What I Actually Mean When I Talk About Running

Invariably, when I go on a run, I put on running clothes, sure and lace my Camino shoes tight. I find the earbuds that don’t fall out and I take the house key off my keychain put it in the tiny pocket in my shorts and bolt out the front door. I run for two blocks and I get tired so I walk because the cherry blossoms are in bloom and walking’s the best way to enjoy them. I’m not listening to rap. I’m listening to podcasts.

Then I pass a Little Free Library. I always inspect Little Free Libraries. I can’t not.

Oh! A book of David Whyte’s poetry! Thank God! I’ve been looking for this! What are the chances?

Once I take a book from a Little Free Library, there is no hope of any more running. Once that happens, I’m just a woman in running clothes walking around Ballard looking for books. There’s even a ten in my pocket in case I pass Twice Told Tales on Market. I picked up Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running at a friend’s house the other day and have resolved to read it. It’s a great book. It makes me want to run. 

So I’m walking with the David Whyte poetry under my arm—it’s love poetry, about love unrequited and requited—when there’s another Little Free Library—they are actually about every three blocks, but I mean there’s a Little Free Library with a book I’ve been looking for, so this is a lucky day: Cormac McCarthy’s The Crossing.

Oh! Cormac McCarthy! I listened to that podcast on this book a few weeks ago! I have been craving some atmospheric Southwestern decay. Thank God!

So the run is going well. I see customers from Mabel as I walk, and this is a great thing about working at a coffee shop where I see the same people every day: it builds community. They don’t see me, probably, but in my head, there’s community because I see Cortado Guy pulling out of a driveway. He’s a French man who is always sweet and looks a little bit sad. He wears a wedding ring that’s just a bit too delicate for his finger. Big Mocha and a friend are walking on the sidewalk on 58th and getting into a car. And the rude lady who reaches over the sneeze guard and her daughter Croissant are coming out of a different coffee shop. She just buys her daughter a croissant so she can tear it up and sprinkle it on the floor. What is it with kids and croissants? I don’t see a single Americano today, With or Without Room. My regulars don’t know they’re Ballard institutions because they don’t read this blog and even if they did I’ve obscured their incriminating details, but they are institutions, and I’ve jogged maybe four minutes and I’ve got two books and I’ve learned personal details about them, so it’s a great run. I’m walking toward Market and I turn right to get down to Shilshole. I’m listening to a podcast about Scientology: I just wanted something fun and frothy because I just spend three hours transcribing a voice memo for my book which made my head feel tight and my legs feel wiggly, which is why this run is even happening. That’s for the book. The book I’m writing. I always tell myself that: you’ve got a book coming out.

You should run. Run for the Wonderland!

I don’t even know if David won the lottery! Chill, I’m not gonna run the Wonderland anyway. 

You should be able to run.

Well, everything in moderation.

Murakami runs.

Past the locks (if you go to the fish ladder during the week, you won’t find a quieter place in all of Seattle than the little concrete room with the windows behind which the salmon travel homeward) but before the marina, the houses are fantastic. I must always run on the other side of the road because they are new to me now. These houses smell like the sea and they’re run down in a good way. I walk slower to look at them. I imagine living in one myself. If you didn’t know you were in Seattle, you’d think they were the houses of a fishing village with a thriving arts community.

And this brings me to Golden Gardens, where I was last night, where I got that smoke smell in my hair that won’t come out, and that smell’s never as cute as I think it could be, and I walk along till it’s time to go up the stairs, where are the stairs? I can never remember but I always find them. Past the train track behind the chain link fence with the faded blue Pringles thing and the faded Blue Moon and the bottle of maybe urine, and there are the stairs, and I’m not running but these will tire me out properly, good thing, good run.

I pass a guy my age. He’s dressed in black and he’s got a beard and a nice face. He smiles broadly at me. He must be so impressed with me: I’m a runner and a reader with my two books. An athlete and a scholar. But maybe he’s smiling at me because he’s the husband of a former coworker of mine and he recognizes me but only barely, because that’s what I’m doing with him. Is he? I do a tight-lipped smile, that should cover the bases, and I keep walking. Did that on the Camino, too: how easy it is to be terrified of stopping, even in the most pedestrian of circumstances. Inertia works.

So up the stairs, and I’ve got the books in my left hand and in my right hand is my phone, on which I’m already writing what will become this stuff here, and I’m thirsty, so good, I’ve exerted myself. I hate running but I love walking, so as long as my runs are 95 percent walking I’ll never tire of them. I’m on the top of the hill, by the Cafe Fiore that’s shut down indefinitely, the source of endless gossip  down the street at Mabel. I look at my legs in windows: are they strong? Oh, sure, I don’t need to run. Walking’s better. Running sucks.

One thought on “What I Actually Mean When I Talk About Running

  1. I too hate running but love walking. And I love that you’re going further in your explorations of David Whyte and that in your journeying, your bumping into him. He has become something of a sensei for me, shining light on a path that often feels obscure and at times lonely.


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