It might be the best exercise there is
Something I hear frequently from readers who’ve decided not to receive the newsletter anymore is that they’ve experienced an injury, or undergone some other change — job, family, marriage, etc. — so that running isn’t as big a part of their lives as it used to be.
Sometimes, you just want a break, or you want to do something different. Some people decide they want to transition from running halfs and marathons to doing triathlons; others tell me their knees and ankles make it so they just can’t keep up with running anymore.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: I go through those same ups and downs too. I go through changes, when my enthusiasm for running waxes and wanes. Lately I’ve been going through one of those myself, in fact. I feel fine physically — no Covid, no flu or cold or anything. But I just don’t have the same get-up-and-go to go for a run that I did even a few weeks ago.
There was a time when I would fight that, and force myself to put on my shoes and running clothes, and get out the door to pound the pavement for a few miles. I think I absorbed some of the mentality that we all feel, probably, that exercise (when we don’t want to do it) is a kind of punishment, and you just need to pushpushpush and get through those doldrums.
Now, I feel differently. The logic of fighting how I’m feeling seems flimsier now than ever; in fact, I’ve started to enjoy walking again in a big way. I don’t know why or why now, but I’ve decided to just indulge the part of myself that would rather do that than run.
So, I’ve been going on brisk 3-mile walks every day this week. It doesn’t hurt that the weather here in Atlanta has actually been picture-perfect for fall, of course. But also, I don’t bring my phone, so I’m not listening to music or a podcast. I can simply think, and just be.
This weekend, I stumbled across this post by Brad Stulberg, a writer on fitness and performance for Outside magazine, and its opening paragraphs really caught my attention:
I spend a lot of time at Lake Merritt, down the road from my apartment in Oakland, California. An adjacent footpath circumnavigates the lake and is exactly 3.1 miles long. If I’m out there on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday, I inevitably bump into Ken. It’s impossible not to. Ken, an older gentleman with thin white hair down to his shoulders who always wears gray cotton shorts, a faded sweatshirt, and New Balance shoes that are falling apart, walks three laps around the lake—or 9.3 miles—on each of those days.
Earlier this year, I stopped my run to ask Ken his age. “Ninety-something,” he replied. When I asked him his secret, how he’s still doing what he’s doing, he told me it’s what he’s always been doing. “I’ve been walking out here for years and years,” he said. “You’ve just got to keep moving.”
Ken was dropping some serious fitness wisdom.
It’s easy to get excited about the latest and greatest trends, from high-intensity interval training to ultramarathons to triathlons to powerlifting. But at the end of the day, regular brisk walking gets you most, if not all of the way there—“there” meaning a long and healthy life.
The more I think about it, and the more I go on walks this week that I’ve been enjoying immensely, the more I agree with what Stulberg is getting at.
Especially as we wind down the year and head into the holidays — can you believe we’re a little more than a month and a half until the end of the year?! — I’m enjoying winding down myself a little, going a little more lower-energy, and allowing myself to simply enjoy the changing of the season.
How has the fall been for you? Are you experiencing anything like what I’m describing? If so, you’re not alone 😃
One last thing: I wasn’t in your inboxes last week, so I’d like to say thank you for indulging my week-long break. Sometimes you need a little break from writing to rejuvenate the engines; I only want to send you an issue when I have something to say — and sometimes I’m not sure whether I do or not! So, thank you 🙏
As always, keep in touch and let me know how your running (or walking) is going — be safe and be well.
Races you might love running (or walking)
Riverside, Calif. | Saturday, January 8, 2022
Run among the orange, lemon and grapefruit groves of California’s Inland Empire at this mid-winter race, which unfolds from Riverside’s Arlington Heights Sports Park. The places where you’ll run have a history that dates back to the 1870s, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture sent a pair of small orange trees to a local resident named Eliza Tibbets. After she planted the trees in what turned out to be the perfect soil and climate for growing citrus fruits, word spread about the region’s sweet and flavorful oranges. Within a few years an industry was born, and California experienced a kind of second “Gold Rush” (after the 1849 one) as would-be fruit growers poured into the state, and began growing lush groves of oranges, lemons, and many other fruits.
