Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .

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Three cheers for Bloor Street!

People4Kids Gala

We did it! Last Wednesday we pulled off another gala at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto, Canada. It was hard work and as we were in the homestretch of organizing my husband, who was on domestic duty while I did my special events schtick, asked if he should spoon feed me, chained to the computer as I was. So we raised enough money to provide support to over 65 children orphaned by HIV-AIDS in Ethiopia. That felt great! And many thanks to our  supporters and the outstanding People4Kids Gala committee.

People to People AID Organization Canada, Board Chair, Tigist Abebe (left)

Favourite photo from 2011 Gala of my son and his girlfriend

Two doors west of the ROM is Varsity Stadium, home of my running club. The day after the gala I went for drinks with my running pals. Last year while in event-organizer mode, my training suffered greatly. This year, thanks to the regular workouts and support of my club, I ran some solid races and was awarded Athlete of the Month status for April. That felt great!

What the running club bought for the newborn twins of one of our teammates.

In between the ROM and Varsity Stadium is the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM)  and guess what! On Friday, we were there to enjoy the music of Egberto Gismonti in Koerner Hall, located in the RCM. I saw Gismonti perform about 30 years ago at the Bamboo Club (now LUSH Handmade Cosmetics). It WAS great!

Still on-the-go two nights later, just next door to the ROM

I’ll be hard pressed to pack in that much excitement into a one-block, three-day stretch again. Triple-dipping on Bloor Street . . . WooHoo Toronto!

Look up! It’s C5 at the ROM, scene of the gala – as seen from the lobby of Koerner Hall

Where we were on Wednesday, Thursday & Friday last week

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Song for a Winter’s Night

December has been a month of catching up with friends, preparing for the holiday season and somehow blogging has fallen by the wayside. I’ve been enjoying gradually increasing my mileage to 40 miles a week over seven days of running.

At a party the other week a friend mentioned that he had found out about my blog through another friend who told him that I blogged very regularly.  He was happy to hear that you can sign up for an email subscription rather than visiting my blog to check for new posts. My posting has slowed to 2-5 times a month lately while earlier in the year I was posting nearly every day.

Photo by Shaylan Spurway

We enjoyed a memorable evening last weekend in Stratford, Ontario at a performance by  iconic singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot. While visiting Stratford in early October for the Festival City 10K we were learned that the last two shows of his latest Canadian tour would take place in the cozy setting of the Stratford Festival Theatre. Adding to the appeal of this weekend getaway was that our B & B of choice, The Judges Quarters is a five minute walk from the venue.

The Judges Quarters

Breakfast at The Judges Quarters

Having heard from others that Lightfoot’s voice has been much diminished due to an illness that involved a tracheotomy our expectations were not high but we were still very keen. Press coverage describes Lightfoot as frail but I would choose the word slight and I thought in fact, that his physical movements suggested a regular fitness regime. And indeed, post-concert research uncovered an article where Lightfoot reveals, “I did 81 shows last year. . . none of that would be possible if I didn’t stay on top of things and do the workouts.”  Like a good marathoner, Gordon Lightfoot is very much in tune with what he is capable of physically and portions out his energy over the course of his extensive performance tours very carefully.

Still there were times when his voice faltered but the absence of youthful vigour was replaced by the powerful emotional resonance of his voice and lyrics. Lightfoot prefaced the high point of the evening with a brief, “this is a good one”. And so it was as the dedicated singer-songwriter doing what he must do, imbued Song for a Winter’s Night with both innocence and experience. It was a starry, snow-dusted, teary-eyed and very memorable evening in Stratford. Thank you Gordon Lightfoot.

Song for a Winter’s Night

The lamp is burnin’ low upon my table top
The snow is softly falling
The air is still in the silence of my room
I hear your voice softly calling

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you

The smoke is rising in the shadows overhead
My glass is almost empty
I read again between the lines upon each page
The words of love you sent me

If I could know within my heart
That you were lonely too
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you

The fire is dying now, my lamp is growing dim
The shades of night are lifting
The morning light steals across my window pane
Where webs of snow are drifting

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you
And to be once again with you

Balzac's coffee, Stratford

Flagship location of Balzac's coffee, Stratford

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Running on the Wings of Song

“Do you have any way-back, play-backs you listen to while running in the privacy of your own ears?”  So asks, Bearrunner an east coast running blogger.

