All posts in: running

06 Dec 2017

what i read this month – november 2017

Another month in the thick of Book Review Season. I found my assignments a little easier to get through this month than last, but I am finding myself growing so, so weary of the following in YA lit:

  • Therapeutic Road trips (2/8)
  • Car crashes (3/8)
  • Dead siblings/parents/best friends (4/8)
  • Bucket lists, especially tackling someone else’s bucket lists (just 1 this month, but they really annoy me)

I feel like I am getting pickier with my YA reading, but really! Authors! Write anything that isn’t a spin-off of the same dozen stories, and I’m totally with you.

My recommends for the month are as follows: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares was certainly my favorite; great voice, jokes that are actually funny, and a weird “is this supernatural or realism?” vibe that I liked. The Art of Feeling was a somewhat distant second, but recommended, especially if you are, like me, have just been waiting for a YA book about MBTI personality types. Such a Good Girl if you are in for a good mind fuck. You Don’t Know Me But I Know You if you want to read a relatively drama free unplanned pregnancy tale with a biracial heroine.

In my listening-life, podcasts and audiobooks are always battling it out. Sometimes I get caught up getting caught up on my multitude of podcast subscriptions and can’t be bothered to finish an audiobook; sometimes I enjoy a long string of audiobooks and ignore my podcasts altogether. But I will admit this: when I’m in an audiobook mood, I’m often listening to books that are pretty similar to podcasts: works of nonfiction covering “hot topics” that pique some sort of pet interest of mine with a strong narrative voice – and actual narrator.

All of my November audiobooks fit this bill. Dear Fahrenheit 451 was an absolute gem, and The Happiness Project still holds its sway over me, even after many re-reads. was occasionally thought-provoking, but a little too Jesus-y for my tastes.

I did enjoy listening to All the Money in the World by Laura Vanderkam; I feel like there are woefully few books out there about personal finance that aren’t just *really* basic primers for banking, savings, etc. I’m not interested in investment strategies; I’m interested in how normal, middle class folks manage their budgets on a day-to-day basis. This fit the bill, but I wish Vanderkam had spent more time on the nitty-gritty of spending and savings and less time profiling the lives of chicken farmers, foragers, and other folks whose financial decisions she then went on to discourage. I also had enough beef with her section on teaching kids about money to fill up another blog post. Which I should probably restrain myself from doing since my kid is still at an age where if I handed him some money, he would eat it. But yes, I did enjoy the book; perhaps even enjoyed disagreeing with it, which is a somewhat familiar feeling regarding Vanderkam’s books.

I had no time to finish any non-audio, non-required books in November. I flipped through some new cookbooks and put in a little time with whatever books happened to be at my bedside. My library copy of An Age of License got lost in my toddler’s board book bin until it went massively overdue. And now it is December! I’m on my last stack of review books for the season (fingers crossed, anyway.) Shouldn’t be too hard to muscle through a huge pile of reading – and reviewing – while also shopping, decorating, traveling with a toddler, and preparing for the world’s most competitive work holiday party on Friday. Now I really should be going… it’s already Wednesday and I’ve only made 4 dozen cookies…

24 Mar 2013

running in 2013

Some time in 2012, I wrote out a little monthly calendar to guide me through the next year. A page for each month, highlighting any holidays, vacations, or other notable events for the month. I set out some little goal deadlines for my New Year’s Resolutions. I wrote in some wedding planning stuff. The big things that I knew Must Happen.

I looked at a calendar of sunrises and sunsets, and March was the first month the sun would be up after 5 p.m so on my page for March, I wrote “Start Running.” So on March 1st, that is what I did.

Little did I know there would be two more snow storms in March 2013, but yes, I have been running. Perhaps not as much as I would like, but after a three month hiatus, my little Dailymile calendar is updating once again. It feels kind of bad-ass to run with snow still on the ground, although it does not feel bad-ass to run when there is unshoveled/melted snow on your running path. It feels like you are stupid because you did not stop and think that the gravel path through the woods would be impassable when there is still 3-4 inches of standing snow on the grass.