$90 and up | Sign up here
Tongariro National Park, New Zealand | Saturday, January 22, 2022
A truly adventurous run through the wild, untamed western slopes of Mount Ruapehu, an active stratovolcano inside Tongariro National Park, on New Zealand’s North Island. At 20 kilometers in length, the run is just slightly short of the half marathon distance, but it makes up for that in more than 1,000 meters of elevation change — and, organizers say, you’ll “experience stunning scenery ranging from ancient lava flows and scoria fields, mountain beech forest, tussock grasslands and alpine herbfields to cascading waterfalls, an alpine lake, boulder strewn rivers and amazing panoramic views.”
$199 NZD and up | Sign up here
Ein Bokek, Israel | Friday, Feb. 4, 2022
You’ll run through the lowest point on Earth at this once-in-a-lifetime race through the Jordan Rift Valley, with Israel on one side as you run and Jordan on the other. The race begins at Ein Bokek, a hotel and resort village along the Israeli side of the salt-rich lake, whose surface and shoreline lie at about 1,412 feet below sea level. From there, you’ll run along the lake’s shoreline, taking it its deep azure blue hues and the salt crystals drying at the surface along the beach.
$77 and up | Sign up here
Salida, Colo. | Saturday, March 12, 2022
A scenic, challenging run along the historic and spectacularly scenic Ute Trail in Colorado’s Arkansas Valley, which in mid-March can be completely dry with sunny skies — or covered in snow two to three feet deep. You’ll have six hours to complete this course, which runs on a combination of single-track trails and jeep roads, climbing some 2,000 feet between the start and the finish line, at elevations between about 7,000 and 7,800 feet above sea level. Of course, with all that climbing uphill comes some incredible rewards, including views of Salida and the valley below.
$55 and up | Sign up here
Milan, Italy | Sunday, March 20, 2022
Starting from the Piazza Castello in the heart of Italy’s second-largest city, the Stramilano Run Generation Half Marathon takes runners on route that rings the center of one of the world’s great (and most beautiful) cities, and has been run since 1976. Runners will get to see much of what makes Milan a mecca for tourists, from its gorgeous architecture and public spaces that’ll make you feel like you’re running through a work of art.
Registration TBD | Sign up here
Lake Ozark, Mo. | Saturday, March 26, 2022
Run along the reservoir known as the “Missouri Dragon” for the twisting, serpent-like shape it cuts through the land, this race takes runners back and forth across a pair of bridges over the Lake of the Ozarks, a massive reservoir created by the damming of the Osage River back in the 1930s. You’ll start the race on the bridge at Bagnell Dam, which created the lake when it was completed nearly 90 years ago, and organizers say you’ll need to be ready for hills: “Lake of the Ozarks is hilly, so yes you will have some hills! It is a beautiful, scenic and challenging course. Train for hills once a week and the feeling at the finish line will be that much sweeter.”
$65 and up | Sign up here
A great running read
Athletes in a Ravaged Louisiana Town Try to Run Back to Normalcy. One of my favorite inspirational quotations of all time is the Yiddish proverb, “God gave burdens. Also shoulders.” Stories like this one, about a seven-mile-long town in Louisiana known as Grand Island that is regularly battered by hurricanes and tropical storms, always bring a tear to my eye.
“The runners, their coach and school officials hope that competing in the cross-country championships will signal, in some small way, that this drowned island is determined to regain its buoyancy. ‘You’ve got to pick up the pieces,’ [14-year-old runner] London Resweber said.”
Words to run by
“I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming that comes when you finish the life of the emotions and of personal relations; and suddenly find — at the age of fifty, say — that a whole new life has opened before you, filled with things you can think about, study, or read about… It is as if a fresh sap of ideas and thoughts was rising in you.”
🎧 P.S.: I’ve been on something of a Christie kick lately, reading Murder on the Orient Express and The Mysterious Affair at Styles this past week. They’re so good! If you enjoy her novels as much as I do, there’s also a great podcast that digs into the history behind them that makes a great companion piece, called Shedunnit.