Category Archives: running

A Bit About Running


I promise I’ll explain what this means

I began running again a little over three years ago. I’d run cross country in junior high and part of high school, and then stopped. I started again about twenty-five years later shortly after being diagnosed with PTSD. I’d been walking every morning I could, before anyone else woke up–I wasn’t sleeping anyway–and it helped. But at some point I felt like I wasn’t moving fast enough to shut up my brain, so I began to run. It was one of the smartest decisions I’ve made.

Living in Rhode Island, my running ebbed and flowed with daylight. My kids were younger, I was homeschooling, and I didn’t feel comfortable, most of the time, leaving them home alone while I ran. So when we got to the point of the year when the sun set too early and rose too late for me to fit in daylight runs, they slowed. I’d try to get to the indoor track. But most of my miles were concentrated from April to October. Plus, my shins can get tricky. They need a break, especially my left one. There’s no sense in pushing it; I need to run regularly more than I need to run far.

I run for the love of it, mainly. I don’t like to race. I tried a couple, as an adult, but I really don’t like running with people. At all. I even get a little cranky when I come upon group runs (rather common in Annapolis) because they clump up and block the sidewalks and I can’t get by and it aggravates me. I don’t want to run with a friend, either, even though there are other runners in my neighborhood. I don’t want to talk. Running shuts up my brain like nothing else and what a relief that is, what a wonderful, wonderful thing. So it’s good I like to do it physically as well, because I need it.

And I do like it physically. Sometimes it feels awful, sure, especially, here in Maryland, in August. While I theoretically gain the ability to run outdoors most of the year, summer is pretty miserable. Not just the heat and humidity but the dew point, too. I’d try to run in the evening, when the temperature might be higher than first thing in the morning, but the humidity was a little lower. I’ve gradually adjusted. But running can be hard. It’s not all fun. But when it feels easy, it’s the most wonderful thing. It’s–it’s running flow, I guess. Everything works fluidly. I push my body, and it responds. My head clears, my body feels better, my emotions are more level.

I run with a Garmin watch and upload my runs into Map My Run. Because while I don’t like to race, I am competitive, I’m just competitive with myself. I like to keep track of how far I’m running too, as much as to make sure I don’t overdo it because of those shins. At the end of last year, I got one of Map My Run’s many emails, this one advertising a challenge, You vs The Year. The goal was 1000 km (about 600 miles) run in 2016. I’d never run that many miles in one year: between keeping my runs relatively short (shins again) and weather issues, it has just never added up to 600 miles. My neighbor across the street runs marathons and runs probably 80 miles per week. 1000 km in a year is probably an easy goal for her. But it was a stretch for me, so I decided to sign up to see what happened.

I got started later in the year than I meant to, because my shins were hurting so badly, not from running, but from wearing shoes with no support every day. (Chuck Taylors. I have flat feet. It’s a bad combination.) That badge up there means I hit 700 km last week. It means I’m on track, even accounting for the things that often crop up in fall–getting sick, too many days taken up with kid events, and so on. I usually run five miles at a time now, whereas I began in the spring running three to three and a half. Running just a little bit longer means those times of flow come more frequently. I don’t think my shins can handle long distances, but sometimes I feel like I just want to run forever.

Running is a constant backdrop in my life even though I don’t mention it here much. It’s part of what makes me feel like myself. It’s hugely important for my mental health. It gets priority; I plan it into my week to make sure I’m getting enough runs in. I figure if I’m lucky enough to have identified something that helps me so much, body and mind, it’s essential to make sure it’s part of my life. I am incredibly grateful for running.

Why Hello, 2015

I was exhausted entering the holiday season. I think two straight months of cleaning and decluttering a 5-person house will do that to anyone. But the two holiday weeks–even with the cooking and such–were restorative. I needed that restful time, the reading, creating, sleeping late (by which I mean 8 am versus 6:15), the indoor days. Although I wasn’t keen on returning to the regular schedule this week, with its early mornings, lots of driving time, and schooling the 10yo, I do feel energized and ready to take it all on.

“All” includes a five-week after-school program at my kids’ school built around the Art Together zines. This has been in the works–originally scheduled for the fall–but with one thing and another it started this week. This is a Very Good Thing. I really enjoy working with kids in this way, and it’s a good experience for me as well. The group is larger than I anticipated, so I conscripted both my boys to help out. They are wonderful at this–they’ve both helped out in these settings before, and they know the materials and the activities. They are extra hands to fetch clean water or more paint or even answer questions. We started with the color wheel and color mixing this week. I just have all good feelings about all of it, for everybody involved.

