Curmudgeon writes book about running, in which he reminds you over and over that 40 years ago he won the Boston Marathon, and that the only worthwhile running development since then is wicking socks. I was given a review copy of Amby Burfoot’s new book Run Forever. Burfoot won Boston in 1968 and went on to become executive editor of Runner’s World. He retired in 2013, but has not retired the word “scrumptious,” nor reminding you that he won Boston in 1968. Hey did you know Burfoot won Boston? Around the same time he also participated in a study into hydration and performance. He states that the results of the study showed he performed best on Gatorade, and worst drinking nothing, a result that pretty much anyone would say, “duh.” Except for Burfoot. He writes that one month after the study he runs (and wins the Boston Marathon) “without drinking anything en route” and goes on to declare: “I’m […] quite sure that, if someone had given me Gatorade on the course, I wouldn’t have run as well.” Reading Run Forever felt like reading a book about running written by Kurtwood Smith in full Red Forman. Once you get past surely old man writing about how he likes things the old fashioned way, the book is a decent compilation of running how-to with some good advice, but in that it is by no means unique and I think there are much better options out there.
Whenever I get a new book, especially non-fiction, I like to look through the table of contents. If you read my 2018 week twenty three last week you may recall that I developed a shin splint while on holiday. Burfoot in Run Forever devotes a section to injuries, and a “chaplet” (his word for “chapter”) to shin splints, in which he says that pretty much every runner gets them, but that they’re something beginning runners suffer with, and “once you move past an initial bout, they rarely come back.” My first bout of shin splints came in the beginning of this year, and my physiotherapist put the Fear of God (or Saint Sebastian?) into me about proper care lest I develop a stress fracture. Burfoot, on the other hand, writes, “Shin splints are the perfect example of how most running injuries aren’t serious. You get them, then you get over them.” The bigger problem I have with this book is that there’s some really bad advice. And yet I’ll probably buy a hardcopy for my library. Thanks to Centre Street for the review copy.
On Wednesday I went for a run in the rain up to UBC and back home following most of the impending Scotiabank Half Marathon route and I should have trimmed my toenails because my left big toenail had gotten a little too long and by the time I finished my descent of Marine Drive it was pretty uncomfortable. So after some 6,000 KM running I got my first black toe badge, and damnit I had no idea how debilitating it is. Thursday was a write-off but by Friday evening I forced myself back outside. It did not feel great but I pushed through, and then it felt better, and better Saturday, and better today. Whether the toenail falls off or not remains to be seen. I’m hoping it makes up its mind soon. One week until Scotiabank Half. And sixteen weeks until Victoria Marathon.
I read this book a while ago and put off writing about it because I wasn’t sure what to write about it and then this week happened and I’m still not quite sure what to write about it but here it is. The book tells the short life and tragic end of Madison Holleran, an all American college athlete who seemed from all appearances to have it all going for her. This week we lost two more such people. First, fashion designer Kate Spade, then the man living everyone’s dream life, Anthony Bourdain. That one for me was pretty tough. I don’t tend to get too upset when celebrities pass, but there was something about Bourdain’s passing that really hit me. He really seemed like a normal guy that also happened to have a really great life that he loved to share with other people. He, seemingly effortlessly, made the world a better place. There’s clearly more to the story than that, but I’m not sure I want to know any more. Maybe that’s why I had trouble with Fagan’s book. The book is good, but the story sucks. And the whole time I’m reading it I already know it’s not going to end well while at the same time I’m hoping that it somehow ends well. Through access to social media and private messages, and interviews with friends and family Fagan explores in detail Holleran’s downward spiral as she adjusts to college life after high school, and the pressures of elite-level college athletics. Ultimately, Holleran decides that her only escape is to end her life. How she does it, though the exact detail strike me as speculation, if true is a heavy conclusion to a too short life. If scripted it would strike me as cliché and difficult to believe. It’s not a happy book, but I believe it’s worth reading.
While I was away in ran just about every day and then biked or walked or both and it was great but maybe it was a bit of overkill. On the last Thursday I was away I ran and my right shin felt not quite right and later on it felt as if I had kicked something and bruised the shinbone but I couldn’t remember and I figured I would remember. On the last Friday I ran and recall as I descended Västerbron I felt the pain in my shin gradually grow. It was a very weird experience. I was about halfway through a 15 KM route, which I finished and the pain continued to grow throughout the day. I’ve had a shin splint once before. When I hurt my right knee last fall I developed a shin splint on my left, which my physiotherapist suggested was probably due to overcompensation. This was much worse. I flew home on Saturday and took the day off, ran Sunday and felt awful, so I took Monday and Tuesday off. Wednesday was Global Running Day, so of course I completely overdid it. I woke and ran 24 KM and I felt really great but my shin did not. An afternoon of stretching and massaging the sole of my foot I felt okay enough to go out and join the multi-run-clubs Global Running Day social run. I opted for the shorter (not the shortest…) route from Burrard Bridge around Science World into Vanier Park. It started not so great, as I really felt alone in a huge crowd where everyone seemed to know everyone. I said hello to a couple people I knew from Strava. Some friendlier than others, social media IRL status quo. I eavesdropped on Rob Watson and at the end of the run chatted with him and he was really friendly, which was refreshing, and I talked with a few others I recognized. I feel like I made a bit of progress towards my 2018 resolution towards more social running. However, my leg by now I was thinking about amputation. So I ran home. All in it was a 36 KM day. I took Thursday-Friday-Saturday off, went for a long bike ride on Saturday and woke this morning feeling pretty good. Rest and bike ride definitely helped. My run this morning wasn’t exceptional, but it was fine. My shin started to hurt again towards the end so I cut short and went out for an afternoon pedal instead.