The most important playlist on my IPod is called Tempo which is the music I listen to while doing my tempo and interval running.

Break on Through The Doors (1966)

Song 2 Blur (1997)

Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin (1970)

Holiday Green Day (2005)

New Born Muse (2001)

Immigrant Song is my all-time fave for fast running and it is a  41 year old, way-back, play-back from 1970.  I would never choose to listen to this as recreational background music but while running it somehow expresses the energy of adrenalin and heart-pumping, fast running and makes a workout seem easier.Two favourite upbeat, feel-good songs that help me get out the door are As by Stevie Wonder and Moonlight Kiss by Raul Malo.

The evening after finishing the California International Marathon last December my husband and I visited the new San Francisco location of the famous Yoshi’s Jazz Club in Oakland.  Raul Malo was performing that night, a show which I found moderately entertaining.  However, a couple of days later when I downloaded some his music, I realized the degree to which my enjoyment had been moderated by my post-marathon fatigue.  Post-Yoshi’s, I found myself bouncing off the walls to the effervescent and sunny beat of Raul Malo and his band.

Raul Malo has been to Toronto as I discovered.  He has performed at Hugh’s Room, however without his whole ensemble.  I hope to see Raul Malo again but not the evening after a marathon.

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Merry Christmas all!

Busy day.  Ran one mile to  buy the missing ingredient for punch.  Family dinner, turkey, children, an infant and a birthday cake for Steven.  Purchased from ITunes a beautiful Christmas tune performed by Steve Winwood, who has been around forever. Check it out below on YouTube.

Two grandmas and their four month old grandchild, baby Zack


Good times! Belated birthday cake for a 23 year old


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Forgetting is good for the soul, and the long run too

21 mile route - November 6, 2010

I’ve had a great month of training, with very solid long runs, of 19, 18.5, 21 last week and finally, 21 this week. I’m due for an easy week and will be heading off to New York state next weekend for an overnight getaway with my only sister, and one of four, sisters in-law. Both run, and due to the demands of parenthood, have treadmills. My sister has 4 kids age, 8, 6, 4 & 2 and my sister-in-law is mother to an 12, 9 & 6 year old. In addition to running, my sister, who is an excellent hockey player, plays a couple of times a week.

Queen Street, still sleeping

Early in the run I made a pit stop at Starbuck’s and recognizing the barista, formerly at our neighbourhood location, chatted briefly about running. I asked if I could take his photo for my blog however he said there are protocols in place regarding photos of staff. I quickly scribbled down my blog address for him.

Then east on Queen street, north on Spadina and over to R’s, where B & D were also waiting. We ran over to J’s and then an uphill trek up Russell Hill Road, and through Forest Hill to the beltline.

I felt the need to take charge of our route, as it is very hard to stay focused without a route to visualize.  Because of this, a few minor insults were bandied about, the way guys will do but everyone soldiered on, in spite of the more-challenging-than-usual-route. I have four younger brothers and I’m sure there’s a kind of familiarity and comfort in being the only female in our running group. A little sister, for which I prayed constantly, only arrived when I was 11 years old, and my role was more like that of a second mother.

I parted company from B and R at St. George and Dupont and ran south to the Lakeshore.  Once I hit the lakeshore I got a bit distracted with with the sights and picture taking on this chilly but fresh and sunny day.

Art on the run, outdoor photo exhibit, Harbourfront

I weave through the outdoor photo gallery on York Quay, the subjects are always Canadian content and enviroment and landscape related.   Then east to the Music Garden where a large team of teens were involved in dismantling the rigging for two tall ships.  Three miles to go, seems less so, when it is a well-worn route.

4 miles to go, time for a photo

Getting ready for winter?

