“Listen up, you rotten runners!”

I was offended when a state official showed up at a recent Saturday morning Manito Running Club gathering and used the phrase that is the title of this blog post. He made us feel like we’re bottom-feeding, low-life scum ruining things for everyone.MRC haranguing

He said that beside being famous for taking up the entire road and forcing cars aside, we are causing higher taxes for everyone and ruining our transportation infrastructure.

Since he spoke to our group, I’ve been cursed a half dozen times while out running. The anger and condemnation seems way out of proportion to me.

What’s happening is that many runners wear studded shoes or attachments in snowy conditions to improve traction. Below are a couple photos of these.traction implement 1

traction implement2

Apparently, these shoe traction implements are tearing up our streets (and sidewalks) the way studded snow tires do, but with far worse effects. The state DOT website shows damage we’re supposedly causing in the Spokane area alone.undamaged street

Cora Street, a very popular route for runners, at the beginning of winter.damaged street

The same section of Cora at present.

undamaged sidewalk

The sidewalk above, photographed last spring, leads to a park popular with runners.damaged sidewalk

The same sidewalk today.

The governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, held a news conference, widely broadcast, in which he urged runners to stop wearing their traction implements. The spending to repair runner-caused damage has skyrocketed to the point that the state budget is in turmoil and large tax increases are needed immediately unless the damage stops now.Jay Inslee

(Photo by NPR)

After a long discussion, the Manito Running Club decided to abandon its tradition of meeting at the park that is its namesake and convene well outside town at Riverside State Park so that running routes can be done on trails.

After only one run, a state park official showed up at our next gathering with the below photo. He began his address with, “Listen to me, you worthless runners!”Trail rut

On a positive note, the Manito Running Club has been hired at very good pay to run single file for a few miles along Highway 2 north of town. A construction company is saving a lot of money hiring us instead of digging a trench for a new pipeline.

Spokane’s Jewish marathoner

Jody Shapiro is part of the small Jewish community in Spokane. As far as I know, he’s the only Jewish runner of the hundreds of people I’ve met in Spokane running clubs.jody at TC 50 (1)

One of the founders of the Manito Running Club, he’s a prime example of how the running lifestyle can be so beneficial. Though a runner in his teens and early twenties, he stopped during his last year of college, and over the course of several years, gained weight until one day in the shower he noticed his belly was sticking out so far he couldn’t see his feet.

He resumed running in his thirties and over time got more and more into it. He started doing marathons and since turning forty, has run four sub-three hour marathons, his best being 2:52:16.

Our 2011 Spokane to Sandpoint relay team. Jody is on the far left. I'm at right, wearing the white T.

Our 2010 Spokane to Sandpoint relay team. Jody is at far left. I’m at right, wearing the white T.

On occasion, after our group runs, topics have come up that touched aspects of Jewish culture, and Jody has been a great resource. Growing up, I didn’t know anyone who was Jewish, and my views of Judaism were shaped by things I’d read and watching movies and TV.

Jody with fellow Jewish runner Deena Kastor, Olympic medalist and American women's record holder in the marathon and half-marathon.

At a road runners convention last year, Jody met fellow Jewish runner Deena Kastor, Olympic medalist and American women’s record holder in the marathon and half-marathon.

Among the things Jody has taught me is the meaning and origin of the word Jewish. He says it originated long ago during a time of mystical prophets and fervent followers. It’s an acronym that stands for Just Enjoying Weekly Interesting Sermons & Hymns.

Most of us know the menorah below is a symbol from Jewish culture, but I didn’t know its meaning. Jody says long ago, way before NASA existed, there was an extreme shortage of kosher food on earth. A Jewish astronaut was sent to each planet of the solar system to search for kosher food. Each candle symbolizes the flame used to light the fuse that blasted the rockets into space.menora-297125 (1)

I’m delighted I’ve become so versed in aspects of Jewish culture. I can have conversations and come across as educated and intelligent. And I know Jody is very happy to share his knowledge and wisdom. I thank him profusely whenever he does, and he always breaks into a smile and has to work hard to stifle joyful laughter.

There’s a zombie in my garage

Don Aslinger, a fellow Flying Irish Running Club member should have read the very first post of this blog.Don racing

(Photo by Benjamin Boldt)

In that post, I explained how zombies attempt to convert runners to their team, and how I’m able to avoid it happening to me. Unfortunately, Don has become a victim.

