Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .


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A Canadian reviews America’s 10 Best Cities for Runners

Running in Washington D.C.

It’s all about the sights on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

While visiting Austin, Texas in January I happened upon a Forbes Magazine article listing the top ten cities for running in the U.S.  I was surprised to see that I had run in 9 of the cities on the list. As the ten cities were not ranked, I’ve listed them in alphabetical order.

  1. Atlanta
  2. Austin
  3. Boston
  4. Boulder*
  5. Chicago
  6. Minneapolis
  7. New York
  8. Portland
  9. San Francisco
  10. Washington

*Boulder, Colorado is the only city I have not run in (or visited). However, having run in Santa Fe which is 7,199 feet above sea level, when I had a slight cold, which exploded into a very painful chest cold after a lung-searing run at that altitude I have little desire to run in Boulder which has a slightly lower altitude. I’m taking the liberty of substituting Sacramento, California for Boulder on my re-ordered ranked list below.

Austin-Running

Running through the center of Austin, Texas on a Ladybird Lake trail.

  1. Austin
  2. Portland
  3. Washington
  4. Boston **1998, 2000. 2007, 2008, 2013, 2014
  5. Chicago *2006
  6. San Francisco
  7. Sacramento *2007
  8. New York *2009
  9. Minneapolis
  10. Atlanta

* *Years that I have run a marathon in a city

Austin, Texas

It was tough to decide between Austin and Portland but Austin won out because of its dirt trails with overhanging trees which line Ladybird Lake. Portland’s prized bike-running path, the Springwater Corridor is mostly paved and does not have much shade.

Portland, Oregon

One feature of running in Portland is the ease of bike rental on the river trail. This is a great way to have a non-running friend or spouse join you for your run.

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Portland Rail Trail, The Springwater Corridor

Washington D.C.

Running is the best way to see some of the sights like the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorial. Another bonus is the number of clean public restrooms around the public parks and monuments.

Boston

Boston is well, Boston, but apart from the marathon, a run along the banks of the Charles river on the Cambridge side while rowers pass by makes for a storybook setting.

Sacramento

Love the slightly downhill course of the California International Marathon in Sacramento. There is also a long-standing distance race in November which serves as a tune-up for the marathon. The Clarksburg County Run used to be 30K but is now a 20 miler with a 5K, 10K and half-marathon option. Proximity to San Francisco, a 2 hour drive, is another plus.

San Francisco

Running along the waterfront route from Market street over the Fisherman’s Wharf is one way to avoid hills in San Francisco. Love the idea of their women’s only marathon but not on the hills of San Francisco.

Chicago

Runs along the lake are pleasant but summer races in Chicago can be stinking hot. The Chicago marathon course is my favourite. I ran it once when it took place on the third, rather than the traditional 1st weekend in October.

New York

New York is near the bottom of my list as I’m personally inclined towards the urban outdoor experience of west coast cities like Portland and Seattle. But I do love the shorter races in Central park organized by the New York City Road Runners.

Minneapolis

I’ve been to Minneapolis twice. Once for a convention and the last time a quick overnight stay to visit the World’s Biggest Mall a.k.a. “hell on earth” according to my husband. Nothing memorable to report other than feeling safer than I did in Atlanta and I’m sure summer runs in Minnesota are cooler than Atlanta as well.

Atlanta

I ran in Atlanta nearly 25 years ago while attending a convention. I think I was the only runner in the group of 2000 attendees. It was one of the muggiest runs of my life. My friends worried for my safety and I have to confess, I did not feel particularly safe there even though I stuck to the tourist zones.

I was going to say this post was part one of a series, with subsequent posts providing more detail on running in these cities. However given my poor record of following up with promised part twos, I’ll leave it at this and invite your comments or recommendations.

Happy vacation running!

Lynn


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Rainy run in Fergus

Rail path from Fergus to Elora, Ontario

Oh, and did I mention that I ran a marathon a couple of weeks back? I’m on the mend from the disappointment of my second-slowest marathon time since my first marathon back in 1981. At some point I hope to blog about it but I’m moving on and enjoying a lot of very short runs as part of my recovery. We just spent three days in Fergus in small-town Ontario and enjoyed a lot of R&R at a local B&B.

