fitness · Guest Post · walking

Posting one step at a time (guest post)

(Here’s a guest post by blog reader– and friend of Catherine W: Fernanda F— on taking her relationship with Fitbit public. CW: very brief weight loss talk.)

Last year I decided that I wanted to be more fit and lighter. Okay, I am lying. I decided that a long time ago, but only in March 2018 did I start walking and posting my daily steps. The big difference was that I was posting my daily progress on social media. I didn’t think anything of it, except it was a way to make me feel better and boost my morale by getting the inevitable “likes”. Along the way I started feeling that I _had_ to walk, because gosh darn it, I have to post my goal for the day. So I walked.

Here’s an example of one of my “goal” days:

Fernanda's step count for a sample day, posted on Facebook.
Fernanda’s step count for a sample day, posted on Facebook. This one is 10,136 steps.

Now of course, if you are a bundle of insecurity and self-doubt like me, you don’t want to look bad. So sometimes I would skip the days I didn’t hit goal (note: my goal progressed and is now 10 thousand steps a day.) It’s not like there is an imaginary Facebook God keeping track of when you skip your posts. Or, your friends are not going to say, hey, what happened to Monday’s step goal? Did you have Wi-Fi problems or something? Of course not, people have lives. But I needed to practice honesty in all of my affairs, and I asked myself what would happen if I posted a non-goal day. I would give it a try.

Here’s an example of a “non-goal” day:

Sample step count for a "non-goal" day; this one is 5,630 steps.
Sample step count for a “non-goal” day; this one is 5,630 steps.

Then a funny thing happened. I got the same “likes” as with the goal days. On top of it, I also got encouraging comments. People would write “it all counts!” or “don’t give up!!”

So I kept on walking. And posting. The thing about Fitbit (and this is not an endorsement of any particular brand, that’s just the one I use) is that you can post either to their own platform or you can click on “elsewhere” and post to your social media. I tried posting to their platform but did not get anywhere. The few responses I got would invariably be from people whom I did not know. So by selecting the place where I usually go to (admittedly way too often) I was able to get the incentive and the feedback I needed. The very neat thing is that there is a way to post your daily progress with a picture instead of just a green background.

A screenshot of Happy Fernanda, reporting 10,334 steps, a nice lunch of lemon poundcake, and a nap. She is proud of enjoying the pound cake! Yum.
A screenshot of Happy Fernanda, reporting 10,334 steps, a nice lunch of lemon poundcake, and a nap. She is proud of enjoying the pound cake! Yum.

Because I did not want to bore people with my daily posts, I tried to write something different every day. I would write something simple like the exclamation “Boo Yah!” of something longer, explaining how I got to goal that day, writing about how I just walked in place in front of the television to get to ten thousand steps.

Most of my friends on social media are also colleagues at work. I was walking down the hall one day and someone I only see occasionally said to me “getting those steps in?!” I replied, “Yeah, I am walking down to the copy center…” and it took me a second to understand what she was saying. She was taking about my posts. Seeing my frown (those who know me understand that I do not have a poker face) she explained that she was inspired by what I was doing, and that she herself had decided to walk more, seeing my daily progress. I was stunned and a little embarrassed. I didn’t realize that this simple act of being accountable was having some sort of impact on others.

Then the “non-goal” days became more frequent. I was sick for about three weeks with a viral cold that would not go away. I didn’t walk some days or had very few steps each day. It did not stop people from being supportive, either on social media or in person. I found that to be even more amazing and supportive.

One stunning example was when I was mowing the lawn last summer, and a person stopped her car in the middle of the road in front of my house and yelled “get those steps in!” It was my neighbor, who is also a Facebook friend. It’s entirely possible that I have way too many “friends” for my own good. But in this case, it was indeed for my own good.

(Fernanda F is a professor of Foreign Languages, a determined and exploration-minded soul, frequent traveler, and fit feminist.)

Guest Post · running

Maybe I’m a runner (Guest post)

Something incredible happens after about a mile of running. It stops feeling hard. This is a revelation to me! Ancient memories of elementary school gym class, running the mile, feeling winded, sore in my ankles, knees, and hips, a stitch in my side, and gasping for air, had me convinced that running is a form of elective torture. But maybe it doesn’t have to be?

I run. I don’t run fast. I can’t run far. But I am improving, running faster, running further. And to my great surprise and delight, I am learning that the discomforts of running are often fleeting and balanced with a healthy dose of delight and enjoyment. In these moments, my body feels like it is flowing, gliding across the ground as my feet spring forward, gazelle-like. It is a lie I tell myself, or at least a happy fantasy, as no one would describe me as fleet-footed if they watched me run by, but this illusion of power and grace is good enough for me.