On the home stretch I muse on mental strategies for marathoners.  While running a marathon it is helpful mentally, to practise a kind of forgetfulness and forget how far you have run, and try and relax as though you are out for a short run.  A useful life skill as well, the ability to willfully forget is closely tied to the ability to forgive and start anew.  So I imagine this as one  of my easy morning runs, and the end of my 21 miler does not feel quite as taxing.  As I run through the apple orchard near Ossington-Old Orchard School, Renee Fleming is on my IPod singing Leonard Cohen’s  Hallelujah.   I’m almost home, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

To hear Renee sing CLICK HERE

There’s a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Leonard Cohen

Lake Ontario moment, November 6, 2010 10:30 a.m.

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Last day of work

Moving Day

I set out for my pre-work run later than usual as I only had to log a few hours today, my last day of work at my place of employment for the past two years.  While running I listened to my Dave Allen, “Making It All Work ” book and then some quiet music, Keith Jarrett’s “The Melody at Night With You”, in order to meditate a little on the upcoming changes.  My husband and I saw Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette perform at the Four Seasons Centre for the Jazz Festival earlier this summer.  The performance was superb, consumately emotional and priceless!  It had been 25 years since I had seen this same trio perform and seeing them again, has enlivened my enjoyment of their music.

I start my new job on September 7th.  This is the same day that my son starts his internship at Research in Motion.  He is a software engineering specialist in U of T’s Computer Science program.  His salary as a student intern will exceed what I was earning at my former workplace.

Earlier in the week my husband helped me cart home the enormous amount of stuff, that I had let accumulate at work.  Included in this was a lot of running gear, my foot masager, oodles of personal care products, lots of framed photos, numerous hand-crafted ceramic gifts given to all staff from our creative and generous information resources coordinator and a few books including a copy of “Japanese Death Poems”, “Jack Daniels Running Formula”, “Beloved, Henri Nouwen in conversation” and a Microsoft Access reference book.    The death poems were written by Zen monks  and Haiku poets on the verge of death.  Ive posted a sample in the WORDS section of my blog.

I’ve used Jack Daniel’s book extensively to guide my training and as far as training books go, it is in a league all its own.  I gave my copy to Nelson Njeru, a 2:10 Kenyan marathoner who gave a boost to the  George Brown College cross-country team when he began some studies there and signed up to run for them! Nelson, I should mention is now in his forties.

Questions about what my new workplace will be like percolate.  Will I be able to muster up a team for the Bay Street Rat Race or Corporate Challenge ?  Will the golf course across the street have a driving range I can go to at lunch?  I am an ultra- novice golfer but I do find it fun.

As for farewells, I was given a gorgeous floral arrangement and taken out for a delicious lunch by two colleagues.  We called it the tri-level lunch (inside work joke) and caucused a little on big picture work issues.  I made a lot of friends at my workplace and while I look forward to a wonderful new career opportunity I will miss them.  Maybe I’ll be invited back for the holiday party given my status as two-time holiday party committee member.

Many of the “good-byes” involved resolutions by my co-workers to start or stick to a fitness routine.  I seem to have that effect on people  🙂

Adieu, adieu!

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Celebrating 30 Years

This is my 30th year of running.  My first goal was to run a marathon when I turned 30 but I ended up running a marathon a few months later at age 26.  It was my first long-distance race ever!  There were no run clinics back then so I used the 3 month marathon training program published in Runner’s World.

Sunday September 12th is the 30th anniversary of the Terry Fox Run. The Terry Fox Run was the first measured route that I had ever run.  Years later I organized Terry Fox run sites at my son’s school and at our neighbourhood YMCA.


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30 years ago the Sony Walkman which played cassette tapes, first began to appear in North America at high-end electronics stores like Brack Electronics.  One of my brothers worked at Brack Electronics and I was the first kid on the block to own one.

I wonder sometimes if I was the first runner in Toronto to run with a Walkman.  This thing was huge, about 10 times as thick as an IPod, 5 times as wide and 5 times as long.  Imagine the ingenuity required to strap this thing on without the help of special belts and carrying cases.   Now I run with a camera and IPod that together are barely 10% that size.