I’ve also stocked up on library books as I begin researching the next issue of Art Together.

research at

This is one of my favorite parts, y’all.

I received a metal stamping kit for Christmas, and I’ve been making talismans for some folks I know….

talismans at

I have more to make. Bit by bit.

And finally, I paid for a membership to the University athletic complex again, month by month this winter (because who knows when we might move??), so I can run on their indoor track. I like running. I do not like cold. Every time I see a runner outside all bundled up I feel a little guilty, but…I run because it’s pleasurable. Running IS the means to the end. I’m not doing it for any other outcome but to enjoy the running, and running in bitter cold is more akin to torture for me, and I’m not into suffering, really. (On the flip side, unlike many, I don’t mind running in 95% humidity in the summer. To each his own.) So I’d rather pay the monthly fee and run indoors in shorts and a t-shirt, even if running perfectly flat circles gets a little boring–it’s warm and dry and the air doesn’t hurt my lungs and I start running and I can’t help smiling. Also, since it’s indoors, I’ll listen to music, which I won’t do while running on the road, when I want to hear approaching cars. So it’s a different sort of workout but it still clears my brain and gets me moving and I love it. Which is the whole, entire point of running for me.

So. How is your 2015 starting out?

Odds + Ends

I wanted to share some neat things we’ve found in the yard lately. This is one wing from, I’m pretty sure, an io moth.

io moth wing

That’s all I found. I don’t know what happened to the rest of it. Eaten?

This luna moth was hanging out on the screen of our slider one night. I’d never gotten a good look at the underneath bits of a luna moth before. Its legs and body are so…leggy, and fat!

luna moth

I was hoping it would still be there in the morning so the kids could see more than just this underexposed picture, but it was gone.

This is a super cool plant, and it’s growing in our backyard! What a treat.

monotropa uniflora

It’s Monotropa uniflora, and it’s a plant, not a fungus. It has no chlorophyll, however, so lives in conditions in which it can absorb nutrients right from rotting things in the soil. We have rich soil! My 10yo was impressed that I knew what this was, but it’s the sort of thing, once you learn this, you don’t forget it.


I’ve slowly worked up to being able to run between 3 and 5 miles, no more often than every other day. My mantra since I was cleared to begin running again after the whole shin splint thing has been, Not too far, not too fast, not too often. So I’m not running every day like I was last summer, but it’s okay. I don’t need it every day like I did last summer. I want to make sure it’s there when I do need it, though, which is why I’m not pushing it. Ok, this isn’t totally true. I’m not dogging it, either. I’m incapable of not trying to get faster. I’m not as fast as I was right before I got shin splints, but I’m faster than I was at the same time last summer. I like running. I like what my body can do. I like the feeling of working hard. And I like the head-clearing. I’m too mindful of the benefits of running, though, to push it to the point where I can’t do it again.


I’m keeping up, so far, with my goal of one watercolor sketch per day this week. By yesterday I was looking forward to drawing time the way I usually look forward to coffee–in other words, a strong yearning with a bit of desperation thrown in. I’ll show you more sketches in a bit. We’re having a busy week–busy doing, seeing, going; meeting with friends; playing and making art. Not so much time for blogging.

Making + Listening::5/2014

I’ve been very busy making this past week. First priority was a custom order for Dawn, for a pouch for her son’s Kindle. She also wanted it to be protected against wetness. After talking about her son’s interests, this is the design we came up with.

photo 1 copy

For the uninitiated, that’s a Minecraft cake block.

I lined it with PUL, the fabric that’s used for cloth diapers and wet bags.

photo 2 copy

It’s on its way to Dawn and her son now. I always put my own good intentions into what I make–even when I don’t know who may end up buying something, I make everything as if I’m sewing a gift for a friend. But when I do know who will be getting it, that’s even better, because then I’m thinking of them all the way through. Which is to say, I enjoyed making this for Ander!

Also this week I’ve been working to put together the next issue of Art Together. I am so excited about it. As part of that process, I made my first gelatin printmaking plate.

gelatin plate

Photo by V. Hood.

The kids and I spent Wednesday morning experimenting with it, and we were back at it after lunch on Thursday! I have a stack of gelatin plates in my fridge right now (I cut the large one down into smaller ones). Because this is a completely normal thing for some of us, to have ink-stained printmaking plates hanging out in the fridge.