Don is young, healthy, and a pretty fast runner. For him to fall prey means it could happen to anyone.

At a Halloween party, I got photo-bombed by a fun-loving, goofy Don. He's not like that anymore.

At a Flying Irish Halloween party, I got photo-bombed by a fun-loving, goofy Don. He’s not like that anymore.

This is so sad because Don had an exciting career possibility – acting. This is true – I was watching TV one evening and a commercial came on, and Don was in it. He didn’t have a minor role – he was the featured character. In addition, he was in the below print ad.Don in print ad (1)

Unfortunately, Don was doing a late-night run, turned a corner, and ran straight into a pack of waiting zombies. He fought viciously, but was subdued. His brain was quickly eaten.

There is one bright spot since Don’s zombie transition. Though it seemed his budding acting career was over, it so happens the Syfy channel films a zombie series in Spokane entitled Z Nation. Don was hired as a zombie, and the show’s producers are very happy having an actor who doesn’t have to spend so much time in make-up.Don the zombie

Being a friend of Don, I took it upon myself to care for him and prevent him from attacking others. Don lives in my garage out back, and is always tethered with chains. Our relationship is similar to that of Shaun and Ed in the movie Shaun of the Dead.Garage home

Zombies are easy to care for and somehow, sitting in a garage all day with nothing to do is not mind-numbing for Don. That’s understandable since Don no longer has a mind. However, I allow Don some entertainment. On occasion I let some of his zombie friends come over for cards.Don playing cards (1)

As well, I take Don to Flying Irish runs on Thursdays.Garage door

As you can see in the above photo, I have to bring a rope to keep Don tethered beside me and a club to remind whenever he lunges at someone that the Flying Irish is a social gathering, not dinner.

To prevent yourself from becoming a zombie, I very especially urge you to read my post, Zombies vs. Runners.


Post-storm run scenes

Recently I saw some unusual things when I went running. Less than two blocks from my house, I came across this.Wellesley & Washington

One tree came down on the house, and the other blocked a major arterial. I continued my run and after a couple more blocks, I saw this.smashed car 2

A storm hit Spokane on Nov. 17th with winds that hit 71 mph. Two people were killed by falling trees in separate incidents, and so many fell onto power lines and into power poles, that of the 272,000 households in the two counties in which Spokane and Coeur d’Alene are located, over 200,000 lost power. That’s over 73% of all homes.

A few days after the storm, I was at a Starbucks and Stephanie Moran-Kuest, a fellow running club member came in. Her house was cold and without power, her car had been smashed by a tree, and a news crew was in front of her house. She wasn’t too thrilled with her situation, as you might guess. The car in the below photo isn’t Stephanie’s, but perhaps hers was roughly in the same shape.smashed car1

Among other running club members that suffered damage, one couple had a single tree that smashed both their cars, and another guy had a pipe burst in his freezing home, leaving a few inches of water in his basement.

I was without power for several days, but I have a wood-burning fireplace insert and was able to stay comfortable, I don’t have any large trees in my yard, so my house was undamaged. However, my neighbor across the alley from me took a hit.neighbor's house

Utility crews worked 16-hour days in sub-freezing temperatures, and by Nov. 27th the last home without power in Spokane had it restored. I thought it was an admirable effort. I’ve never worked a 16-hour day in my life. Nor have I been outside in sub-freezing weather for 16 hours straight.

Some residents face bigger problems that will take longer to resolve. I have sympathy for this homeowner on Spokane’s northside.smashed house2



My No. 1 ranked Ethiopian friend

So few people have the chance to become friends with a top-ranked runner. I don’t mean top-ranked in the U.S, or one of the top-ranked. I’m talking No. 1 in the world.

I am fortunate that such a person happens to be active in several Spokane running clubs. Lensa Etana, an Ethiopian runner, trains for her races here in Spokane.Lensa racing

Though easy-going, warm, and likable, she often boasts of her top-ranking, even going as far as wearing outfits in races to let her competitors know who they’re up against. Take a look at the below photo.Lensa - WSE

All right, Lensa isn’t top-ranked for quickness, but you have to agree she’s pretty good at self-deprecating humor. She adopted the moniker, World’s Slowest Ethiopian, after fellow running club members chided her for race times that are very modest for someone from a country known for its outstanding distance runners.

