Cape Town, Bryce Canyon, Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs, Blackwater Falls S.P. + the Oakland Redwoods
Races you'll love + a few great running reads
Good Sunday morning, my friends! ☀️
Yesterday, I tried going without coffee. (Emphasis on “tried.”) Normally I’m at least a two-cups-a-day person, but I decided to give going without a go. Needless to say, I felt sluggish and developed a headache by the afternoon, probably as a slight withdrawal symptom from the caffeine I normally consume.
Why would I even think about this? (If you’re a coffee drinker, you’ll get the insanity of what I was attempting!) Because I have tinnitus, a constant ringing in my ears that doesn’t go away. For me, it’s not debilitating or anything, it’s really more of an annoyance. But sometimes, I’d like it to just go away.
Certain foods and beverages we imbibe, however, can make it worse. Like fatty foods, processed sugar, caffeine and alcohol. So, removing them from our diets can help to tamp down tinnitus — not completely, but enough to notice a difference.
(I tried this years ago when I first began to notice the ringing and, sure enough, it works. The only problem is that a lot of the foods that make tinnitus worse are some of life’s great pleasures. So, it’s a trade-off.)
I was thinking about this yesterday when I happened to pick up and thumb through an old copy I have of Running and Being, a book that became something akin to scripture among long distance runners back in the 70s and 80s.
What stood out to me was a chapter titled “Healing,” in which the author, a then-59-year-old Dr. George Sheehan — a working cardiologist when he wrote the book — confesses, “at one time or another, something in every section of me has gone awry.”
Here’s the passage I was especially drawn to — if you’ll allow me, I’ll quote him at length because I love the way he uses language:
“From my hips down, I am a battleground of the war between me and my running. Feet, legs, knees and sciatic nerve have all been the site of major skirmishes, and now exist relatively pain-free in an uneasy truce.
All of this has turned out to be, as Plato suggested, an extraordinary learning experience. And I now know, as every teacher should know, the truth of Ortega’s statement ‘it is not desire that leads to knowledge but necessity.’ When illness strikes, I suddenly develop an immediate and urgent need to learn, an interest in books that would delight my former teachers.
But with it comes also the almost certainty that there is no answer. And I approach this ready-made knowledge, as Ortega suggests, with caution and suspicion, even assuming in advance that what the book says is not true. I suspect, and often rightly, that my problem, my specific and unique and desperately important problem, has never been answered.
When I am ill, I become a skeptic. What has hitherto been certainty becomes perhaps, what was perhaps becomes maybe, and what was maybe becomes probably not. I realize that most regimens for disease are proposed not because they are effective but because there must be a standard operating procedure for every illness. And in this process I discover that I need such things as disease and doubt, failure and defeat to make me wise. Anyone can follow the book. Only someone who has fallen on his face and started over can write one.
Being an athlete introduces another decisive element. The runner-doctor knows that health has nothing to do with disease. Health has to do with functioning and wholeness and reaching your level of excellence. My health has to do with my lifestyle, with moderation of the soul and the body. It is a matter of discipline of my total person. And my health can be maximized even when disease is present. There is, I find, a healthy way to live your disease. Disease may change or modify my excellence, but it does not remove excellence as a possibility.”
I’ve bolded that last sentence, because it speaks to me more than I can express. As I read it, it dawned on me: while I can make changes to my diet to ameliorate my tinnitus, it’s not going away. I’m going to have to find a way to live with frailty and vulnerability, and yet still aim, like Tennyson says in his famous poem, “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
That’s something I think about when I play with my son on the floor now — my legs don’t bounce me back up in quite the springy way they used to. But when I go out for a run, especially outside, I feel every inch the twenty-five-year-old I was when I started running for the first time.
It seems to be all part of the deal, doesn’t it?
I hope you’re having a wonderful morning where you are, and are able to get out for a run outside — as always, keep in touch.
Races you might love running
Cape Town, South Africa | Saturday, April 16, 2022
You’ll get to take in stunning views of Table Mountain — whose tablecloth-like clouds drape over its peak, looking down onto the city below — at this once-in-a-lifetime race that starts in the Newlands suburb of Cape Town and runs all the way to the University of Cape Town sports field. Its organizers say it’s “the world’s most beautiful marathon,” with events that run both on the roads through the city as well as along the trails that wind up and down Table Mountain. After initially being closed, the race has reopened registration and is welcoming runners from within South Africa and internationally. I know this is an extremely long shot for those of us here in the U.S., but I wanted to share it with you as it’s one of those all-time amazing events if you can make it.
