Tag Archives: running

Slowing down

Lately I’ve been busy–I’m sure almost everyone reading this can relate. You would think that the busier I get, the more I would look to finding faster ways of doing things, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. Lately I’ve been drawn to activities that can’t be finished quickly, but force me to take my time and think in terms of long-term goals, rather than short-term. For instance:

Gardening: I’ve gardened in the past, but the difference this year is that I got my act together and planted seeds (from our amazing seed library!), rather than just waiting until mid-June and transplanting seedlings. I’ve been having a lot of fun going out to look for sprouts with my children, although honestly I think I’m more amazed at the little green shoots than they are. (Because, wow! Green things growing from practically nothing!)

Quilting: Full disclosure–I haven’t actually made (or even started) a quilt yet. It’s one of those things I thought I’d never be interested in, and yet I find myself inexplicably itching to make a quilt. And if I’m going to go down this road, I reason, wouldn’t it be neat to hand quilt, rather than use a machine? Part of me thinks that this is insane, and yet I can’t get the idea out of my head. I have no interest in machine quilting, but I’m in love with the idea of doing it by hand.

Oral history: My mother recently told me a story about her childhood that I had never heard before. It was just a passing reference, but it sparked my curiosity to know more about her life and the life of others in my family, and the idea of compiling an oral history of my family popped into my head. This was another one of those niggling ideas that I couldn’t stop thinking of, and now I’m knee deep in a fascinating oral-history project. I’ve been reading some oral histories for inspiration, like this one (one of my favorites!) and the Pittsburgh oral-history project that you can find on our website.

Running: Two years ago I started running again after a long hiatus. Here is the amazing thing about running: first you can’t run at all, struggling to get through a mile, and then you can run two miles, and three, and one day you find yourself running a half marathon. The thing about running is that distances start to seem skewed in your mind; 13.1 miles doesn’t seem very far when you meet all these people who are running 26.2 miles and you start to wonder why you don’t just do that distance. I’ve been reading this book, and I dare you to not feel inspired to try running a marathon after reading these stories!




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Since the Pittsburgh half-marathon (which I posted about here), I have kept running. I have been doing so for over 5 years, so I didn’t think I’d quit or anything, but it’s always nice to keep going. I’ve been thinking back to the post I wrote regarding books that inspire me when it comes to running. There are many, so I thought at the beginning of the warmer months here in Pittsburgh, that I’d post a few more that help to get me up and out at 5:30am, or out on my lunch break, or out after a long day of work.

parkerJohn L. Parker Jr. wrote Once a Runner and sold it out of his car at road races and meets until it got picked up by a major publisher. There are stories of battered copies being handed down from one runner to another. I never ran in the track and field capacity, but there are elements of this book that grab you and speak to anyone who has ever run. In addition, if you never ran and don’t plan to, it’s still a cool story about an interesting, kind of wonderfully weird guy. Highly recommended; Parker continued the story of that wonderfully weird guy, Quinten Casssidy, in the sequel to Once a Runner called Again to Carthage. Again, you don’t have to run to read this. Either way, check it out.

Haruki Murakami is known for his novels, but this is a memoir about his life as a runner. It’s abstract at times and always interestimurakaming. The approach he has to his life as runner and writer is fascinating and the parallels he draws are fascinating.Publisher’s Weekly called it “a particularly vivid picture of an artist soaring into flight for the first time.”

Finally, for a bit of “how-to” I point you to Jeff Galloway. Galloway’s Book on Running is a classic in the running “how-to” genre. I gallowaylike Galloway’s stuff because it’s accessible for runners of all levels, but very well informed and helpful. His tips and information can help a lot!

There you have it, dear Eleventh Stack reader! A few books to kick you in the pants and get you moving. They help me, anyway. Why not walk or run to the local library to get a hold of a few of these titles?


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‘Tis the Season for a Run…

It seems to be the season for marathons and running posts. I have been running for about five years or so at this point. I have run a number of 5k races, and last year, I was supposed to only run one leg of the marathon relay. Well, some of my team bailed at the 11th hour leaving an 11.1 mile gap at the end of the relay…so I did it. It was a great feeling, but also a little frustrating! I was only 2 miles short of running the half marathon! This year I decided to just run the half and see what happens. I’ve been training for months and, even though it might sound a bit less positive than I intend, I’m as ready as I’m gonna be for this.