In the interest of easing back into the game, I have restarted my Couch to 5k efforts; I am on week three and life is still easy, except for when my phone decides to give me a visual alert rather than a audio alert telling me to stop running/walking and I end up running 7 minutes straight up a large hill. That is not easy.

I also got some new running shoes – some black and pink New Balance Minimus – which are like the TOMS of running shoes – thin little slippers that feel like nothing. So far, no complaints. I actually usually have a bit of foot pain when I adjust to new shoes, but not so much with these.

The boy has been running with me most of the time; once last week we ran into town, bought some bread at When Pigs Fly and a bottle of wine at Streetcar. That is a good run if I ever had one.

I just wanted to tell you that it’s time to run again and for the first time in my life I’m just kind of happy about it – I don’t have to drag myself out of the door or beat myself up over going or not going. I’m operating on the following principle – if you can run, you should run – and letting the rest of the details work themselves out.

It’s going well. It’s going well.

Except for the part where I dropped my automatically recharging T-Pass between the bread and the wine last weekend, it’s going well.

And the snowstorms.

Please tell me the snowstorms are over.

Other running posts:


22 Sep 2012

bad dreams, new year’s resolutions, and trash

A few weeks ago, I had a dream that I ran five miles. This might seem like a long, boring, unpleasant way to spend your sleeping hours. But trust me, running dreams are pretty fun. Dream running is easy, it’s fast, and you usually are doing something strange like running barefoot or running from the law or running because my car broke down and it seems like the next logical mode of transportation.

Running dreams, however, are bittersweet. They usually mean I’m not doing enough awake-running. So when one of my favorite friends proposed a 5k, I said yes in a heartbeat!

Okay fine, I said “maybe” then I willfully forgot about it, then I said “ehhhh” and then I put it off for a few more days, and then earlier this week, I finally signed up… to run a 5k on September 30th. Gulp.

This is my first 5k! It is also September and one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to run not one but TWO 5ks… so it’s about time I get on that, huh?

This 5k is in support of Safe Passage, a non-profit that supports Guatemalan children that live around the capital city’s largest garbage dump. If you are wondering what exactly that sort of childhood entails, you might pick up Andy Mulligan’s Trash. I read this book for a class and while it largely a bit of a heist-adventure story, Mulligan captures the impoverished setting with alarming, deliberate detail, lens so closely focused on the unbelievable details of the characters’ everyday existence in extreme poverty that it feels downright dystopian, like some unnamed force has destroyed society, leaving poor families and children to sort through the trash of the upper class. Spoiler alert: it’s not science fiction. Mulligan based Trash on his time visiting the slums of Manila, on this planet, in this generation, and organizations like Safe Passage work to help these present-day, real-live children attend school by providing school supplies, uniforms, and other support.

So, if you are the kind of person who likes to throw 5 dollars into a random charity that you come across (like I am), please consider throwing your 5 dollars toward my 5k efforts. Here is my fundraising page. I would love to be able to donate a hundred dollars or so, if I can! It will help me run faster, I think. Maybe not as fast as in my dreams… but maybe it will help me crack an 11-minute mile. Or take two walking breaks instead of three. This is going to be a feat of true athleticism, people, one I have been training for slowly but surely for more than two years. If you are awake at 8:00 a.m. EST next Sunday, then cheer me on from afar!

13 Apr 2012

happy marathon monday!

You guys, it’s almost Marathon Monday!

Here are some lazy and non-lazy fun things to do to celebrate Boston’s Running Holiday:

1. Watch Spirit of the Marathon

This is probably my favorite documentary, about four folks running the Chicago marathon. There is interesting information about the history of street racing and lots of that emotional sports-movie feeling where you hold your breath a lot and get nervous for no reason while people run toward the finish line.

2. Read some running blogs

A few years ago, I got kind of hooked on healthy living blogs, and for some reason almost every healthy living blogger is a long distance runner. They typically write a lot about different workouts, healthy foods, training schedules for this and that race, race re-caps, and  post a lot of pictures with cute workout clothes. Here are some of my favorites:

Emily from Sweat Once A Day is training for the Eugene Marathon.