I can relate to Lensa because she seems like someone with a similar background and upbringing, and with no discernible accent, one would think she has lived in Spokane her entire life. But her background is more interesting.

We runners often get together. Lensa, myself and others have breakfast after a very cold morning run.

Lensa, myself and others enjoying breakfast after a very cold morning run.

Her parents, both Ethiopian, met in Ukraine while studying when the Soviet Union and Ethiopia were allied prior to the breakup of the Soviet Bloc. Lensa was born there, but when an opportunity arose to go to Sweden, Lensa’s mother elected to return to Ethiopia where Lensa lived until age nine. She moved to Sweden where her dad, a soil scientist, taught at a university. She attended Swedish schools and graduated from high school there.

Ultimately she came to the U.S. and graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle. She works for a medical reference lab in Spokane.

She is fluent in Swedish, two languages used in Ethiopia, Oromo and Amharic and, of course, English.

Lensa enters plenty of road races, so if you’re ever doing the same in the Spokane area, perhaps you’ll have a brush with fame and run past The World’s Slowest Ethiopian.

Running + sunglasses = cool

Have I been accused of trying to be cool by running with sunglasses? Yes, but instead of admitting it, I said my head swelled during a long period of never taking them off, and I couldn’t get them off.


It’s only in the past few years that I’ve regularly worn sunglasses. I just didn’t think to buy them even though there were occasions I could’ve used a pair.

Now that I wear them regularly, I’ve found that sunglasses and I have extremely short relationships. My longest one lasted almost two years, which is a record by far. Most of them last only a few weeks. My current relationship is the fourth I’ve had this year. I’m not about to hook-up with an attractive, head-turning pair that’ll cost me lots of money. I’d likely walk out of a restaurant, leaving them on the table.

The only problem I have running in sunglasses is the eye pad, the part that rests on the bridge of your nose, sometimes gets slippery when I start perspiring, and they begin to bounce. I find myself adjusting them frequently to prevent it.

As well, when I’m doing a running club run, I’m more likely to leave them behind after the post-run get-together. I lost two pair in quick succession this summer.

However, my newest pair look so good, and I feel so cool running in them, my head really swelled again, and I can’t get them off. Even though this is a little inconvenient when sleeping and showering, the tradeoff is that I’m not losing sunglasses anymore, and I look cool all the time.


I don’t look forward when they go out of style though. I’ve been told that surgery is the only way to have them removed.

The plus side of running injuries

I smugly claimed in a past post that I rarely fall down while running, even in icy conditions. But last month, I took a spill and gave myself a bright and colorful scrape.Arm burn

I was on a trail with Diana Crabtree during a Manito Runners Club run, and as she was telling me about the scar on her knee, suffered in a fall on the trails we were on, I tripped and went down. Diana rushed to assist me, but I was able to get right up and continue my run.

When I got home I poured hydrogen peroxide over my wound. It never got infected, but over the next couple weeks the hydrogen peroxide provided an unexpectedly wonderful experience.

After the injury scabbed over, as with previous scrapes, I was tempted to pick. Oddly, I also find that giving my picked scabs a thorough look-over is very interesting. So, I abandoned self-discipline and restraint and picked away.

Then I discovered something great and took things up a notch.scab pieces are tiny

scab pieces-small2

Scab-picking provides entertainment during those times of the day when not much is going on and you’re bored. I really liked it when I could peel off a large, unbroken piece of scab. Plus, having a delicious treat at the end was a super fringe benefit.

As I ate the scabs, I was delighted to find they had pleasant hints of hydrogen peroxide. I didn’t know an external-use-only medication could impart such wonderful flavor.scab-big piece

The scab has nearly healed, and I’m facing an end to my self-produced tasty snacks, I’m considering falling once more, intentionally. If I run at a very fast pace on rough terrain, I can get a much larger scab which would mean a big supply of enjoyable treats.

Perhaps you think it’s strange that I eat my scabs. I do, too. What I’m really eating is pictured below.Scabs really b. jerky

Hopefully, next time you eat beef jerky, this post won’t cause you to associate it with scab-eating. I apologize in advance if that happens.