I do love running. I’ve become one of those people who run on their lunch break (workday 5k! Yeah!). I run in the rain. I run in the snow. I run early in the morning. I run in the evening after a long day of work. It’s really been a great thing for me. I love seeing the city and the different neighborhoods from the perspective of the runner. I love that I can wake up early on a Saturday and crank out some miles with my friends and feel great. So…what are some of the things that inspire those runs? Read on, dear Eleventh Stack blog reader, read on:


I am NOT a barefoot runner, nor do I really even endorse the whole barefoot running movement. I think it’s kind of a shame that Christopher McDougall’s EXCELLENT book, Born to Run, gets saddled with being that book about barefoot running. There is A lot of other excellent stuff in there and I highly recommend it!


Mentioned in the above title is the amazing Scott Jurek. Jurek is one of the most remarkable runners in the world. He is an Ultra Marathoner. He’s won more Ultras than anyone. He is vegan. He is a hero. He wrote Eat and Run and I loved it.


John “The Penguin” Bingham is a great running writer who taps into the approachable style that allows you to think “Hey…maybe I CAN do this!” He wrote for years for Runner’s World magazine and his Marathons For Mortals is an EXCELLENT resource!


Scott Douglas collected a ton of brilliant little bits and bobs from runners of every skill level and compiled them into this fantastic little book. No section of The Little Red Book of Running is more than a page or so, but it’s so chock full of useful, inspirational material, you will be amazed.


And, apart from running, I tend to find some kind of inspiration from the Tao Te Ching. This translation by author Ursula K. LeGuin is absolutely fantastic. I highly recommend it!

So, enjoy it…read up and get out there and get a run in! After the bombings at the Boston Marathon this year, Amby Burfoot (1968 Boston Marathon winner and writer for Runner’s World) said what we can do to really help at this point is to help another runner. Here is my crack at helping:

If you used to run but stopped, get out and give it a go. You’ll probably see what you loved in it the first time around. Don’t be afraid to go slow. Don’t be afraid to take your time and only run short distances.

 If you never ran but want to, try! Start slow. When I started I’d run for 20 or 30 seconds and walk for a minute or two. I used the Couch to 5k method. Try running between telephone poles and then walk awhile.

If you are currently couch-bound but want to be more active GET OUT AND WALK. Walking is probably the best thing you can do, especially if you currently aren’t doing an exercise plan. Remember, being outside and doing it is a million times better than sitting on a couch. Best of luck!



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Midlife Marathon Musings

The Pittsburgh Marathon, which seemed so far off when I registered for it, is only five days away now. Since I’m not a runner (yet), I signed up to walk the half-marathon, which seemed like a reasonable goal for a healthy newbie pushing 40. After months of training, I’m pretty confident that I will finish, and I can’t wait to earn my participation medal. But what I’m really excited about is that I’ll be crossing the finish line with a friend. Because for me, nothing beats having a wacky idea like having a wacky idea, sharing it, and hearing someone else say, “Hey, I want to do that too!”


Popular internet meme, current example spotted here

Life itself, of course, is also a marathon, but with fewer rest stops and not a single musical group out there to cheer you on. Some people travel alone, others in packs. The course can be steep and uneven, but it can also be breathtaking, and you can go as fast or as slowly as you want. Even if you never get up off the couch–a move experts don’t recommend—you’re in the race. Might as well make it a team effort, right?

And then there’s Midlife , that weird and wonderful time where you start getting serious about your physical health and your inner landscape. You re-examine your friendships. You worry about being a good role model to the kids in your life. The literal and metaphorical race becomes less of a sprint, more of an endurance challenge, as the milestones and checkpoints fly by. If you’re lucky, you have wise mentors ahead of you, shouting back encouragement, and whippersnappers behind you to nip at your heels and keep you sharp. But mostly, you’re looking for people moving at the same pace you are, to help you make sense of the whole experience…and to share cultural references with, of course. Not to mention, to keep you from taking it all too seriously.

Back in the world of the literal, I’m ready to wake up at a ridiculous hour Sunday morning so we can get one of the good parking spaces downtown. My shoes are broken in. I’ve studied the course map. I know where the water stations are. And we’ve walked our regular training route into the ground, building up both speed and endurance over time. Whether you’ll be walking with us, running ahead of us, or wishing us well from the couch, I hope your own race is a good one. For my part, I promise not to litter on the course, and to appreciate every step of the way. Any other advice for the journey you may have is welcomed with an open heart and a grateful spirit.

–Leigh Anne

who seems to have inhaled a philosophical streak along with that birthday cake


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