$118 and up | Sign up here
Hatch, Utah | Saturday, May 28, 2022
A stunning, high-elevation trail run along the edges of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah, just outside Bryce Canyon National Park. Unless you live in the area and are already accustomed to seeing it, the scenery here will be among the most jaw-dropping you’ve ever laid eyes on, from the towering cliffside running trails to the hoodoos, giant red rock formations that took shape over thousands of years out in the desert environment of Utah’s canyon country. Expect some difficult climbs — the race takes place between roughly 7,200 and 8,200 feet above sea level, with the biggest hills coming in the second half of the race. You can choose from a 30K, 50K, 60K, 50-miler, and (if you’re really feeling saucy) a 100-miler that takes two days to run.
$149 and up | Sign up here
Colorado Springs, Colo. | Saturday, June 11, 2022
One of the most stunningly scenic road races anywhere in America, this race unfolds on a loop route through Garden of the Gods Park, known for the sweeping views of its 300-ft.-high sandstone rock formations and the sight of Pikes Peak off in the distance. The race is run mainly on paved roads inside the park and you’ll need to be ready for high altitudes — the race is run between about 6,200 and 6,500 feet above sea level. The highlight of the race is Balanced Rock, which appears to defy the law of gravity at it sits perched precariously atop a sloped ledge of sandstone, just before the halfway point in the race.
$50 and up | Sign up here
Davis, W.V. | Saturday, August 27, 2022
A nighttime run through West Virginia’s beautiful Blackwater Falls State Park, a 2,358-acre park in the eastern corner of the state, named for the 62-ft.-high waterfalls whose stained, tea-like water gets its color from the abundant hemlock and spruce needles that fall into it. Starting at 10:00 p.m., you’ll follow a loop route that starts and finishes at the park’s Pendleton Point overlook, which (during the day) offers up expansive views of Blackwater Canyon. Runners in the marathon and half marathon can start anytime they like, as long as you’re done by 7:00 a.m. the next morning.
$80 and up | Sign up here
Oakland, Calif. | Saturday, July 16, 2022
Nestled among the hills east of downtown Oakland and home to one of the Bay Area’s largest natural stands of coast redwood trees, which can grow to a height of nearly 400 feet, Redwoods Regional Park is the location for this mid-summer race. Its 1,830 acres are home to huge groves of trees that stretch as far south as Leona Canyon, evergreens that can live as long as 1,800 years in this area thanks to its coastal climate, which provides cool, humid air year-round. There are 40 miles of single-track trails that wind through the park, and you’ll run many of them during the race.
$55 and up | Sign up here
Manitou Springs, Colo. | Saturday, September 17, 2022
This almost unbelievably difficult race — one of the world’s toughest, according to Jeff Galloway — got its start back in the 1950s and was the first marathon to welcome women, at a time when women were shunned from races like the Boston Marathon. (Arlene Pieper became the first official female finisher of a U.S. marathon when she ran the Pikes Peak Marathon in 1959, seven years before Katherine Switzer ran the Boston Marathon.)
Why is it so hard? First of all, you start at an elevation of about 6,300 feet above sea level. So before you’ve even run a single step, you’re already well over a mile above the earth’s ocean, so the air’s pretty thin. Then you start running up — and up, and up, and up. You’ll climb more than 7,800 feet over the course of the ascent — there are “very few stretches which aren’t uphill,” the organizers note — by the time you get to the summit of Pikes Peak, which tops out at 14,110 feet above sea level.
$175 and up | Sign up here
A few great reads
In Praise of Running to Audiobooks. I’ve been a runner who absolutely positively must have music for my runs indoors, especially this time of year. But this piece from Becky Worby is convincing me I need to give narrative audio a closer listen, as it may be the perfect companion for a run:
“Early on, I sought out music with a driving beat. Songs that would more or less match the cadence of my footfalls and, I hoped, propel me forward. This worked OK, but it didn’t give my mind anything to hold onto. There is something to be said for zoning out while running, but over the last couple years, amid the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic, I have wanted to fill that time with stories. At first I missed the rhythm and swell of music, but I quickly found that the pleasure of following an engrossing plot more than made up for the loss.”