from mile to marathon

The journey of a thousand leagues begins from beneath your feet.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

learning how to count again

Today is Saturday, and in memory of the heroic times when I used to have a "big run" during the week-end, I ran a 5K. Yes, I am up to three miles, back to where I was in March. Learning how to count again. Okay, so the state of my long distance running career is not exactly dazzling.

I am not sure if I am holding back because I mind the injury, or because pushing harder would reveal what I have wasted in the weeks of forced rest, a loss I am not yet ready to accept.

But these three miles were encouraging. It was an effortless output. I could have run faster. I could have run longer. In bone and muscle, in blood and nerve, the memory of running is alive. My body has not forgotten how to run.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

looking back

I ran two more times, each time two miles. The tendon is not exactly tender, but somehow I still sense an imbalance, a tension, a heat on my left side. I ran every other day. Perhaps I am too cautious.

Looking back, it is hard to reconcile my status as reluctant runner with the persistence I exhibited when running. I did not skip a planned run more than once or twice in six months, and then I simply integrated the gap in the schedule as a rest day, and ran on the planned rest day instead.

I am unquestionably tenacious, although the trait comes bundled up with an assortment of shortcomings. I am also occasionally lazy, often self-indulgent, now and then disheartened, sometimes prone to feeling sorry for myself. And relentlessly busy with other things. It is not that I planned to be so diligent. It is not that I had to persuade or force myself to run. It simply never crossed my mind to slack.

Now, that I am aware of the possibility, I wonder if this diligence is going to last.

Monday, October 23, 2006

trial run

I ran one mile. On the treadmill, zero incline, moderate speed, just to see if I hurt afterwards. It's been five weeks since my last run. To my surprise, this one mile came easy, effortless, as if I have been running forever.

Only a week ago sheer walking for an extended time still brought the pain back. But now I am fine.

So far I have been, in the best case, a reluctant runner, running only because I want to run a marathon, not because I like to run. Nevertheless, I am now ready, eager, keen on running again.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

me and them

It’s been a month and three days now since I ran last. Seeing announcements for the Duke City Marathon, in which I planned to ran a half, makes me sick at heart.

I don’t hurt anymore on a routine day, but any exertion beyond that revives the injury for a couple of days. I could run, of course. What holds me back is not the pain, but the worry that - if I start too early - I might have to wait even longer afterwards to heal again

The other evening I covered – photographically – a fashion show. Going back and forth between stage and backstage for a few hours was enough for the pain to flare up. The models, half of which were dressed up for the Day of the Dead, did not have that problem. Strange that the dead carry on, business as usual, while I, alive, cannot mind my running.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Albuquerque Ballooon Fiesta, mass ascension

The balloons took off seemingly for hours, hundreds of them, wave after wave, an experience as bubbly and intoxicating as champagne. I do not remember if my groin hurt or not while I was walking in the wet grass - I was too high for that.

After the semi-marathon I was listless about running. Then I discovered I was injured - yeah, I know, it took me two weeks to reach insight, that's slow, but hey, marathon is about endurance first, not speed. My mind doesn't work that fast.

Now I feel as if something has been taken away from me, and it hurts my spirit more than it hurts in the body.

But I was able to forget the frustration for a few morning hours, in the elation of mass ascension. There is nothing like it. There is nothing like a balloon mass ascension. Here they are, swirling in the sky above us like constellations.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

liftoff vs. grounded

It rained during the night, and we had fog and mist, but we had liftoff. Here's to the perfect still beauty of it.

Just seeing the trucks with their lights and balloon loads stream over the field in the early darkness injected a frisson of anticipation in the buildup of the morning, and we fretted for two or three hours before the sky filled with hundreds of balloons.

I am still grounded.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


I am volunteering, like every year, at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Did I just complain about getting up at 5 am? Never mind, now it's 3 am. Today was my first day. It rained, the mist came down from the mountains, and the launch was cancelled. Lots of people who came from out of town for a day or two just to see this morning's scheduled mass ascension were frustrated. It's a weather-driven event - there is nothing to be done about it.

Walking along the abandoned field, I noticed my tendon is still tender, and wondered if I was overly optimistic when I expected to start running again this week. I am ready, though. I do not miss the running, but I miss the structure it gave to the day.

Friday, October 06, 2006

a few more days off

The sweet names my boyfriend bestowed on my little wounded soldier self - Limp A Lot, Hop Along - are not valid anymore. In a week or so I am going to start running again.

I hate going to the doctor, so much so that I usually wait until they have to take me on a stretcher. So I stayed put and took Ibuprofen. During the last three weeks I went out with the bike twice and in a pool for the total amount of two hours. I doubt this qualifies as alternative training, so I have no idea what to expect. I know I am not looking forward to waking up again at 5 am or earlier.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

three years in the desert

Three years ago to the day, everything we owned in a Penske truck, we entered Albuquerque after driving cross-country, without knowing a soul here or having jobs.

In these three years I:
- bought my first car and started driving and did so without a ticket or accident for 24 months now
- finished my first book and took a second one from sheer idea to the stage of fourth draft (350 pages)
- became an American citizen
- started running (February 2006) and ran my first 5K and first half-marathon
- visited my family in Eastern Europe
- conceded to stay in the same job for two years, something surpassed only once (it was three years then) in my whole life
- took 5,000 photographs, give or take a few
- made friends more numerous than the people I was acquainted with during the nine years I spent on the East Coast
- fell in love with green chile
- discovered art fairs, wine festivals, and balloon fiestas
- reduced my cigarette intake from whatever to three a day
- stopped taking things personally (still working on this one)

I love New Mexico.

Monday, October 02, 2006


It's been two weeks since I ran last, and it will be at most another ten days or so until I can start running again. By now I am not so eager anymore. Oh, we humans are twisted beings. Or at least I am.

With the injury, I have felt for days imbalanced, dislocated, misaligned, not only in body, but also in spirit somehow, as if the pain in my hip was a sign of disharmony with the wider world. Grounded, I have felt guilty and diminished, dismayed to find myself vulnerable and mortal like everybody esle.

(I know, I know, I tend to exaggerate...)

But in the meantime I got used to leisure. I enjoy my little vacation. No getting up unbearably early, no sweat, no smell, no soreness, no endless placing of foot ahead of foot... No overwhelming rigor, no exhausting discipline. Just me, free to losen up, at ease to go with the flow of the day, justified in repose.

I am not exactly looking forward to losing this.

But then, maybe, I am. It's going to be different somehow, I sense that. Running again is going to feel different than before. How, I do not know. But I am curious.