervals into your practice.”

Oh, boy. If words alone could stretch hamstrings (for miles and years accustomed to a go-slowish pace) to the breaking point, those would be the ones …

That being said, I am a firm believer in doing things differently, to testing yourself. But, please, for your own health and safety, consider your running goals carefully: how fast, how far, how long. As my recent hamstring injury has taught me, there is no shame in going slow.

My rehab is thankfully going pretty well. I’m scaled back from doing hills, and staircase intervals on long runs. The longest run I’ve put in since my injury more than a month ago has been 45 minutes. I didn’t make the five-mile mark, but I also didn’t feel any muscle pain, or even soreness.

So, I’ll keep it slow. I haven’t given up on the Brooklyn Marathon just yet. After all, as the subject heading says: don't stop for nothing. But, when you get a little older, or if you’re just starting after an extended layoff, take it slow in the beginning and build up only bit by bit ...

Next: Running for Your Life: If the Greats Were With Us Thursday

Running for Your Life: Sixty? Really?

In my previous post I wrote about the first anniversary of our Neath family reunion of August 2014. Reunions connect us in ways we can't begin to imagine beforehand. In my case, the playground that was the summer backyard of my Uncle Rog's and Aunt Wilda's, taught me many lessons. Here's one that I carry with me that was both stated and shown in the childlike play by everyone -- children to elders -- during those glory days:

You are only as young as you feel.

I don't think about that saying very often. But it does show in my life. In pretty much every avenue of my life -- home, working, writing, reading, and running -- I don't feel any differently than I did in my thirties. Sixty? I'll be turning sixty in October. I'm blessed by a loving wife and daughter, work that matters to me, and yes, running. Running for my life.

Sixty? So far, it's just a number. Like Forty was before. And Fifty. Seventy? Really? Will that be just a number? Time will tell, but I'm liking the pattern from 1955 to 2015!

Next: Running for Your Life: Stop for Nothing