Fergus Brew Pub – Sante!

It was a rainy time and we decided to skip our planned three miler on Saturday. I was ready to skip running on Sunday but got out the door thanks to my husband. He had looked into the local trails and led us to the trail-head of a rail path which runs from Fergus to Elora. I carried out my plan to run a modest 20 minute tempo workout within a 5 miler. In spite of the light rain, I felt pretty good and was tempted to extend my tempo run. Erring on the side of post-marathon recovery, I stuck to the plan.

I took a full five days off running after the marathon BUT I am trying to salvage a modicum of fitness to run a masters cross-country meet on November 11th.  My strategy is to keep my runs very short and do some minimal tempo running. In addition to the five days off I ran three miles, twice, for a total of six miles my first post-marathon week. My longest run so far has been five miles.

I read this when I was a girl! Coffee at the Fergus General Store

I’ve been enjoying catching up with friends and getting out and about. Last week we attended the final 2012 Massey Lecture at Koerner Hall, given by Neil Turok. Last night I saw Otto Preminger’s  Bonjour Tristesse from 1958 at the Bell Lightbox and I’ve been getting a bit of reading in. Although my current read A Song for Nagasaki while inspiring if not life-changing, is heavy going. Tomorrow we are going to see Betty Lavette at the Wintergarden Theatre. We saw her earlier this year at the Portland Blues Festival.

Fergus was exactly what we were looking for. It is a simple one-main-street-town with limited choices of what to do. We really enjoyed the fall fair at a local church, picking up books, dishes and a parsons bench.  I was also the winning bidder on the nativity scene shown below 🙂 We also checked out a couple of flea markets, ate at an Indian restaurant, a creperie and a brew pub across the way from our B&B.

The only bidder, the winning bidder! Handknit Nativity Scene

Getting back to the marathon, there is a whole other very happy side of the story which is a about my “other team” but somehow it seems too long a tale to tell as I rush to complete my second post of the month. Two posts a month is my minimum and well, it IS the 31st.

While we were away we found out via Facebook that our son and his friend who lives with us were holding a Halloween party. We hoped the party goers did not get carried away like this pumpkin we spotted in Elora on Saturday. Happy Halloween!

Spotted in Elora


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Running up those stairs & more

Back from a three city jaunt to Kingston, Quebec City and Ottawa with good running in all three cities. After tackling the nearly 400 step Cap Blanc staircase going from sea level up to the Plains of Abraham, a bit of research revealed that there is a race called the Défi des escaliers de Québec or the Quebec City Staircase Challenge. This stair marathon involves running up and down nearly 30 staircases for a total of more of 3000 steps over 19K. Imagine that!

For regular runs, one can choose to run along the St. Lawrence for many miles on a gently rolling course or through the more challenging hilly terrain of the Plains of Abraham. My longest run in our five-day stay was nine miles along the river.

Rock the ramparts – The Citadel, Quebec City

Our hotel in Kingston overlooked Confederation Bay and the path in front of the place was part of  an 8K long (albeit a somewhat circuitous) network of various waterfront pathways with a view of many windmills. The highlight of my three Kingston runs was an eleven miler with tempo sections. It is the fourth consecutive August that we have been in Kingston at the end of August but the first time that I ventured so far out along this particular route, having previously run through the army base. The down-side of those runs were the many unleashed dogs on the residential properties.

View from Majors Hill Park path, Ottawa

The best runs of all were in Ottawa. I heard rumours that one of my favourite paths, behind the Parliament buildings had been closed down. I was thrilled to find out that it was open and ran this beautiful Ottawa river path, through Majors Hill park, over the Alexandra bridge to Hull, past the Museum of Civilization and then back to Lebreton Flats in Ottawa. We lived in Lebreton Flats for a couple of years during our five years living in Ottawa. Since then the War Museum has opened and with this have come many improvements to the path that runs by it along the Ottawa river. The weather was a wonderfully cool 6C when I started and around 15C by the time I finished my 12 miles with a tempo section. This route is one of my favourite urban routes in Canada.