Is this the mythical “runner’s high” I’ve heard about? Somehow, I doubt it. I don’t feel high, I just feel ok, as opposed to feeling uncomfortable, a weird pressure behind my left knee, is that a blister forming on my right big toe?, hyperaware of each plodding footfall, each huffing breath. In the first mile or so, running is an exercise in optimism, it will get better, I remind myself as I push through it. And it seems absurd, until, suddenly, it does get better. And it is like this Every. Single. Time.

I keep expecting it to feel natural, easy. I am amazed it ever feels easy, but when does it feel right from the beginning? Does it ever feel that way? What does it take to get to feeling at ease from the start? How many miles do I need to put in? How fit do I need to become? Am I simply too large to be at ease in this sport? Runners are typically far leaner than I am, far leaner than I aim to become. Maybe the extra stress on my joints from my larger body means it will never feel like a natural fit. I have chosen weight-training and muscle-building over becoming swift and lean. At least, for now.

How cool is it, though, to realize that I can run and not hate it?! And why didn’t anyone ever tell me it gets better?

I played with running for a while before I figured out what works best for me. I suspect I have more trial and error ahead of me. What I have learned so far is that I need a good walking warm-up before I begin to jog, or my knees and hips yell at me, and I can’t go as far or as fast. Related to this, after a hard effort, I need to walk a while, or I get shaky and lightheaded. Apparently it has something to do with the blood pooling in your legs or something. I dunno. I just make sure to walk half a mile or so at the end. I’ve learned that unless I want to lift less often or less strenuously, I really only have one day a week right now that I can run. I just seem to need the rest time on the other off days.

I have learned that what I eat before I run really matters. No one tells you running starts to stop sucking after a while? Well, no one tells you it upsets your stomach, makes you want to poop, and gives you diarrhea for hours if you have too much fiber before a hard effort. I get it, it’s gross. But a little warning would have been nice. I have to carefully plan meals on my running days. This is another reason I can only fit it in one weekend running day a week. Avoiding fiber all day so I can run in the evenings doesn’t seem like a good long-term strategy.

I am still learning that the sport of running is all about the head-game. This has been a surprise to me as I’ve nerded out, reading Runner’s World articles and such. But there really isn’t a whole lot of talk about technique. There’s a lot of talk about mental strategy. How do you push yourself when you’re tired? How do you get your head ready for a long run? Or a fast run? How do you prepare yourself for the psychology of a race? This is not what lifters are concerned about. All the fitness literature I’ve read that is lifting-focused is on technique and programming. Generally, weightlifting gurus don’t seem all that concerned with your head. But runners are.

I am learning that this make sense. I can run further when I am mentally prepared for the effort. I do better with upbeat, empowering music in an ear, too. Hard-earned knowledge, like the fact that the aches and discomforts will ebb and flow are reassuring when it is difficult. It will get better. I find it reassuring to know that more-experienced runners have to train themselves to remember this fact, too.

So, I guess in that way, I am already a runner. Maybe it’s not a lot, but I’m putting in the miles. Maybe it’s not fast, but I am focusing on the work. I’m going out there and doing it, over and over, and learning along the way. And, honestly, it’s a wonderful, unexpected thing.

person wearing orange and gray Nike shoes walking on gray concrete stairsPhoto of person wearing orange and gray Nike shoes walking on gray concrete stairs. Photo from Unsplash.

Marjorie Hundtoft works as a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found picking up heavy things and putting them back down again in Portland, OR.

Guest Post · habits · running

Blue Dots (Guest Post)

By Aimée Morrison

There is a series of blue dots running across the bottom right of 241 of the 365 squares on the calendar that hung in my kitchen through 2018. Each blue dot represents one run—from the 5km Resolution Run in Kitchener on January 1, to the 12km long slow run doing 10-1s with my Running Room group on December 30.

The January 1 Resolution Run was the culmination of my get-back-to-running rehab after breaking my foot in September—jokingly, through November and December tentatively on the treadmill, I moved through what I called my “crutch to 5k” program. So the year began with a goal already met. And it’s ending that way too: it’s not that I’ve run in 2 different half marathons (Ottawa and Toronto) or that I trained with my daughter for her first 5km race—the Toronto Zoo Run in September. The real accomplishment of this year, for me, is the simple profusion of blue dots on my calendar, roughly 20 runs every month, about five runs a week, all year.

