Helsinki, Hudson Valley, Palermo, Phoenix, St. Charles + Idaho's Palisades Wilderness
Races you'll love running, plus Sabrina Little on perseverance, the power (and peril) of caring deeply, and a new audio book club reading Robert Caro
Morning, friends! ☀️
Since it’s a Sunday, and many of us are probably waking up to frigid temperatures outdoors, that makes it a lovely morning to stay in and catch up on some reading — which is exactly what I’ve been doing lately.
What I’ve been reading is a new book by Sabrina Little, an assistant professor of philosophy at Virginia’s Christopher Newport University and a highly accomplished ultra runner who’s a former world silver medalist and a five-time U.S. national champion.
Her book, The Examined Run, arrives in March and explores in much greater depth the kinds of questions we often talk about here at THM, questions I find myself wrestling with maybe even more now than when I first started writing the newsletter.
Among those questions: how does running shape us? How does it shape who we are as individuals — our character, our habits, our virtues (and vices) — and how does it help us become the people we want to be? Sometimes I ask myself, what exactly is it that I’m pursuing, running all those miles out there on the road, on the trail? What am I looking for out there?
Little asks this too in her book, asking us to think about how we think about virtue in the first place: what is it? How do we acquire it? Can we lose it? How does athletic practice, like running, reinforce the good things we want for ourselves — the positive, healthy qualities we admire in others, like persistence or courage? (Or, does it reinforce our vices?)
Something that has struck me throughout the book is Little’s emphasis on virtue not as a trait we possess or are born with, but rather as a habit we acquire — we gain it through effort and practice. We don’t become better runners by reading a book about running, she explains; we do so by taking what is in that book and putting it into practice ourselves.
The same is true with our personalities, our character. It’s a good first step to notice what we admire in others, or read about what we’d like for ourselves in a book, but it’s not enough: we need to practice doing the thing we admire, so that we can embody what we want to become.
As the ancient philosopher Aristotle said to his students at the Greek Lyceum, collected in the Nicomachean Ethics:
“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them, e.g. men become builders by building and lyre players by playing the lyre; so too we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.”
I find this whole approach fascinating, and one I wish I had learned earlier in my own life and taken to heart: it probably could have saved me so much heartache, especially when I was younger! Alas, I know it now, but then again… maybe all those years are what it took to learn this?
Anyway, I’m working now on an interview with Little that I hope to have for you by the time her new book is published — stay tuned!
As always, keep in touch and have a great run out there, and let me know how your running/life is going.
🏃♀️ To run
🏝️ Dam Good Run. A run across Arizona’s New Waddell Dam, which was built in the early 1990s to create Lake Pleasant Regional Park, a place near Phoenix where you can run along the trails and among the cactus that hug the lakeshore. You can choose among five distances, from a 2-miler to a 40K, the latter of which takes you up to the peak of Yavapai Point, looking over the lake. And, due to a footbridge being out of commission for the time being, you’ll take a raft for a short stretch along the water for the 40K race — or you can put on a life vest and swim. Set for April 7, 2024.
🏞️ Great Western Half Marathon. Run along the flat, forgiving miles of Illinois’ Great Western Trail, a 17-mile-long paved trail built on the old Chicago Great Western Railroad. Today, the trail stretches from the town of St. Charles to nearby Sycamore, where along the way it “crosses small streams and wetlands where duck, coot and the Great Blue Heron nest and raise their young. Shrubs, including Dogwood, Blackberry and Hazelnut mingle with the few remaining patches of native prairie. It is a place of quiet beauty [and] a linear wildlife refuge.” You’ll get to take it all in at this springtime race, and choose among the half or the 10K. Set for May 5, 2024.