Monica from Run, Eat, Repeat is training for the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation Cinco de Mayo Half Marathon.

Tina from Carrots ‘N’ Cake is just doing a lot of Crossfit, but has run two marathons and posts a lot about running.

Ashley from (never)homemaker just had a baby and is still training for a half marathon anyway!

Gretchen from Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen is training to run 3-4 mile legs of the Reach the Beach Relay.

3. Watch the Race!

If you live in Boston, that is. Which I do. Last year we came down early and saw the very first of the first runners pass by!

We will be watching this year from one of my favorite areas in Boston – Coolidge Corner.

There was a small crowd out when we arrived – families, visiting spectators, and college kids drinking beer at 10 a.m.

On my Dearest Former Roommate’s suggestion, stay away from the finish line at Copley. She worked at the Borders there a few years ago and thought it would be fun – no, people are passing out and throwing up all over the place! I’m worried it will be worse this year, as it may be up to 80 degrees on race day.

4. Drink a Gatorade

Yes, it’s full of high fructose corn-syrup, but who doesn’t love blue Gatorade? If you’ve never tried it, you probably don’t believe me; I didn’t until a high school boyfriend bought me one once… it’s strangely satisfying. But don’t try any other flavors. Go blue or go home.

If you live in Boston, you might also substitute this drink for a special Sam Adams 26.2 beer.

On tap only at bars located along the marathon route. We tried it last week,and I thought it was weird. But this could be because I knew it was brewed with salt, and ever since I had a terribly mixed margarita at a Red Lobster in 2007, I can’t stand the thought of a salty drink.

5. Go for a run

Before you drink too much, you should probably go for a run. If thousands of people can run 26.2 miles, you can surely run 1. Or 2. Or 3. Or 5. Or whatever.

I might force my boy into running down to Coolidge Corner to watch the race with me Monday morning – about 2 miles – but then I will be stuck wearing my decidedly not-cute size XL running shorts while I hang around and watch. I might be too vain for that…



04 Apr 2012

letter to a beginning runner

Dear Beginning Runner,


  • Have never been a runner
  • Are pretty out of shape
  • Aren’t of the body type to be a natural runner
  • Don’t eat healthy 100% of the time
  • Have some running shoes, a sports bra, but not much else…
  • Every time you run any distance (a half mile, a mile, 2 minutes), you feel like you may die.

Me too.

I started running almost three years ago because I knew I was moving to Boston for grad school. I knew that I would be too broke to afford a gym membership and that my apartment was across the street from a little park. A financial necessity. And heck if I can afford a trip to Lululemon – I’m stuck with my Target bra, my college t-shirts, my sister’s gym shorts that are at least a size too big.

I hadn’t run since utterly failing at middle school gym class. I’d never run more than a mile on a treadmill or indoor track, and it had been years since I’d tried even that.

I am not overweight, but I am closer to that than underweight. I am 5′ 10″ without much muscle. Pulling my own weight around a track is not effortless. I don’t feel light. I don’t feel easy.

Three years later, my body is still bigger than it should be, I still fall off the wagon and trade vegetables for chips, some days, I run a half mile and feel like dying.


But not every day.


I started out two years ago, trying to get a handle the mental process. I wrote about it here. I ran at least a mile 3 or 4 times a week, sometimes running as much as 2 miles.

Then it became winter and I stopped. Weather happened. Life happened. I was still running a few times a week, but never more than a mile. There was always a good reason to stop, so I didn’t ever push myself. I ran a few times a week, usually, but sometimes I would skip runs, skip weeks. Inconsistent.

Last October, I had some weird work-related things go on. Basically, for a week or two, I was told not to come to work. I had some free time. I had some frustration to work off. Around this time, every person on my Facebook friends list was doing Couch to 5k – the old, the young, the overweight, the pregnant, the infirm – and then running in the mud and posting pictures. Apparently this is a thing?