This year, I made running a habit. I became a runner because I’m someone who runs, regularly, and habitually, and as a matter of course. I run on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. I run when it rains and I run when it snows. I run in the dark and in the dawn and sometimes, like a dumbass, at noon in July. I run with my daughter, or with my husband. I run with my running clinic friends, and with their kids. Memorably, a dear colleague in Hawaii took me running three times during a five-day conference, under threat of hurricane: I don’t know if I’m more impressed that he showed me with sidewalks where he used to cross Haruki Murakami and the primary school that Barrack Obama attended, or that he found a really good 5km route inside a parking garage on campus when the weather really took a turn.

Some of these runs are really short and some are long, and some are easy and some are “hard efforts” and sometimes I feel like I could run forever and sometimes I feel like my arms and legs do not seem to be entirely under my complete control. I have suffered nervousness and social awkwardness and sore legs and bonking, but also finally experienced the runner’s high—and I like it.

If it’s a running day? I’m going to run. It has just become a thing that I do, without any rigamarole of negative self talk or advanced planning strategies or elaborate bargains with myself.

This year, I wore down two and a half pairs of shoes. I did unusually high numbers of surprisingly stinky loads of laundry. I bought a running fanny pack and learned what kinds of gels I like. I take magnesium pills so that I don’t screech and seize up every time I flex my toes. I have a drawer that has nothing but running clothes in it. I love that I’m that person now.

I’ve gotten smarter as a runner, and faster, and I can run a long slow distance pretty much forever as long as I’ve got a gel to gulp every 30 minutes. But that’s not the point, really. The point is those blue dots: run by run, dot by dot, I’ve made running a habit, as inevitable as brushing my teeth, as gratifying as Twitter, as regular as, well, the days of the week.

Aimée Morrison connects the dots as a runner, woman, academic, baker of Christmas cookies. She teaches and researches in social media life writing as an Associate Professor of English at the University of Waterloo. Winter person. ADHD / ASD. She/her. On Twitter @digiwonk

Guest Post

Once upon a time there was a leather jacket (Guest post)

By Andrea Zanin

Once upon a time there was a leather jacket.

I found it for thirty-five dollars on the clearance rack at Neon on St-Denis in Montreal sometime in the early aughts. Short, biker-style, enough hardware but not too much. It fit like it was made for me, though it wrinkled in the curve of my lower back.

I wore it home from the store and then I wore it and wore it and wore it. In the summer, laid over my shoulders when the night turned cool. In the winter, zipped sausage-like over a t-shirt, a sweater and a scarf. It kept me warm and kept me safe and kept me feeling like a stronger, more gleaming version of myself than perhaps I really was. The feeling was so good. It shaped to the sharp inward curve of my waist and strained over the equally sharp flare of my hips.

Once upon a time I had cancer. It started with pain, just an always kind of pain, slow and syrupy, and eventually, as the years went by, louder and heavier until I was trapped under it. I cried with relief when they found cancer on my spinal cord because that meant they could make the pain stop. And, with spinal surgery, they did. For a while.

Until it came back. First the pain, sharper and more random this time, no slowness, only fragile quiet followed by attacks so brutal they left me shaking and sobbing. Movement was terror, movement might make it bite.

My body changed with this stillness. Grew heavy and stiff. The leather jacket was shaped to a former version of me, a less painful body. It hung in the closet and grew stiff as well.

Nothing appeared on a scan this time. Two and a half more years went by—years filled with nerve injections and canes and experiments with drugs that didn’t work—before the cancer finally showed itself. They opened me up again, extracted it again, stapled me closed. This time, they would not take any chances. This time radiation would melt the remnants lodged too deep in my spinal cord to slice away. Invisible energy would dissolve this strange glue gumming up my nerves.

Six weeks of daily zapping. Nausea and exhaustion. But eventually, no more pain.

It was hard to trust at first. Twenty-three years of pain doesn’t just… stop. Surely, there must be a catch.

My body grew. I felt weird all the time. Hot flashes, night sweats that soaked the sheets. My blood felt like sludge, moving reluctantly through my veins. My feet hurt all the time. My hair thinned. I stopped bleeding each month. My fingers felt tight, like sausages. Every system in my body was grinding to a halt.