I’m also happy to be making time for running again. Earlier this month I was cleared by the orthopedist to start slowly, with short distances, adding only 1/2 mile or so of mileage each week. I was waylaid a bit while my husband was away last week, but I got back to the track last night and it felt so good! I’m also transitioning to minimalist shoes, on the orthopedist’s recommendation, which requires a different footstrike, too. (I know, I lost the non-runners there, sorry.) The bright side is that coming back slowly to running makes it the perfect time to transition, because you have to do that slowly too. By the time sunrise is early enough for me to get out before I need to tend to the day (my favorite running time), I ought to be able to just head out the door and go.

As for listening…it’s still the Olympics most of the time, and Pandora shuffle in the art room. What a happy thing, to listen to music and make art.

(Linking up with Dawn again this week.)


I’ve been looking forward to changing the clocks back because it pushes sunrise early enough that I can fit in a morning run for a few more weeks. However, after some on-and-off calf pain became more severe Saturday, I did the smart thing and didn’t go on any more runs until I saw a sports medicine-minded orthopedist. Luckily, he had a cancellation on Tuesday so I was able to see him quickly. He confirmed what I suspected–a shin splint, only in the left leg. (Weird, right? More on that in a minute.) I need to stop running until the pain is gone, which is hard, hard, hard. It’s my form of active meditation. It’s been integral to my mental health. That’s why I quickly decided it was worth it to get myself to a doctor who’d assess me properly. He referred me to the running clinic at the office’s associated physical therapy center, where I’ll have my gait evaluated–I’m looking forward to that in a tech-y, science-y way too. I have to wait almost three weeks for that, though, because he doesn’t want me running on the treadmill until I’m free of pain. He did say I could walk, though, as long as it doesn’t hurt, so I’m back to sunrise walks. It’s not the same, but it gives me quiet, sort-of-active time alone before the demands of the day descend.

As for the one-leg-only phenomenon, the doctor double-checked that my right leg had no pain at all. “Do you run on the side of the road?” he asked.

“Oh yes,” I said. “Facing traffic.”

“Always?” I confirmed yes, pretty much always. The roads in our neighborhood have a very pronounced camber, and running facing traffic means my left leg is always on the downward angle. I’d love to see a digital recreation of that, with all the forces and angles shown, with equations of how the force is unevenly distributed and messing up my left leg. Interesting, no? In a physics kind of way? That might not be the reason–thus the gait evaluation–but it can’t be helping.

Anyway, I have a stack of books to read, I’m writing daily (following along with Amanda’s prompts), and Wednesday afternoon I spent some time printing onto Moleskine notebooks.

printed notebooks at

Some of these will be teacher gifts, but I think some will end up in the shop. It’s kind of an experiment. As for the running hiatus, I’m trying to keep perspective. The conundrum is that running is a big part of how I keep my perspective with everything else. May the shin heal quickly…

The 5K

If you follow me on Twitter you know that my kids complained so much about coming to watch me run this race that I told them all to stay home. You also know that I barely slept the night before and was emotionally and physically exhausted. I had about a minute and a half in the driveway where I thought about not going. I was sure I’d run horribly. I wasn’t sure of the point. Then I thought, The point is that I signed up to do it, and I’ll feel awful if I don’t even show up. So I did.

My kids decided at the last minute that actually they did want to go, so their dad brought them, and that’s why I have some pictures to share with you. First, I’ll tell you that as soon as we turned the corner out of the school lot onto the street, I felt slow. I kept getting passed, too. But at the first mile, someone was calling out times, and I realized I was running at the best pace I could. Still, I kept getting passed, and still, I tried to run my pace, pushing myself but not overreaching. Remember that last week I ran this course in 26:39, happy to have finished in under 27 minutes. I set a new quiet goal of maybe finishing in under 26 minutes, but I didn’t think, the way I felt this morning, that I would.

Here I am heading towards the finish, trying to have a bit of a sprint/kick to the end. It was hard. But then I saw the big clock at the end, as I got closer, and realized I was going to finish in under 26 minutes. Elation!

And here I am afterwards, with the medal that every finisher received, and a cup of chocolate milk, which is my usual after. (A local dairy was there handing out chocolate and coffee milk to the runners.) My finishing time was 25:35, which is a pace of 8:15 per mile. That’s as quickly as I’ve run since I began running again this summer…so despite getting passed so much, I feel like I sorted out right where I belonged, and I’m really happy with how I finished. But if I do this again any time soon, I will try to get more sleep the night before.

