Friday, March 30, 2012

A revealing early morning run

I woke up at 6:30 this morning and decided to go for a run. It had been awhile since I have run through Falls Church and Arlington early in the morning.

Down the W&OD I ran eastbound, entering Arlington, until I turned left when I came to Lee Highway. Running over the Interstate on the highway bridge, I continued eastbound on the north sidewalk of Lee Highway towards the bank behind which lay the small park I was going to circle around to get headed back to Falls Church via Lincoln Avenue.

Commuter traffic was starting to pick up as it was now about ten minutes past seven, and I started noticing drivers in the morning sunlight, observing their foibles. A convertible pulled out of a no-outlet cul-de-sac just in front of me, driven by a person with a wrinkle-lined face but a big hank of bleached platinum blonde hair which belied her obvious old age.

After I returned to my town, before I went home to shower I ran up the hill past the first school I ever attended, the sole car parked in the school lot attesting to the earliness of the day. Running early in the morning reveals all kinds things if you are observant.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I came down to help...

In December 2011 I brought my expertise to a regional office. They lost the case. Why is this man smiling?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Six Miles

A new person joined our Walk-To-Run (WTR) training group last weekend, a runner intending to run in her first half marathon in June. The group itself was doing four miles, as usual, at a three-minute walking two-minute running pace. It is a sedentary pace and takes about 65 minutes to complete the distance.

Allie (not her real name), however, has a three mile base currently and although she's got a long way to go to get ready for a 13-mile race, she is more advanced than the other runners in the group. The head coach assigned her the task of going six miles that day at the 3/2 ratio as her long distance.

Allie had been training, however, at a 2/3 ratio (two minutes walking/three minutes running) and furthermore, she didn't know where to go to gain an extra two miles (we were going two miles out along the trail before our turnaround, not three miles). So I offered to take her out the six miles at the 2/3 pace, since the larger group had two other coaches for five students.

It was a pleasant outing. Allie is originally from North Africa and very interesting. Her father was a diplomat and they lived in Mexico for many years and although her English is excellent, she laughingly explained that some people think she's Mexican, not African, when they encounter her foreign name, view her dusky features and hear her slight accent.

We toiled northwards up the Mount Vernon Trail from the Lady Bird Johnson Park to the Roosevelt Island footbridge, exactly two miles. There we traversed around Roosevelt Island on its dirt footpaths and wooden walkways through its long marshland to pick up the extra two miles Allie needed for her training. Although there were some people perambulating about on Roosevelt Island, that part of our run was as usual on the island quiet, remote and pastoral.

Once we had circled the island and crossed the footbridge, we headed south back to our origination point. I was secretly disappointed that we didn't catch up with the main group despite doing two extra miles because we were running for a longer time than them each five minute segment plus we were going faster, as Allie has a pace that is closer to my swifter pace than anyone else in the WTR group. We arrived back at the park at about 68 minutes, a few minutes behind the other runners.

It was a beautiful morning and a delightful run. And as always when I finish a good run early on Saturday morning, the weekend stretched out ahead of me.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I did four and a half miles of hills in my home town today, thinking of my friends just ten miles away to the east across the Potomac River running in the National Marathon and Half, a Rock and Roll entity now. Back in the day, the National Marathon gave me my PR in 2007 and the next year I ran my second fastest HM in the National Half, before I got injured and became overweight again during my layoff.

So this morning, fifteen months into my return to some semblance of running after being away for fifteen months, for fifty minutes I lugged around my extra twenty-five pounds and ran by some old spots. I have lived in this town for twenty years, alone for the last ten, and memories sometimes crowd in as I shuffle along.

I pass by a house where a friend of ours died one night unexpectedly. I accepted the story then that the friend just lay down in bed and died, but I wonder now if it was perhaps a suicide.

Here's the empty parking lot of the elementary school I attended over half a century ago, where the mother of my children works as a teacher now. She has steadfastly refused to share any information whatsoever with me for years about our three children, who turned against me as adolescents shortly after she filed divorce papers, and I wonder if this cruel woman would even inform me if something terrific, or terrible, ever befell any of these three young adults.

I approach the half mile long steep hill that is the crown jewel of hill running around here. I remember taking the person who was my best running buddy ever up it once several years back and laughing as she stood at the top bent over with her hands on her knees sucking wind, and I wonder how she is faring on the west coast where she moved to a few years ago.

The bicycle bridge spanning the highway which provides a slight uphill is up ahead and I think of all the running friends I have accompanied across the bridge on its clattering wooden surface and slightly swaying structure. None of them are with me now, and I have run with only one or two of them at all in the last year.

I am approaching my neighborhood mile, a measured distance from my driveway that used to provide me with my version of speed work as I burned off three or four sub-seven-minute miles in a morning, interspersed with household chores. Now I reflect that the best mile since my return was a solitary 8:02 several weeks ago, and I shake my head as I feel the overhang over my waistband.

I was forty-eight when I started running and for years I ran five times a week, raced weekly and was svelte and swift enough not to be embarrassed; now I will be sixty in a few weeks and I run four times a week, don't race anymore and am overweight and slow enough to be embarrassed. Memories are bittersweet at best.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

You Can Go Home Again

By the end of next month, the breakaway parishioners at the historic Falls Church Episcopal Church in my home town will have to vacate the valuable structures belonging to the Episcopal Church that this rump congregation has been occupying for years and turn the venerable sanctuary back over to the Episcopalians they turned out of the premises in 2006. These squatting "Anglicans," homophobes and misogynists (in my opinion), will be required to fend for themselves, just like they forced the local "continuing Episcopalians" to do for years when the worshippers found sanctuary in the loft of the Presbyterian Church down the street in which to conduct services.

I had long ago stopped going to the Falls Church after listening to some of the disturbing sermons of the charismatic rector, John Yates. This mesmerizing man who led the defection of many of the parishioners from the Episcopal Church preached male dominance, anti-gay bias and pious family-value elitism under the guise of the true, nay, the only, word.

The ordination of an openly-gay bishop in New Hampshire by the Episcopalians this century was something the priest just couldn't get past so he and his enfatuated followers engineered a takeover of the church property in 2006 and aligned themselves with a rogue Nigerian bishop who advocated long prison terms for homosexuals and, for all I know, suitable harsh biblical punishments for other "sinners."

The town Episcopalians however persevered for years in cramped loft space within a sympathetic Protestant church, teaching tolerance, forgiveness and inclusion in a true Christian fashion, and I rejoined the fold as their services now aligned with what I believe in, having learned the compassionate way as a boy at the loving services I attended at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Staten Island. The courts having finally handed us our property back, worth many millions of dollars (no wonder the defectors tried to take it when they left the church), we are going home again next month.