Turns out that, as it melted the dregs of my tumour, the radiation fried my ovaries. Months of waiting on a doctor to believe me, weeks of waiting for tests, months more to see an endocrinologist, months again for the tiny purple pills to come up to full effect. Months of steady expansion. My body was huge. My leather jacket looked like it was made for a doll version of me, for a child, for a me that wasn’t me anymore. Seeing it in the closet, I mourned.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with fat. We need it for our bodies to work, for our brains to operate. Fat is functional, glorious and beautiful, and so are fat people. But I did not feel functional, glorious or beautiful. I felt awkward and unwieldy, like all my organs were taking up too much space, like my food sat in my guts for too long, like I couldn’t bend or stretch freely.

I know why fat folks hate dietitians and doctors: because these professionals truly think losing weight is a kind of mathematics. Ingest fewer calories than you burn, and you shrink. And it is not mathematics. It is genetics, hormones, metabolism, trauma. It is dozens of factors. It is chronic pain and missing spinal bones. I will not starve myself or count calories. I will not give up dark chocolate or cheese. There is nothing wrong with my lifestyle. What’s wrong is cancer, what’s wrong is menopause dropping like a bomb in my body, what’s wrong is bullshit BMI and scales. I don’t care how much I weigh. Pounds are not a meaningful unit of measure. I want to be able to move. I want to digest properly. I want my systems to come back online.

I also know why movies created a thing called the training montage. It’s because the endless grind of transforming oneself, of healing, is boring as fuck. Doctors and pills, stretching against stubborn scar tissue, sweating to rev up a metabolism that’s fighting hard to stay sluggish. Frustration and tears. I want a body I can live with. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be me, a decade older, with more tattoos and a wearier soul. Thicker is fine. Stronger is great. But me. Can I get me back, please?

There is no success story here, no happily ever after. No thinspo or fitspo because shut the fuck upspo. I am not skinny and I don’t want to be. But after three and a half years of caring for this body post-trauma, of prescriptions and MRIs, of cycling every single day I can manage it, of yoga, of Epsom salts and magnesium citrate and digestive enzymes and vitamin B, of blood tests and ultrasounds, things have changed. I am not the me I was at twenty-three on St-Denis. But I’m a me I can live with. I’m a me that can move.

Tonight, I biked downtown, in the city I now call home, and went to try on leather jackets. I heard there was a clearance rack buried in the belly of a Yonge Street mall.

I slipped one jacket over my broader shoulders, and zipped it up over my heftier hips and fuller breasts. This jacket, inky and fragrant, dipped in at the sharp inward curve of my waist and hiked up a bit at the outward flare of my hip, which made it wrinkle at my lower back right over the place where scars now trace the line of my absent bones. Above the gleaming biker-style zipper, the collar brushed against the velvet nape of my neck.

Under the overhead light of the store, my face was sharp, cheekbones older. My crow’s feet crinkled in the mirror, and I said:

I’ll take it.

Andrea Zanin has written for the Globe and Mail, The Tyee, Bitch, Ms., Xtra, IN Magazine, Outlooks Magazine and the Montreal Mirror. Her scholarly work, fiction and essays appear in a variety of collections. She blogs at http://sexgeek.wordpress.com and tweets at @sexgeekAZ.

Guest Post · racing · running

How I Came to Run (Guest post)


by Christine Dirks

In my early forties I worked from home and would go for a walk mid-day to clear my head. If I was puzzling over something by the time I was home I had an answer. Three years later the half hour walk was more than an hour. I’d been active before but a routine was something new and I loved it.  One day, while walking, I thought, “Run for a few blocks and see how it feels.” It felt good. 


The running increased. Within a year I was running the route six days a week. Sometimes my son, then in late grade school, would ride his bike alongside. Often I’d pick a spot a few blocks away and run as fast as I could telling myself, “Go. Go. Go.” One summer when my sister was visiting she asked how far my route was. I didn’t know. “I’m going to measure it” she said. I wrote down the route which she then drove. She returned smiling, “It’s 10k.”


In 1998 I returned to university to earn my Masters in Journalism and I kept running. In many ways running kept things together. It was the busiest year of my life. I was working part time and my son was in grade nine with lots of homework requiring many trips to the library. We shared the one computer. Running relieved stress, gave me time to think about assignments and tell myself, as often as I needed to hear it,  “You can do it”.  When I was wondering about applying to the Masters program, I told my sister I was concerned about how tough the year would be. “Yes” she said. “But in a year it’ll be over and you’ll have your degree.” She was right and in that year I learned I could manage a lot more than I’d thought possible.