And now I plan to get back to the art-and-creativity type posts!

A Bit on Running

I promise this isn’t going to turn into a running blog (I wouldn’t even know what that entails), but I do want to talk about running today. I ran competitively for only four years–junior high and the first two years of high school. I ran cross-country, so races of 2.5-3.5 miles on trails, and I began training in the summers. The season began when school began and ended by early November, because this is New England.

Freshman year of high school. Yeesh, could those glasses be any bigger??

I was pretty good at running those distances. My high school’s home course was at Bryant College (pfft, I know that link says Bryant University, but it was a college way back then), and that was also where the division meets were held, so I knew that course well. There was a big hill at one point, coming out of the woods, and how I loved to attack that hill and pass people on my way up. I had a decent kick at the end of races, too; I could usually manage to sprint by anyone who was nearby. I liked running. So why did I quit after sophomore year?

A combination of reasons. I wanted a job, but I probably could have worked one in around cross-country practices; the season, after all, wasn’t that long. My coach left and I didn’t know the new coach. It’s possible I would have continued running without that switch. The new coach came through my line in the grocery store–that was my job, cashiering–the summer before my junior year to try to convince me to come back, which felt kind of…icky. But I think the big reason I quit is because I was all-division my sophomore year and I started hearing things like, You should be all-state by senior year. I didn’t hear that as encouragement; I heard that as pressure. And while I’m very good at self-imposed goals, other people’s expectations feel like a failure possibility. And the surest way not to fail is to decline to compete.

(The best place I can send you for a deeper explanation of that phenomenon is Alfie Kohn. His books should be required reading.)

So I haven’t really run, except for one summer in college, for about 25 years. But all this time, I felt like a runner. At various times I’d consider it, but I was always tied to a nursling or something and it just felt like too many logistics to figure out. For most of this year I’ve struggled with insomnia, and at some point this spring I realized it was light out at 5:15 am, so why not get out of bed and go for a walk through the neighborhood? It was a chance to center my head before having to deal with everyone else’s needs and demands. By the end of June, I felt like I wasn’t moving fast enough to get out of my own head, and I began to run.

My 4yo stretching with me before a recent evening run.

When I was fourteen, my grandmother loudly declared at a family gathering that I had “a runner’s body–nothing extra.” And while I was mortified about the latter part, she’s right about the first part. I do have a runner’s body, and it quickly remembered what to do. I’ve gradually increased distance and decreased my time per mile. Somewhere along the way I signed up for a local 5K, which takes place in a week. My first goal was to run it without embarrassing myself. As my split times fell, I changed my goal to under 9 minutes per mile. I hit that and quietly decided I wanted to run the course in under 27 minutes. I’ve struggled to run 5K through my neighborhood in that time, but my neighborhood is full of hills. Yesterday I ran the comparatively flat 5K race course for practice and finished in 26:39. So I guess I need a new goal for that race.

As I said, I’m good with self-imposed goals. If I’m running, I’m running for myself, and I think that was my hang-up in high school. At a time when I wasn’t at all sure of my own expectations for myself, I simply knew I wasn’t comfortable serving as the instrument of other people’s expectations. The coach who came through my line wasn’t interested in how I felt about running; he knew I was pretty good and wanted me on the team so the team would be better. In the same way, my guidance counselor didn’t care where I wanted to go to college; he pulled me into his office freshman year to lay out a plan that would get me into Princeton, because nobody from my high school had gotten in there yet, and it would reflect well on the school. That was my high school: as a smart, moderately talented student, I was viewed not as an individual with individual wants and interests but as a means to an end that might glorify the school.

That last paragraph is why this post is also filed under “education.” If there’s one overarching goal I have for my kids’ educational experience, it’s that they’re not viewed as a tool for someone else to gain glory. The only goals I’m interested in are their own.

Back to running. I’m loving it. This morning I ran five miles, the longest distance I’ve run this summer. I feel good out there, even when I’m a little gaspy and my thighs feel like rubber. I can feel myself getting stronger, and I feel awesome at the end of every run. I’ll be forty years old next month and I’ve given birth three times and I ran five miles today! I’m so looking forward to next weekend’s 5K. And even though this isn’t going to be a running blog, I hope you don’t mind if I let you know how it goes.