New Essay up at Tracksmith: Some Thoughts


“Sakura”: Lydia Komatsu, 2017

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I love to bemoan the state of running-related writing. Ever since the demise of Running Times, anyone who enjoys good writing about our sport must necessarily put up with pages of puffery from the usual rags. 100 words on the season’s best jock straps. 1000 words on how to train for a marathon on less than 5 miles a week. 200 words on yet another stretching article. Sometimes I wonder if whether writers like Alan Sillitoe (“The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner“) or George Sheehan would have much luck trying to place a piece in today’s general fitness mags.

I’ve written previously about my admiration for Tracksmith’s Meter magazine, which considers itself a literary review for runners. And I’ve been lucky enough to place two pieces there (one online, one in print) in the past couple of years, and now a third. Sure, Tracksmith is an apparel company. But they appear to be a company interested not only in profiting from the sport, but also in furthering the art of running, in all its forms.

“Sakura/Boston 2011” is partly a reflection on what it was like to watch Desiree Linden (then Davila) nearly win the 2011 Boston Marathon from my room on Yokota Air Base, Japan; I was deployed there for the tsunami relief after losing my Japanese grandmother. But for the longest time, I wondered about what it was like for Linden that day, on the other side of the globe.  And this year, over the course of a few interviews with the two-time Olympian herself, I was able to piece it together.

It was a challenging piece to write because of how I chose to build a braided narrative: mine and Linden’s. I didn’t feel like I could write a straight-ahead piece of reportage – my connection to the experience, what it was like, was a driving factor to write the piece in the first place. Early drafts were rough: there’s simply nothing quite so narcissistic as memoirist appropriating someone else’s experience. There was a significant risk of the piece turning into a “here’s how experience X made me feel Y,” which wasn’t my goal. So I did my best to use my experience as more of a lens to view what it was like for Linden during her electrifying performance.

But don’t take my word for it: check out “Sakura/Boston 2011” for yourself. I’ll let you be the judge of whether I was successful if not. The good news is that even if you hate what I wrote, you can enjoy more of my sister’s incredible artwork, which she created specifically for the piece itself.


A Brief Defense of Short Shorts

shortshortsIn light of the hilarious Gizmodo article published a while back on the tiny black $9 shorts I’ve worn for years (known affectionately as “Ranger Panties”), and maybe because I’m starting to dream about running in something less than two layers of clothing, I have take it upon myself to offer this defense of absurdly short running shorts. Briefly. (See what I did there?)

Complaint: Short running shorts are exhibitionist.

Answer: It’s function of fashion. If you like running ten miles with shorts that hang past your knees and look like those things we called “Jams” back in the 80s, then more power to you. Me, I want to forget I’m wearing shorts in the first place, so I can focus on what’s important. Like finishing this horrible jog.

Complaint: Short running shorts are feminine.

Answer: So’s your mom…wait. That made no sense. OK, so, yes, the nearest approximation in aesthetic might be found stretched across a waitress’s tushie at Hooter’s. But maybe they’re on to something. Hard-working, blue collar, the shorts go the distance. Silken undies might also be classified as “feminine,” but I’d wear those bad boys without complaint. Hell, I’d run in a skirt if it took ten seconds off my 5k PR.

Complaint: Short running shorts are offensive, especially when worn while stretching.

Answer: This one’s a little hard to get around. No one wants to be eye level with Random Dude’s twig and berries during a post-run stretch. All I can say is that Web MD advises stretching after you run. There is no mention, however, of recommended attire. As my friend says, “‘Rung whatcha’ brung!”

Complaint: Short shorts result in male objectification.

Answer: Liar.

Complaint: Short shorts are outdated.

Answer: Some things never go out of style. Like plain white tees, blue jeans, Chuck T’s, high heels, the Little Black Dress, and a well-worn ball cap. I suppose I could chase current fitness fashion and run in shorts whose inseams never look north of 5″. Maybe some of those lycra booty shorts that pop up in ads for men’s yoga attire. But fellas have been running in shorties since the day some smart human realized that running naked is for the birds. You can’t argue with history.



Once A Runner

Once A Runner

It goes like this.

An inch of snow the consistency of a Slurpee. A 6.5 mile loop from the house. Two dogs. A running stroller loaded with thirty-three pounds of inquisitive man-cub. And the desperate need to run.

To say that I’ve logged the majority of my paltry mileage over the last few years while behind a stroller; it’s no exaggeration. Between developing chronic tendinosis in my Achilles, the pursuit of writing, and the endless flail that is trying to strike a balance between fatherhood/husband-ing/work, my fitness has fallen to the point of convenience. It shows around my middle, ten pounds tacked to my last marathon race weight. And in my temperament.

When I do get in a run, I feel an obligation to bring Finn with me for some fresh air and get the dogs exercise as well. An hour run turns into an hour and half, what with the prep of wrangling the dogs, getting Finn on the toilet, and wrestling him into clothes before restraining him in the stroller. And all this says nothing about the attempt to reach emotional buy-in from a toddler regarding his being strapped into a buggy for an hour or more.

Gone are the days of lacing up and strolling out the door maybe now, maybe later, maybe after I feel fully hydrated. Maybe when it’s warmer/colder/just right. Nope. The choice is now/never.

Huff huff.


Huff huff INHALE “Yes?” huff

“What’s that?”

Huff “What?” huff

“What’s that [insert unintelligible thing or whatever he sees but can’t describe]?”

Huff “Dada.” huff “can’t.” huff “talk.”

[pause for a few seconds]

“Dada, what’s that?”

huff huff huff

In the good old days, when he weighed seven or eight pounds, and was in perpetual oscillation between either sleeping a little or crying a lot, taking Finn for a run was a welcome reprieve for both Jen and I. Fitter then, pushing the light-as-air stroller we paid out the nose for, I could log ten, eleven miles. I’d come back crowing about how he slept the whole time I bounced along at a 7:30 pace. Jen got a break, I got a run. Win-win.

Now: see above for the work required. And that’s best-case, assuming no meltdowns, or as I discovered on a recent trip to tow him on a cross-country ski — I don’t do something boneheaded like somehow bring two left foot ski boots.

Taking Finn on a run or ski is like having the exercise partner who won’t stop talking. Except, the beauty of an adult running partner who talks for an hour straight is that they usually don’t expect a response. Finn is a toddling interrogator, and if he doesn’t get an answer, or understand it, well, he’ll just ask again. And again. And again. It would try the patience of a seasoned extrovert, let alone a self-absorbed narcissist who does best left alone (that’s me in case you’re wondering.)

I’ve been told that a big part of active parenting is lowering expectations, and in my experience, it couldn’t be more true. Maybe that six mile run needs to be just three. Maybe plan on stopping if the route passes a park. Maybe slow down so you have the breath to explain something. Maybe plan on skiing for fifteen minutes before heading inside for forty-five. Because — and here’s the kicker — if you make the kiddo hate the activity, that’s going to stick with them for the lifetime.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. Last summer, Finn asked to “run like Dada” every time we went out. I let him out near home, maybe a half mile to go, and was tickled when he managed to keep up a ten minute pace for several blocks. Of course, there were some really interesting leaves/rocks/branches/dirt/concrete/street signs/air/just about everything that simply had to be investigated at that very moment. But he was running. And this winter, I built a little snow hill off the backyard deck. Finn just learned to make it down the hill on skis without falling, and the smile on his face was worth all the hot chocolate bribery of last winter.

So, hang in there. What you once were, is still who you are. The cool part is letting that thing that made you who you were, evolve as you become who you are.