View from hotel room with windmills and running path (right, middle)

A feature of my runs in all three cities was listening to the audio book, Your Brain at Work by David Rock. which explores the latest in neuroscience and busts many a myth about the capacity of our brain to multitask. Some of the research cited would support my sense that creative thoughts while running are easier to come by for the long-time distance runner, for whom running is a second-nature, auto-pilot activity. I also enjoyed not having to focus on finishing my run at a certain time which set the  the stage for dreamy, lost-in-my-thoughts and very relaxed running. Of course this reduced urgency is only possible if your traveling partner also happens to be your best cheerleader and favourite running companion.

Plains of Abraham with my cheerleader, my husband, my love

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.
Henry David Thoreau


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“Once Upon a Time in the West”

Back from our southwest swing, we enjoyed watching a film for which we saw a poster in a Taos, New Mexico coffee shop, a 1968 Sergio Leone film, “Once upon a Time in the West”. We revisited the desert in this film featuring Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Jason Robards and Claudia Cardinale. Apparently, it is a favourite of film aficionado’s and film makers including Quentin Tarantino, appearing on many an all-time, top one hundred list.

While in Arizona, I was eager to pay a visit to the Cowtown Boot Outlet. I am always on the hunt for stylish but comfortable footwear and blogged about this in the post titled RUBBER SOLES. One exception to the superior comfort of rubber soles is the cowboy boot. What is it that makes cowboy boots so comfortable? Granted, they are not the height of stylishness but they are certainly a little more lithe in appearance than my beloved Blundstones. My comfy footwear instincts were dead on and I was rewarded with a pair of black leather boots for $113.  Sadly there is no such outlet in Canada, not even in Alberta but if you are in the U.S. and in need of comfy boots –  you gotta go!

Score: Comfy all-leather boots for $113

Justin Boots - Black Kipskin

On my last run in Phoenix I was drawn to finish my 6 miles in South Mountain park despite the risk of re-injuring my tender ankle. Fortunately all went well and I left feeling ready to tackle speedwork and increase my mileage upon returning to Toronto.

Last run in the west for this cowgirl


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Two Deserts, Two Views

The ferry to the Sudan

We’ve left the high ground of Santa Fe and are back in Phoenix. I’m hoping the lower altitude will help me shake the nasty cold that became full-blown after a tough 5 miles at 7000 feet in Santa Fe leaving me grounded at altitude for two days. It seemed wise to reserve my oxygen intake, lessened by over 20% for getting well. My plan to race today was quashed and I will be thrilled if I can run 3 miles today comfortably as the run of barely two miles yesterday was a run-walk effort. This was partly due to running on trails with my ankle is feeling nearly 100% it is hard to stay away from the Sonora desert trails of South Mountain Park which is right in our backyard. My husband saw a coyote hanging out back yesterday while later in the day a coyote was spotted on the street in front of our nephew’s house. Although we are told that the critter to watch out for is the javelina a type of wild pig.

Room in Aswan with view of the Nile

Hotel Andaluz Albuquerque, view of the freeway

I was excited to check Twitter and find that Bev Coburn @activeage posted a number of photos from the Sudan on Twitter. I also received this email:

We will be arriving in Addis late afternoon on February 20th and will have a full rest day on the 21st.  The Communications Director for the tour is going to try to join me on the visit to the orphanage. I will make sure we get lots of pictures. I will let you know in the next couple of weeks all the details of our campsite where we will be in Addis.

The tour so far has been a lot of fun and full of adrenaline rushes – many surprises along the way including kids ambushing us in a small town in Egypt.

Every day gets better.  We are now in northern Sudan – the ancient city of Dongola. The Nubian people are so friendly.

Talk soon,
Bev

I wonder if Bev might be able to meet the nine year old girl we sponsor when she visits the orphanage. One of the unique things about this sponsorship program is that the parameters of the relationship between sponsor and child are more flexible than other programs. Reasons for this may be the relatively small size of the program along with the strong relationships between Ethiopians in Canada and those in Ethiopia. The People to People AID Organization Canada program coordinator will be in Addis when Bev passes through. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at about 7500 feet above sea level is a few hundred feet higher than Santa Fe so it will be a hard ride to get there.

Trail running in South Mountain Park

Meanwhile after a ferry ride to the Sudan, Bev seems to have spent a night in a hotel where she was looking forward to washing the sand out of her hair. Their average pace per day is 120K. While cycling the length of Africa seems astonishing I should mention that Bev’s past as an elite Ironman triathlete and posting national best age-group times as a triathlete and runner is a good starting point for taking on this challenge. Here’s a quote from a talk that Bev gave a few years ago.