 
I never considered doing a race until I watched the 2000 New York City Marathon on tv and saw the lead women in those final few miles racing hard to the finish line. Their effort was palpable. In the summer of 2001 I registered for the fall marathon in Niagara Falls and joined a running group. One morning while waiting for the group to gather I noticed a poster in the store window. It was the age group qualifying times for the Boston Marathon. Now I had a goal. I was determined to meet the qualifying time for my age group and run Boston the following spring.


The training runs with the group were fun and the longer the runs the more I liked it. Half way through the summer I stopped taking walk breaks telling myself, “You’re not going to walk in the marathon so don’t walk in the training runs”. I had planned on not doing a race before the marathon. Then a running friend said it would be good to do one as I’d know how to handle nerves and pacing. It was good advice. I ran a half marathon and a month later as I approached the finish line at the Niagara Falls marathon and saw the time on the big clock I yelled “YES!!”.  I’d qualified for Boston.

I’m 67. I’ve run 181 races. I look forward to more runs, races, fun times with the running group and new challenges. This September I ran a 50 mile event. Had someone told me when I was that 12 year-old girl that sometime I would run 50 miles I would likely have laughed and said, “I don’t think so.” But as with many other things in life, you never know until you try. 


Christine Dirks is a writer and editor in London ON.  Early in her career she worked in the Toronto book publishing industry where she specialized in international marketing. Later she wrote two weekly columns and features for The London Free Press. Her work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Canadian House & Home, Canadian Gardening, Azure and other publications. Christine currently provides research, writing and editing services for individuals and organizations. 

Guest Post · weight loss · winter

Baby, it’s cold outside (Guest post)

By Eleanor Brown

It was a quite chilly minus 12, so I popped outside yesterday, without a coat, and stood in the driveway for a good 10 minutes, shivering. All in all, I’d call that a good day of exercise.

There was an unseasonable cold snap, you see. It was too icy for a bicycle ride, and too cold this early in the season for my as-yet non-acclimatized body to cope with its usual meandrey hour-long walk. Ah, but a good shiver… that’s some good calorie-killing time well spent.

Why? I was following advice, of course. I found it on the internet. Even better, I found it on a media website. Of a sort, anyway. The write-up is all about the horrors of winter weight gain. Ten pounds, on average!

To wit: « The shift to colder, winter weather often makes us feel lethargic and deters our motivation to go outside.

« But before you pull over the blankets or curl up by the fire to watch your favorite show, you should consider the potential benefits of cold-weather workouts.

« Exercising outdoors in colder weather has numerous health benefits. The average winter weight gain ranges from 5-10 pounds, Senior Director of Clinical Nutrition at Mt. Sinai Rebecca Blake told Accuweather. » That’s a weather website that makes money money as an app on my phone (and perhaps, on yours , too.)

Oh, there’s a lot of good stuff in the story. Winter exercise offers a bit of vitamin D via the faint sunlight exposure. It helps keep your body stronger in terms of immunity from colds, etc. The chill keeps you awake and cool, helping with temperature regulation. I buy all that.

But in the end it’s all about the thin : Winter exercise helps « ease fears of potential winter weight gain.»

It turns out that being outside in the winter can switch that terrible, horrible no good white belly and thigh fat into the Best. Fat. Ever. Yes, behind door number two you’ll find a transmogrification of the nasty bad stuff into the fantabulous calorie-burning brown fat. (Don’t ask me, it’s some miraculous sciencey thing.)

But when it’s very, very cold, I often just say no.

Thank goodness there’s this short-term option.

« Shivering, a mechanism to produce heat, also burns a significant amount of calories. Studies have shown that people expend five times more energy when shivering, compared to when they are resting. »

Now if I could just convince myself to stand outside every horrifically frigid winter day in shorts… why then, life would be perfect. Sadly, I am walking outside while wearing an undershirt today, and am therefore much fatter than I should be.

Damn.

Eleanor Brown lives in Quebec, and as the Gilles Vigneault song goes, « Mon pays, c’est l’hiver » (my country, ‘tis winter).

fitness · Guest Post · race report · racing · running

Left and Right (Guest Post)

by Amy Kaler

The road is never neutral. You are always moving towards something or away from something, bearing dread, hope, anticipation, longing, as you go. No one is the same at the beginning of the road as at the end.

Roads are also risky. “Highwayman” was once a synonym for the worst sort of thieves, a “roadhouse” is a place where bad things can happen, and when someone titles a novel “The Road”, you know it’s not going to end well. By now, there may be nothing new that can be said about a road – the metaphor itself as exhausted as the travellers.