I came home early on a Monday – I’d been sent home from work. I just decided to do it. I sat down at my computer and made a really, REALLY annoying Couch to 5K playlist for myself so I could switch from running to walking when the songs changed. The first few weeks of C25k is like, Run 30 seconds, Walk 1 minute, so I sorted my iTunes by length and listened to a LOT of weird little songs. I knew I could easily do the first few weeks, but I didn’t know exactly when it would get hard and I didn’t want to just do the first hard workout repeatedly waiting for it to get easy. I wanted to make progress, so instead of repeating workouts, I did the first week’s workout on Monday, the second week’s workout on Tuesday, and so on until it got hard. Then I stopped and did the rest like a normal person.

Doing three runs a week, I finished the program, but I never ran 3 miles. The long 10-15 minutes stretches of running were really hard for me. I focused on running slow enough to make it through them, which means the most I ever ran was 2 and a half miles, but it really helped me change my mindset about running – that I didn’t need to run a mile and turn back, I could stay out for 20-30 minutes and it wouldn’t take that much time out of my day, that I wouldn’t be too tired or hungry or sore or bored… or if I was any of those things, well, I would be home within the span of an episode of Mad Men or whatever.

Then it became winter and I stopped.

Weather happened.

Life happened.

All that stuff happened, but here I am in this entirely new place of running. More than two years after I started, but I finally made it.

    • I can run three miles. With stops, but not excessive amounts.
    • I can run two days in a row without my muscles screaming at me.
    • I can run when I’ve eaten a little too much or not quite enough.
    • I can run inside or outside (but not on a treadmill…)
    • When I’m done running, I no longer collapse in a pile of sweat. I can still talk.
    • Occasionally, I can enter that “my brain has ceased to function” kind of run.

And this weird one: sometimes, I’ll run in the afternoon or evening. I’ll run a lot: 2 or 3 miles.

Later in the day, I’ll be hanging around the house and I’ll catch myself thinking about my legs. Thinking about how I want to run again. How I could have run farther.

So, Beginning Runner, I just wanted to tell you that people are not either Marathoners or Never-Get-Off-the-Couchers. Reading fitness and running blogs can be incredibly motivating, but everyone in the world is not running laps around you in designer track jackets and Garmins and the latest in minimalist running shoes.

There are people who are in between, who are working hard at fitting fitness into their lives but who fall on and off the wagon. And there are people who find running deeply unpleasant who do it and do it and do it and then eventually, their body caches up with their brain. A little bit.

That’s basically what I wanted to say about running:

It might take weeks, months, years, but eventually, it doesn’t suck so much.

Eventually, you might love it.



27 Oct 2010

how to run if you’re not a runner

This is my little sister Dorothy. She is a runner!

I am not a runner, I have never BEEN a runner, and I actually hate the physical act. It hurts. I can’t breathe. I can’t run for any significant distance, despite other indicators of my physical fitness. I would much rather chug away for an hour on an elliptical machine than run a mile.

This hatred was born a long time ago. I was in elementary school when I was first instructed to run around the white circle on the blacktop. I remember the first half of a lap was great – I was fast! I was in first place! Once I finished the second half of the lap, things started to suck, and I came in just ahead of the asthmatics.

Things got worse in middle school. Every year, students were enrolled in three quarters of gym and one quarter of health. Gym class activities varied depending on what quarter it was – first and last semester always included twice weekly timed outdoor runs around Tuccamirgan Park. The gym teachers claimed we weren’t graded on our times, but I was averaging a 16 to 14 minute mile, and during those quarters, I was averaging a B in gym.

On a side note, my GPA fixation started early. I was also a B student in math, and whenever I had spring or fall gym, I studied extra hard for my pre-algebra tests because I knew I was going to get a B in gym because I just couldn’t run.

Anyway, despite all that, I am running. I am running because my school’s gym is inconveniently located, because gym memberships in Boston are prohibitively expensive, and because even if I could find one cheap enough, Lance and I can’t figure out where there would be a gym conveniently located for both of our schedules.