I received an advanced copy of Ayiti from Grove Press. It came out in 2011 but now Roxane Gay is a pretty big deal so Grove is rereleasing it with two additional stories, which begs the question whether it’s an advanced copy or not. Regardless it seemed as good a time as any to finally read Hunger. I’ve wanted and not wanted to read it since it came out, so it has just sat and stared at me as I pick up other books. I didn’t find it difficult to read but I do find it difficult to write about. It’s probably too cliché to quote Atticus Finch but I do feel like I took a jog in Roxane Gay’s point of view. The memoir explores her relationship with food as the result a way to deal with trauma from rape. It’s a heavy book, no pun intended. In early 2014 I went through my own trauma when my partner of a decade decided she’d rather be with another person, then a bit later told me. I can see how I could have eaten through it. Instead I drank through it. And started running through it. Hindsight is a funny thing. A question arose in my mind while reading Hunger, which was to wonder its fate if it had not been written by Roxane Gay. Perhaps another way to look at it is that Ayiti makes way for Hunger. Ayiti is Roxanne Gay’s debut short story collection featuring fifteen pieces, opening with “Motherfuckers” and never lost my attention. The writing is excellent, the stories humorous and tragic. This is an excellent debut that is worthy of reissue. I really like this collection and recommend it. Thanks to Grove Press for the advance copy.
Last week I wrote about travel running but I didn’t write about public toilets. Probably the first thing I learned about running, before “no, shoes are not all the same” and “don’t wear cotton” was that running can lead to needing to find a washroom. I flew home from Sweden yesterday after running nearly 130 KM (plus a 21.1 KM race) around Helsinki, Finland, Tallinn Estonia, and Stockholm, and one thing that I noticed is a dearth of public washrooms. Sometimes just noticing that there are ample facilities along the route is reassuring, whether they’re needed or not. On that note Helsinki was not so bad. Tallinn was not great. In Stockholm though, and this surprised me, the only public WC I saw was 200 metres from the flat I’d let. (Stockholm is also, incidentally, the only place I ended up having to, ahem, cut a run short.) This morning I ran just over 18 KM over a couple bridges and around Stanley Park and I passed eight washrooms (one twice). In fact, on the various routes that I run there are around 35 public washrooms. So I created a map in Google Maps and mapped them. I’m going to embed it on this blog somewhere, but in the meantime you can view/copy/share it here: Vancouver Washrooms.
Vacation has put a damper onto my reading. I started reading a new book while sitting in YVR ten days ago waiting to fly away to Helsinki via Frankfurt, a book of less than 200 pages, and I am still slowing trudging through said book. I hope to finish it before I get home to Vancouver on June 2. I don’t feel too bad since I’m still quite a bit ahead of pace for my goal of 52 books read this year. I am also, however, cognizant of the fact that post-May vacation tends to be when my reading slows down, an occurrence I’d rather not repeat.
I have done a lot of running, though. Normally I run four, maybe five days per week. Monday tends to be my regular day off. Friday is usually the other, then Tuesday or Thursday gets a run in or not. I took Monday off after racing the Helsinki Half, but I’ve run every other day since, hence a week with over 70 KM an no run 15 KM or farther.
I’m convinced that running in a new place is the best way to see it, or at least survey where to explore later. I’ve managed to get lost a few times, and my run times and paces have been pretty slow. I complain about the lollygaggers on the Seawall back home. Now I’m the lollygagger.
I usually start by checking the Strava Global Heatmap to get a sense where people run, then sometimes map a route just to get a sense of distance, then head out and see what happens. What happens is usually a lot of checking Google Maps along the way, and a plethora of mediocre photos. Sometimes a decent one or two fortuitously develops. Often I’ll see something and take a photo either to check out later, or if I’m out touristing, to run by on my next run.
Tomorrow we fly to Stockholm. It’s Monday no run day. I was last in Stockholm in October, 2016, which was the first time I took running stuff with me on vacation. I’m really looking forward to rerunning a couple spots around Södermalm, as well as exploring a few new routes. And maybe I’ll get some reading done too.