Speaking of exhausted –

In mid-September, I was running on a road near Banff, Alberta, and I was exhausted. It was my first official road race – Melissa’s Race, 10KM – and along with several thousand other people, I was pushing through rain, snow, sleet, freezing mud, and cold water in all its forms. The weather was not just bad, it was apocalyptic. At the end of the race I ran into a friend who regularly runs Death Marathons and the like, and he used words like “gruelling” and “excruciating”. So now you know I did make it to the end of the road. But I am getting ahead of myself.

By the second kilometre I wanted to give up. My knees hurt, my chest hurt, I could not run uphill in slush and breathe at the same time. I wondered desperately if somewhat dramatically whether it was possible that I would actually die, just fall over and die, in mid-race, and whether that would be better or worse than giving up and revealing myself as a quitter who couldn’t handle the road. This run is supposed to be visually spectacular, circling upward through mountains, but all I could see was the metre right in front of my wet shoes, and the peripheral view of other runners moving steadily past me. My MP3 player with its curated inspirational running music had given up on me a few hundred meters in, so I jammed the cord into my phone and listened to the same six Fleetwood Mac songs over and over. I had to stop. But I had to continue.

After a while I became aware of my feet. At first I noticed my feet because they were not cold, unlike most of the rest of me. Then I became aware of my feet running, side to side, right and left and right, like a pendulum swinging fast while moving forward. The oscillation started to weave into my monotonous survival-focused thoughts. I’m overwhelmed, I can’t keep going. I can do another hundred steps. I can’t do another hundred steps, I’m going to die. I can do another fifty steps. I can’t breathe any more. But I AM still breathing because I’m having this thought which I couldn’t have without oxygen in my brain. I have to stop before we get to the hill. I can keep going up the hill.

Eventually the thoughts narrowed down to I can’t run/I can run. I have to stop/I won’t stop. Left, right, left-and-right. Breathe in, breathe out. I can’t/I can. I have to/I won’t.

Many things invaded my mind, my imagination skittering around a wealth of images because linear thought was not really happening. I was bouncing amongst all the times when we say yes and no, real and unreal, what is and what isn’t, known and unknown. I was Vladimir and Estragon, who can’t go on/ will go on. I was a fresh Marine recruit at boot camp (when I first typed that, I wrote “boot can’t”) marching in cadence: I don’t know/But I’ve been told. I was a hundred therapists and yogis and spiritual teachers breathing: in with the good air, out with the bad.

Am I the only runner in the history of Melissa’s Race to fantasize that I was a yoga teacher? Left, right, left-and-right.

Every step was a question and a choice. Can I? I can. Left side, right side. I did not have the clean precision of a metronome. I was irreducibly organic and visceral, not mechanical. I tripped over roots, skidded on a Dixie cup discarded at one of the water stations and doubled-over a couple of times when I truly couldn’t breathe any more. I kept falling out of rhythm and then falling back into it. Left, right, sideways, then left-and-right again.

I have read that neurologists use diverse forms of bilateral stimulation, alternating sounds or pulses or light on the left side and right side of the body in order to calm erratic nerves and to help people integrate traumatic or awful memories into their present selves. I met no trauma ghosts as I was running, and even now as I write this, the awfulness of the cold and wet has moved away from me, become something I describe rather than something that I feel. But I can easily believe that the left-and-right, one-side-the-other-side, movement helped to draw me through a physically pretty intense experience.

I also believe that this back-and-forth of running opens into a bigger experience of ambivalence and contradiction. I’m in danger/I’m okay. I can/I can’t. I am/I am not. And all the while I am moving forward while I’m tiring out. I am not enjoying this road, but I’m not getting off it either.

You never know how far you can go until you stop, and at last I did stop, with ten kilometres behind me. In the final kilometre, my glasses fogged up so I was running through a fuzzy translucence in which I had to trust that there was an actual road in front of me, which is probably a metaphor for something. At the end of the road, I was indeed not the same person who began it. When I started, I didn’t know if I was the person who could run ten kilometres in terrible weather. I thought I was the person who would give in to the road, who might be humiliated by weakness and failure.

But I did get to the end of the road. I did it one step at a time, but more vividly, I did it step by step by step by step. I have to stop/I can keep going. I can’t breathe/I’m still breathing. I can’t/I did.

Amy Kaler is a professor and associate chair in the department of sociology at the University of Alberta. Her academic work can be found here: https://sites.google.com/ualberta.ca/amykaler/home?authuser=2. Her nonacademic writing about Edmonton can be found here: https://edmontonseries.wordpress.com/