I’m holding down my mental shift key, basically.

And it’s kind of working.

Of course, I choose to start pursue this habit about 5 minutes before the temperatures dip below freezing and the running paths ice over… but I’m going with it.

These things help, too:

1) I walk

I’ve chanced upon a disproportionate number of blogs written by casual marathoners (as in, people who run marathons but not to the point where they are too busy running to blog and entertain me). Most of them mention that they walk during not just actual marathons, but even long training runs. This floored me – I’ve always held this opinion that runners are so in shape they don’t have to walk. That if you have to stop and walk (like I do, often), you might as well give up.

Of course, I TRY not to walk, but if I have to walk, I remember all those marathon runners, walking when they get exhausted, just like me, and then I make sure I run again.

2) I engage in mental aerobics.

Without resorting to caps-lock affirmations, I definitely trick myself into keeping at it.

If I start to talk myself out of running because it’s too cold/too hot/I’m too tired/I just ate/I’m too hungry, I slap myself in the face and say “Well, who cares? Just go out and have a cold/hot/full/hungry run. When you get back, you’ll be cold/hungry/full/hungry, but you won’t be dead. And if you feel like dying, you can walk home, you idiot!”

(I never said my mental aerobics were particularly kind)

While I’m running, I often want to stop and walk (aka die). Now, I force my mind to reason with my body before I stop: I have to think of a compelling reason to stop running, and I have to keep going until I think of it. And of course, while my mind takes inventory of my reasons to stop, my caps-lock brain kicks in.

For example,

I think, “I should stop because my legs really hurt.”

and my perky caps-lock brain says,

“WELL! You are getting stronger! Your legs need to grow more muscles, so of course it will hurt, but once they are done growing, it will be easier! Also, you are going up a hill! Once you start descending, it won’t be so bad!”

Repeat for: lack of oxygen, throat pain, slightly painful ankles or knees, or boredom.

And I find that when I do need to stop to walk, my brain and body are pretty much in agreement.

3) I distract myself

This is not as easy as it seems. When I started running outdoors, the only thing that would keep my mind off the pain was movies/TV on my iPod, even if the screen was in my pocket. Not-so-unfortunately, I only had one movie on my iPod: Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Side note: Mental Aerobics during this period often included “Come on, Jessica! Keep going! Keep running until this awesome song is over!

Over time, I figured out how to focus on an audiobook, which is handy because I’m almost always listening to one, or even a This American Life podcast.

And now, my brain is finally trained enough to occasionally 1) Think of my own independent thoughts while I’m running or 2) Listen to music.

4) I listen to exclusively awesome music

This may involve making a new playlist for EVERY RUN, but whatever.

Lately, I require these offensive little ditties of questionable musical quality:

5) I finally bought workout clothes that fit (sort of).

My shoes no longer make my ankles hurt or make my toes go numb. My sports bra doesn’t cut off my breathing apparatus. I am still wearing a pair of XL Adidas shorts that lost their drawstring, but it’s nothing a little creative hiking-up can’t help.

6) I run so slowly that leaves falling from trees pass me.

I have trouble pacing myself (see: Elementary School Blacktop), so I started running as slow as I possibly can. At times, I have slowed down to the point that I wonder if I could walk faster.

So I stop running for a second and walk, and yes, I can and do routinely walk faster than I run.

I ignore judgments from fellow runners as they pass me. Even Lance leaves me behind when we run together.



Anyway, I’m not any sort of running expert (obviously), and I’m mostly writing this so I can look at it in the spring when I want to start running again but fall back into my previously non-running ways. But in the past few weeks, without any concerted effort to run faster, I’ve cut almost a minute off my Seriously Slow mile time, I’ve run 2 miles with stops and 1.75 miles without, which is a Lifetime First, and far exceeds my 6th grade dreams of running a mile in under 16 minutes.

I don’t know if my time would get me that coveted A minus yet, we’re moving in some sort of forward direction.