The notion that you can sweat out a cold, that you can purify your body through effort and that the water that beads on your skin and pours in rivulets to the floor is carrying with it the remnants of the virus or the contagion that made you feel bad–it’s so compelling an idea that it’s hard to let go of it. Science says no, all you are doing is sweating, and what’s more you are diverting energy your body needs to fight disease. You will likely get more sick rather than less from it.
It feels so right, though, that it makes me wonder about modes of knowing, makes me think about how science can only describe and say so much. Surely the body has its own wisdom and instructs us in ways that we can’t quantify or rationalize.
I used to justify smoking when I was sick by imagining the hot smoke purifying my lungs, making an autoclave in my ribs, burning out the disease. That too felt right and true in my body.
So maybe it’s not a battle between the body’s wisdom and rational knowledge, but between pleasure and…what. The sweat of a sick body prickles the skin like sleep does, makes the sick body–which is so within itself, so cut off from the world by its misery—feel a kind of pleasure that’s almost like reanimation. A feeling of aliveness in that sweat, at that boundary between body and air, vital and desirable and pleasurable.
Of course there is also this: a mind in a diseased body is a mind in disorder. And sweat, effort, exertion help restore order. The body works and the mind settles into its traces.
I think all the time of a thoroughbred I saw early one morning on a practice track in Saratoga. The horse could not walk straight. It pulled and strained against its bridle. It pranced sideways and threw its head. But the minute it began to run, it was as beautiful and measured an animal as I’ve ever seen. Maybe it’s that the way illness disorders the mind is more uncomfortable than the illness itself, and so we rationally choose to exercise. If it prolongs our illness, it also brings us back to ourselves, even if only briefly.
When I think like this I wonder: what will I do when my body no longer works?
You better run, you better take cover.
Dry reeds, puffy clouds, violent winds. Spring in the hills.
There are some good old buildings still tucked in among the monstrosities of the New New Williamsburg. As long as we’ve lived here I’ve kept myself from taking pictures of them, afraid of seeing myself as a kind of hipster nostalgist. But I realized over the weekend that the only result of my avoidance is that I have no pictures of the neighborhood as it was when we moved in, and things have changed so dramatically since then that without those photos it’s almost impossible to believe that Williamsburg ever was as I remember it. It’s not so much that I feel nostalgia for those days–though I do miss, say, the Dutch Mustard building–as that I feel something like instability, a sense that I can’t quite believe things once were as i remember them. And I’m a newcomer. I’ve only been here to see the last 14 years of change. I cannot imagine what it must be like for people who grew up here. I have had a feeling that the distinguishing characteristic of native New Yorkers is not their toughness but their ability to shrug off massive change to their built environment, to resist the kinds of attachment that drive the rest of us to establish historic preservation societies. Doorways like this one remind me there’s still a lot to cherish here, for now. (And that this building was once also considered a monstrosity, and that some Victorian-era hipster nostalgist wrung his hands over the pace of change in his old stomping grounds….) #explore #williamsburg #whyirun #spring (at Williamsburg NYC)
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The first evening of spring weather, air cool, dry, and clear, lights crisp and sun setting a deep warm band behind the building across the water. You want to run in this weather because you want to dissolve into it, open your lungs and take deep draws of the air. It’s air like water at body temperature, so you almost fail to notice that you’ve slipped into it. It’s the kind of air you want to float naked in. Running on a night like this you feel yourself merge with the sky in a way you cannot do by walking, or by running under clouds. It can make everything feel perfect, all the little glimmers of beauty in the day stand out and set while everything else—the anxieties that chase you through your days, the fears and failures–recedes.
Right before I left to run tonight I was reading an essay in the Virginia Quarterly Review about the migrant crisis, the words of a photographer who’d gone to shoot the rescue of a boat full of refugees that was sinking in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. “I imagined search-and-rescue missions as crashing through waves to reach a vessel in distress in traumatic weather. But it isn’t like that on the Med. It’s clear-bue water, a beautiful blue sky. This gorgeous blue boat is filled with people….And suddenly you’re confronted with it: On what should be a beautiful day, there they are, risking their lives on a boat that’s sinking.” @vqreview #whyirun #running #drowning (at Williamsburg Bridge)
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For some reason–fear of being maudlin and kitschy, I guess–I’d never retraced my steps from from the morning of Sept. 11th before today. But as I was on my way over the bridge from Williamsburg this morning, I thought: why not? I dropped down below the bridge to our old apartment on Grand and East Broadway, then ran over the streets the @jet_racy & I took to work every morning: down Rivington across Chrystie, where we first noticed that there were more sirens in the air than normal. Down Prince to Mercer, where we saw the hole in the side of the first tower, and to West Broadway, where we parted ways and I rode in the direction of the WTC to get a closer look. So much has changed in the city since then that I had trouble matching where I stood to places I’ve stared at in pictures for 14 years, but the post office at Canal and Church, where I saw this happen, is pretty much the same. This morning, when I turned the corner and saw the postal trucks and remembered standing there with postal workers trying to understand what was going on, I collapsed in sobs, to my great surprise. And then I restarted my watch and ran on. #whyirun #keeponrunning #september11
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Day 5 began with the greatest run of my life: 13 miles (and 2500’ of climbing) from Eixample up along Carretera de les Aigües, an urban running trail like none other: graded dirt, jasmine spilling over old stone walls, fields of blooming wild fennel, prickly pear in full fruit, views of mountains and the city and the sea, water fountains anywhere you could need them, and actual technical trails off the sides for when you feel like careening around like Killian Jornet. I’ve never felt so lucky. #whyirun #porquecorro #runwithstrava #runforlife (at Carretera de les Aigües)
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