Posts Tagged ‘running’

Something to look forward to.**

“It’s not spring yet.”

That’s what I wrote in response to an e-mail from an overenthusiastic mycologist acquaintance, whose message included photographs of young mushrooms that, he insisted, were signs of better weather to come.

That’s also why, despite numerous efforts to write here last week, I just couldn’t seem to produce a post. “I have nothing else to say about the seasons,” Anna told me last Monday and I knew just what she meant. It feels like it’s been winter forever and I’m burnt out on seasonal embrace. We should all just stay inside.

This past week, however, I did experience two important personal milestones on my emotional calendar. Despite the above statement, I’ve actually been running outside (giant piles of snow permitting) on and off all winter. Usually I wear a carefully constructed synthetic outfit that keeps me dry, warm, and aerodynamic. But one day last week, I realized with something like bemusement that it was actually warm enough to run in shorts.

I’m so good at layering that it’s possible I hadn’t felt fresh air on my skin since last October. Running down the Somerville streets last week with my knees exposed was, quite possibly, the most liberating experience I’ve had in months. There’s a song that’s been on the radio lately which goes, “Your winter is a prison.” Last week, I felt at least temporarily as if I had broken free.

And then on Saturday, walking outside my grandma’s apartment, I saw my first crocuses! It’s true that flowers come earlier to New York than they do to Boston. But, my flower discovery led to a revelation: it turns out that the spring equinox is only a week away.

Maybe there is something to write about after all.

Weather: a balmy 38 degrees and sunny.

Hannah: 6 out of 10 on the “can’t get out of bed” to “jumping  for joy” scale. Not happy about daylight saving.

Anna: last time I checked, 7 out of ten. Now she’s in minnesota, where it’s probably about 10 degrees outside and snowing.

**Image Credit to Patty Hankins **


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This is an exercise in mindfulness.

Bring your awareness to your mouth. Take pleasure in the sensation of rubbing your tongue against your teeth and the roof of your mouth. Swallow. This should feel good.

Now, take a clean glass. Spit into it. Now, drink your own spit.

Repulsive, isn’t it?

This exercise comes from Ellen Langer’s seminal book Mindfulness, one of the first to bring the concept of mindfulness into Western medical lexicon. I love it because no matter how many times I try, I can’t help but be totally grossed out. I know that rationally, there is no reason to dislike saliva. But I cannot break my constructed hatred of spit. It’s disgusting.

Langer’s point is that every day, we take thousands of actions that are not rational. Some of them, like not drinking our own spit, are fairly innocent. Others are more troubling: the ones that impact the way we act around disabled people, for example, or the elderly. (One of Langer’s  most laudable impacts has been in teaching nurses and families to recognize the difference between physical disability and mental disability.)

Mindfulness can also be helpful in improving the way we treat ourselves, especially at times when we are feeling particularly out of control. Anna is lucky in that she has totally overcome all of her Thanksgiving anxieties. But for the rest of us, this time of year is overloaded with emotional, cultural, and environmental stressors. There are childhood memories. Family expectations. Cultural pressures. The smell of snow on the wind.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed on Thanksgiving. It’s also easy to act on all of those anxieties without knowing why. To get angry at the turkey. To break down over the cranberry sauce. To lash out at an innocent great aunt or overly energetic toddler. All of which means, less time to enjoy a delicious dinner in the company of the people we love most.

Which is what Thanksgiving, at its best, can be about.

This holiday season, I’m going to try to be a little more mindful about where my emotions are coming from. And I’m going to hope that increased awareness will improve my ability to act, instead of just reacting.

But I’m still not drinking spit from a glass.

Wishing everyone a happy thanksgiving, with love from DTU.

Weather: 36 degrees, a bit overcast, and beautiful


Hannah: 7 out of 10. Excited to go running this afternoon.

Anna: 7.5, and thrilled to have a few days to relax.

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In honor of Veteran’s Day, we have our first ever DitchTheUmbrella guest post! Sarah ran her first two marathons this October – the Chicago Marathon in mid-October and the USMC Marathon in Washington DC. She agreed to share her story with us.

I am still healing from the impact and reflecting on the experience.  On 10.31.10 I ran the USMC Marathon in Washington DC.  It was an idyllic fall day: electric blue sky, crisp air, a slight breeze, and falling colorful leaves.  We ran around Arlington, the Potomac, Georgetown, the Monuments, Chrystal City, to the Pentagon.  The finish was uphill to the Iwojima Memorial.  After I crossed the finish line, a Marine put a medal around my neck and I was officially done.  The relief was beyond words.

Fall has always been a time of excitement and movement to me.  It is a pastiche of literal decay and practical beginnings- a time that mandates some sort of action.  You can’t just let the leaves rot where they fall.  That is what the Marathon was for me.  It was about momentum towards a new goal and at the same time confronting what has been lost.

I ran this marathon in honor of my brother who served three tours in Iraq.  I also ran with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors which aims to support families who have been impacted by a death in the military.  So, as we ran, we remembered what we have lost and felt it every step.

But we also created something new: a tribute, a personal record, a new accomplishment, a sense of community.  And that was my favorite part.  I know I could not have done this without the love, support, and literal cheer of my friends and family.

My sister, Elis, ran the last three miles with me, yelling to the crowd, “This is my sister, Sarah!  Cheer for her!”  Her voice was piercing and pumped the life into me that I needed to keep going.  That exchange of energy from the lively to the depleted, that kind of support when you need it the very most; that is what makes it worth it.  I have never felt more exhausted and more gloriously alive in my life.

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