What is a good GOAL? A good GOAL is one that you are 85% sure you can accomplish. Personally, I love a GOOD, LOFTY GOAL!

 


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A Tale of Two Deserts

I wish I could claim to be a hardy traveler but truth be known, I’m not particularly adventurous. In some ways, I think that my inclinations to comfort and order help to make me a good marathoner. When I was running my best, I was exceptionally good at sticking to a plan and recognizing the training benefits of regular sleep schedules and eating habits as aids to top performance.

Running in Santa Fe, NM

We breezed through the desert city of Albuquerque, New Mexico on Monday where we stayed at The Andaluz a recently restored and now state historic building and are now in another desert town, Santa Fe enjoying the amenities of the Hotel St. Francis. From this comfortable vantage point in the North American desert I’ve been checking on the progress of my super-hero, athlete-friend Beverley Coburn.

Bev at the start line, Giza, Egypt

Bev is also traveling through the desert however she is sleeping in a small pup tent and making her way on a bicycle. She is on a four month cycling trip which started on January 14th which will take her from Cairo to Capetown.

1 star accommodations in Egypt

Bev is raising funds for the orphan sponsorship program run by People to People AID Organization Canada.  This is the orphan sponsorship program that my husband and I support as volunteer Co-chairs and organizers of the People4Kids Gala which will take place this year on Thursday, May 3rd at the ROM. If this is the type of cause you are interested in supporting  you can CLICK HERE to make a donation to her ride. Here are a couple of photos from the farewell party we held for Bev earlier this month.

Chair of P2P Canada, Bev, Lynn & P2P Board member

You can follow her progress through the Tour D’Afrique blog or on Twitter @activeage or @People4Kids. She has cycled through Egypt and is now cycling through the Sudan. GO BEV GO!

“Then tell the Wind and Fire where to stop, but don’t tell me.” (Dickens, Tale of Two Cities)

Farewell cake


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Land of grapefruit & trail running

Running in South Mountain Park

Yes, I have escaped for a warmer weather getaway. Not without a bit of guilt for leaving behind two hard-working students at home. Hopefully, they will have a bit of time while parent-free to host some social gatherings in our absence. Thankfully, our two young men are very responsible and sometimes when we return the house is in better shape than when we departed. They are very thorough with their tidying up which we really appreciate.

Breakfast time

We are staying in Atawatukee a neighbourhood of Phoenix at our nephew’s home which backs on to  South Mountain Park the largest urban park in North America with 51 miles of primary trails for horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking. My first run in the park was an add-on to three miles run on the road with my husband. The path surfaces are variable particularly the less trodden paths close to our backyard entry and while turning this way and that to find the sign post cactus named Mrs. Boobs (by our grand-nephew and niece) I took a slight turn on my ankle. Not much harm done.

The following day around mile five of my planned twelve mile run I went flying to the ground, scraping knee, hands and elbows. Ouch! I had to call it a day and headed to Target for an ankle brace. For $10 I bought a very streamlined brace by 3M designed for a woman’s ankle in two sizes.

Mrs. Boobs

This morning I realized that it was not realistic to squeeze in a 12 miler in order to get my 40 miles this week. Easy running was the order of the day and I was satisfied with a 5.5 miles run at a very slow place. I felt okay but there was not much propulsion in my right ankle. I iced my ankle after the run and feel that I may be able to run ten miles or more tomorrow. I’m anxious about getting a longish run in for three reasons; 1) I made the commitment to join the masters group at U of T and have started to do track work. 2) We are flying to Albuquerque tomorrow for four days and I’m guessing that running this distance at 1,619.1 meters above sea level might feel fairly difficult. 3) I was planning to run a 5K next Sunday but given the latest development, we shall see.

Before the fall

In addition to having a park in his backyard, my nephew also has a massage chair. Yes, a massage chair and this one is a breed apart from the type you may have seen in malls.  It has options for Swedish, Shiatsu, stretch mode and a quickie massage among others and massages the legs and arms. As I write this my back is remembering how good it feels. I really should go!