My middle school gym teacher did a cartwheel on her 60th birthday. I’ll never forget it. After we all assembled underneath the basketball net, donning our hideous blue and gold reversible uniforms, she announced her birthday and told us she’d been doing a cartwheel on her birthday for as long as she could remember and that day would be no different. “As you get older,” she said, looking out at our dewy and wrinkle-less faces, Read more
Posts tagged ‘running’
One of my favorite (and lately, one of my only) trail races of the year – the Double Dipsea – took place Saturday. A stunningly beautiful and gruelingly difficult 13.7 mile trail race, the Double Dipsea is one of three primary races that take place on Marin County’s famous Dipsea trail every year. The most famous of the three is the Dipsea, a 7.5 mile race that has been held annually since 1905, making it the oldest trail running event in the United States. For super aggressive runners, there is also a 28.4 mile Quad Dipsea race.
The Double Dipsea course starts in Stinson Beach, CA, runs to Mill Valley, CA, and turns around and heads back to finish Stinson Beach where runners often cool their burning calves and wash away the inevitable poison oak in the frigid waters of the Pacific. The terrain is serious – climbing and descending a total of 4,500 feet over uneven single-track footpaths. The heat can be unrelenting (it was this year). There are a few harrowing descents, made more dangerous by the elite runners bounding down them body lengths at a time, seemingly floating from step to step. Six hundred and seventy-one stairs descend into and out of the halfway point in Mill Valley, shocking first-timers and still surprising the veterans.
Despite all of this – actually, because of all of this – the Double Dipsea is a magical race. It’s a “handicap race,” meaning that everyone (regardless of age or gender) has a chance to win. Basically, the oldest women start first (about an hour before the race officially starts), and the 20- and 30-something men start last. While a 27-year-old guy won this year’s race, a 73-year-old man came in 12th. It’s an amazing feeling to near Mill Valley – having traversed massive hills and soaked in sweeping views – and see the first grey-haired athletes running toward you, heading back to finish line. May we all be so lucky. This format makes it feel like everyone is in it together, reflecting the strong camaraderie that marks trail running in general — fiercely competitive and overwhelmingly embracing at the same time.
And so, I head back to the Double Dipsea year after year, lured by the history of the trail, the spirited volunteers, the friendly locals, a committed groups of friends, the challenge of the course, and the heart of the tribe who know and run it. Who’s in for next year?
Do you have a favorite race or event? When did you get hooked on it, and why do you love it?
A friend recently sent me a blog post about running in Paris, or “Le Jogging” (thanks Kim), which was a great commentary on how different cultures think about exercise. Here’s an excerpt I loved:
“While I get the sense that Parisians are becoming more and more intrigued by fitness, there is still something funny about watching a Parisian jog with intent….I’m referring to the ones who run as if they’re making a pact to themselves that they can still smoke and drink to their heart’s content as long as they squeeze in a half-hour circuit; their stride is wobbly and their cheeks are betterave (beet) red. I’m convinced they would much rather be in bed, sweating à deux.”
Like food, the ways people around the world think about exercise (what it is, why it matters, when and how to do it) vary dramatically. I saw this firsthand during the summer of 2007 when I joined a team of 20 runners to run around the world (literally) for safe drinking water. We ran relay-style, 24 hours a day from NYC to NYC via Boston, Dublin, Paris, Minsk, Moscow, Ulan Bator, Beijing, Hiroshima, San Francisco, Chicago, and Toronto (you can see the full route in a very beautiful book called Blue Planet Run, available on Amazon). It took us 95 days to circumnavigate the globe — with each of us running 10 miles per day.
Along the way we learned a ton about the way that people live, and as a byproduct of being on the road at all hours of the day and night, how people think about exercise. To start, I learned that “formal” exercise is flat out foreign in some places (“no, I’m not being chased”)…clear skies and fresh air shouldn’t be taken for granted (think insane horseflies in Belarus and oppressive smog in China)….workout fuel doesn’t need to come wrapped in plastic (beer, yak cheese, and horse meat do just fine for many)…and exercise doesn’t to be an “activity,” it can be a way of life. More on all of this to come…
The world is a big place, and travel is the best reminder that what we think is “normal” might not look that way somewhere else. What has travel taught you about exercise and overall well-being? Has travel changed the way you live your everyday life?
A few months ago, I got a haircut from my mom’s stylist in rural Wisconsin (who definitely gave fancy SF stylists a run for their money, btw). Rather than fashion magazine clips or shiny mirrors, his studio walls were dotted with race photos and medals. I loved this first, because he was proud and passionate wanted to share that; and second, because it gave me a softball topic to talk to him about, eliminating the awkward “so, what did you do this weekend?” banter I dread when someone new cuts my hair. When I told him I was a runner too, his first question was why. I fumbled through a bunch of reasons and then flipped the question back to him. His answer was elegant and simple and awesome: “I run because I can.” Read more