Being a Runner Means Always Having a “Plan B”

The start of the school year has wrecked havoc on my blogging.  I just checked, and its been almost two weeks since I’ve posted anything (though it feels like its been a lot longer than that).  Most of my “free” time has gone into lesson planning, curriculum mapping, writing-diagnostic creating, learning-target generating, guiding-question forming, seating-chart making, and the countless other minutiae that eat up both my lunch and prep-periods on a daily basis (and I haven’t even started grading work yet).  Since I moved schools over the summer, there is also a bit more groundwork that needs to be put in place at the start of the year.

I also haven’t had much fodder for new posts, since I haven’t been running nearly as much as I am accustomed to.  Between the summer heat, not having a lunch hour or part of a trip home, and trying to fit in family fun on the weekends, I dropped from 112 miles in June to just over 50 miles in both July and August.  Until the last few days, I’ve been biking the 3.4 miles to my new school, since I’ve been ferrying school supplies and work clothes into my classroom in my panniers (I love using that word.  It’s just so . . . French.)  In the three weeks I’ve been traveling to Kurt Hahn by bike, I noticed a few things:

  1. I really missed having a bike.
  2. There was a reason that I’d traded in my road bike for a mountain bike the last time I’d started commuting to work, namely all the potholes and broken asphalt.  Its dodgy enough biking alongside gypsy cabs without having to also to avoid gaping holes in the road.
  3. Between the terrible NYC roads and the terrible NYC drivers, biking to work is much more stressful than running to work, though also more of an early-morning adrenaline rush.  Drivers making sudden right turns without signaling is better than a double-espresso.
So as much as I was enjoying the freedom of a pair of wheels and my nifty new panniers, I was really looking forward to running into work.  I waited until I had my routine and lessons down, since running would get me to school a little later than biking, and I’d have a little less time to get organized and need a little more time to change.  Eventually my plan is to bike in Mondays and Fridays, so I can take papers and books to and from school, and run Tuesday through Thursday.  Just commuting, without having to find any other time to run, that would get me 21 miles a week; throw in one long-run on the weekend, and an out-of-the-way run home one evening, and I could get the 40+ miles I’d need to train for an ultra without a real scheduling problem at all.
I planed on running in Tuesday, but our babysitter showed up 10 minutes later than planned, which was just late enough to make running a bit tight, so I took my bike instead.  Wednesday, I finally ran into work.  Same route as my bike ride, but it reminded me that I am much more of a runner than biker, since as soon as I settled into an easy pace, it just felt right.  No having to look over my shoulder constantly to make sure a car wasn’t forcing itself right up on me, no starting and stopping at lights and intersections.  When I run, I don’t have to follow the flow of one-way streets; when there’s a red-light, I can simply turn and continue along another street, weaving towards my destination without worrying about traffic.  
And of course, there’s what I like most about running: the awareness of the entire distance between two points, without the distractions that come with biking, without the speed that acts as a barrier between the traveler and the journey.  I like the knowledge that I can travel to work without the need for any form of transportation, other than my own body.  (And, if I’m honest, I’m just egotistical enough to like the reactions of my co-workers when they ask where my bike is and I tell them I ran.)
So I ran Wednesday and Thursday, and planned to bike Friday — after two months of not running more than twice a week, I figured I should give my legs a rest and ease back into it.  
Then I got a flat-tire.  I figured I’d change it in the evening after M got back from work, but she had to work late, and by the time she got home it was bed time, then Angelica decided to stay up late and I fell asleep with her on the couch and didn’t wake up until after midnight.  So when I woke up Friday morning, I had a bike with a flat-tire, and I had two ways to get to work: an hour trip involving two different busses, or a 35 minute run.
So I ran.  My legs were tired, but it felt good to run with tired legs, good in that way that you know you are pushing yourself, that you recognize a weakness and chose to ignore it.  And at the end of the day, when I was exhausted from a whirl-wind week of teaching and getting up each day at 5:30 and having already run 18 miles in two and a half days after not having run more than 20 miles a week for the last three months, I laced up my shoes and ran home.  
***
In “The Art of War,” Sun Tzu says that when one is fighting a war on foreign territory far from home, one should burn one’s own boats, so that the only way home is through the defeat of one’s enemy.  This was part of why I was looking forward to teaching at Kurt Hahn — East Flatbush is only three and a half miles from our house, but nowhere near any public transportation.  When I’m tired, when its cold, when its raining, I won’t have a convenient alternative to biking and running.  And burning your boats — taking away the easy excuses — forces you to do what you are actually capable of, and what you actually want to do.  Running home, I was tired, my legs were sore, but I was happy.  I was happy running, and I was happy that I was running: despite being tired, despite my heavy legs.  
***
With any luck,  I’ll run into work three times next week as well.  As long as I have the time, I’ll have a few things to write about as well.  Two of my days this week I ran in my new Softstar RunAmoc Dash for the first time, so I’ve got a new great shoe to review (the last for a while, since I think I finally have every shoe I need).  And next weekend is the big NYC Barefoot Run!  Not only will it be two days of insane-hippy barefoot running workshops and un-races (run as far as you want!), but most of my RunSmiley Collective blog friends are coming to town for the weekend, so I’ll be getting to meet Katie and Angie and Jason and hopefully others (Vanessa? MGBG?) in real-life for the first time.  Should be fun, and should result in some great pictures and writing.  
In the mean time, I’m up with a toddler who has a cold but refuses to go to bed.  I’m wrapping this post up just as “Toy Story” finishes for the 10,000th time this week (I’ve got a great idea for a parent game-show: start playing a popular kids movie, then cut the sound, and see who can recite the dialogue, word-for-word, for the longest without making a mistake.  I swear I could do most of “Up” and all three “Toy Story” movies.)  With any luck, soon after Buzz and Woody land safely in Andy’s car, I can get some sleep.
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About Chris Van Dyke

I am a 33 year-old high school English teacher and long-distance runner. I live in Brooklyn with my partner, our 3 year-old son and 1 year-old daughter and a growing collection of muppets and trains. Besides running and teaching I like to draw, read, write, cook, and play the harmonica. While I didn't get to run my first ultra-marathon on my birthday, I've got a few more I've set my sights on. You can follow my (seldom updated) twitter feed @aboutrunning. I also blog as part of the Run Smiley Collective.
This entry was posted in Barefoot Running, Practical Runs, Routine, Runs, Teaching, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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