Why run?

If you could travel back to the 18th century and spend some time looking around, how often do you think you’d see someone out for a run?

If you think never, your thinking is the same as mine.

People in the 1700’s surely had more important things to do than run for thirty minutes, an hour, or whatever just to get some exercise. People likely stayed fit just living life.

Though I enjoy running, and I’ve been doing it a long time, sometimes I think it’s not a good use of time. I like to have a purpose for the things I do, and galloping through the neighborhood seems like a lot of effort that’s misdirected.

Though I started running in high school to compete on track and cross-country teams, racing is no longer my main reason for running. I like the health benefits, the pleasant physical feeling after running, and I’m in good shape to do other activities. Being part of the running club community here in Spokane, I’ve enjoyed the social aspect and meeting so many people the last few years. You’d think that’d be good enough reason to justify running.

I almost always stretch before runnning.

I almost always stretch before runnning.

Over the years, every so often I’ve wondered if I was squandering my time. I’ve wished I could find a way to have a simple lifestyle that gives me plenty of exercise and free time. I’d enjoy living in a community of like-minded people who are mutually dependent on the basic skills and products needed for everyday life, sort of like how life was before the industrial revolution. But how can you make that happen in this day and age?

I’ve read of intentional communities and religious orders that have many of the characteristics that appeal to me. However, nearly all have a religious component that is their raison d’etre, which doesn’t appeal to me.

I’m not sure many people share my preoccupation with trying to make exercise a by-product of everyday living. Perhaps one day I’ll figure out how I can make my dream lifestyle happen.




A runner and a camera

When you have your portrait taken, normally your face is the main feature. However, since runners are so dependent on bipedalism, perhaps it’s natural to have portraits of our legs and leg parts.legs knees

Not often do you see a photo of just the knees. In most cases some kind of medical condition is being documented, I would guess. It’d be unusual to have something like this hanging on the wall of your house, but maybe I should do it anyway. What do you think?

My Achilles tendons are rarely photographed, so it was a special moment getting them in front of a camera, even though you can see a sock pattern imprinted on my skin.leg achille

My legs are nearly always photographed together, so a solo portrait of them turned into a wonderful moment. Each leg is a unique, fully individuated limb, not half of a two member team without self identity. Each has its special qualities beyond being just right and left.

leg leftleg left 2








Though I’m very proud of my leg team, these photos are starting to creep me out. They look separated from my body. I believe in freedom and self-determination, but not for my legs. No way! I need them together and attached.leg both

There, I like the above photo better. Legs need to be side-by-side, operating as one unit. Forget what I wrote about being individuated and having self-identity.

I have slender feet and always my veins are raised and obvious. I don’t know if that’s a common feature among other people, but I’ve gotten comments about the same condition of my forearms and hands, and it’s not because I’m a weight-lifter. Perhaps because of my thinness, there’s little room in my limbs for all the stuff that’s supposed to be there.

You may notice that the right foot is slightly larger than the left.leg-feet

My foot started hurting the last time I ran – a couple weeks ago. The pain hasn’t eased and nor has the swelling, so I suspect a stress fracture. To the doctor I go next week, and my hopes for the Bloomsday 12k on May 4th? I’ve changed my role from participant to photographer/observer.

A run in wild, untamed wilderness

In a previous post, I wrote how I converted my front yard from a lawn into a natural landscape with many types of native plants, and how trails I’d constructed made it possible to run in a natural area yet never leave my front yard.animal expert4

When I go for a run in my yard, it’s so nice with the fragrant plants, scenery and untamed, 100 ft x 120 ft wilderness. However, I’ve realized something’s missing.Jim's fronyard run2

If you go running in a natural area, sometimes you catch a glimpse of a wild animal. I’d like to experience the same thing in my front yard. I’ve decided to mimic one by releasing native wildlife in my yard.

Of course, I want everything to go smoothly, so I hired a consultant. I wrote previously how I met Ruby Redpepper, who owns a company called AFS (Animal Fulfillment Specialists). She flew into Spokane, and when we met, she gave me information I never would have considered.animal expert1

I so much wanted a bear in my front yard, but she said it wouldn’t work. She advised that my habitat is suitable for a pair of coyotes, at most, to occupy the top of the food chain.

In the below photo, a small, catlike animal native to South Africa is instantly attracted to my natural landscape. Ms. Redpepper uses this animal as an indicator of the quality of habitat. It was a very good sign.animal expert3

In addition to coyotes, I’ll have marmots, a badger, rabbits, ground squirrels and plenty of smaller rodents. Though it doesn’t seem like it’d work, Ms. Redpepper says I should have a small colony of bats, a medium-sized owl and a red-tailed hawk. She assures me they will stay in my preserve because of its concentrated diversity.

I’m so very especially looking forward to this ecological development. Ms. Redpepper tells me if the populations thrive, I can eventually add a moose, two deer and a bobcat.

I like animals. I dream of an animal kingdom right outside my front door.animal expert7

Run in sand, win an Oscar

In the movie Chariots of Fire, British runners in white shorts and shirts run en masse along a sandy beach in bare feet. It’s a pretty cool opening scene, and the music really adds depth and intrigue. Since it won four Oscars including best picture, I like to say it’s because it was about running, specifically, running in sand.Chariots of Fire

Okay, a shot of guys running in sand wasn’t the reason it won an Oscar. I use this as an example of using soft running surfaces to prevent injury. Foot strike is about as soft as can be in sand, and if you do it day in and day out, barefoot, you’ll also save a ton of money because there’s no need to buy running shoes anymore. The downside is that it wouldn’t take long to get real tired of sand running.

When I lived in California, my apartment was very close to a beach. I ran there from time to time, and occasionally I’d remove my shoes. But it was more a novelty, and I didn’t put in lots of miles training in sand. In the photo below, the only painting I own hangs over my bed. I like it because it’s so similar to a section of beach called Oxnard Shores that I used to run along.surface sand

When I went through a period of recurring stress fractures, my legs were particularly sensitive to running surfaces. I discovered that a hard-packed dirt surface that looked about as springy as concrete was noticeably easier on my injured leg than a sidewalk.

Because of my many injuries, I try to run on the softest surface possible. I no longer have a beach nearby, and since I live in the city, this means the best running surface I’m going to find is grass. Many of my routes involve running from one park to another, and I tread on the edge of lawns to get to them.

I often run on those grass strips between the sidewalk and the street. I appreciate the homeowner keeping the grass short because running in deep, thick grass can rival running in sand.surface grass

And with Spokane’s biggest race of the year, Bloomsday, coming up, I’m re-familiarizing myself with another surface that brings back memories of tough, punishing workouts.

surface at Shadle