Category Archives: Running

The Best Burrito

Zach Bell, Yale University

This may not look like the best burrito I have ever eaten. In fact, this burrito looks woefully shrunken in the middle, wrinkled, not stuffed to bursting like a paragon burrito should. Despite its visual deficiencies, I can assure you that this was a burrito sent from the heavens.

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Filed under Essays, New Haven, Running, Yale, Zach B.

Marathoning: A Ten Minute Reflection on the Ordinary

A ten minute writing exercise for a class I’m taking this semester, Ordinary Romanticism. The prompt: describe your ordinary.

The ordinary is the space in between steps, breaths, heartbeats—the inexplicable pause in flight as one hamstring stretches back, drawing bands of tendon across kneecap and retracting the foot in one long arc, the other thrusting forward, a transformation of flesh into energy, body translated across space. Running (every morning) begins in the gray fog of the Hudson, where I can barely detect outlines of old docks and a crane poised to rip rotting timber from the water. I live in Morningside Heights, close to Riverside Park and a few jogging paths, so I step outside and start running immediately, allowing the urban and the real to recede in my peripheral vision. When I am running, by the river, in January, my imagination flickers like a projector running scratched film. For an instant, I run along the Charles, another, a beach in South Carolina or Greece, or sometimes I return to the Cumberland—last summer, I injured my knee and could not run, only walk, past the Country Music Hall of Fame to the Cumberland Greenway. I enjoy revisiting that site of defeat and running past my tired and hurting, ancient, memorialized self.

If ordinary is defined in its negative term, that which is not extraordinary, then running is a paradox. It simultaneously celebrates an expression of the body extraordinary and frees the mind to fixate on nothingness. In The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Mishima describes the world as beautiful only in its reflexive state: as illuminated on a pond, in the moonlight, or reflective of the titular structure itself. Similarly, running and the ordinary are beautiful and coterminous because they capture the permanence of impermanence: the space in between the spokes, where the usefulness of the wheel can be found. And it is in the space between strides that the body and mind are, spiritually, in a state of ordinary perfection.

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Filed under Columbia University, New York City, Running

Marathoning: Back to Basics

This summer, I injured my iliotibial band. From June to August, I walked and swam to maintain my cardiovascular fitness while I went through withdrawal. Running is an addiction like any other; it requires regular feeding. After adopting an extensive stretching and strengthening routine, I finally began to build my mileage. Although I had been injured previously and taken time off from running, I had never been forced to curtail my activity so dramatically. Back at square one, I had my moments of weakness: I insisted that I was done with running, that I would never run again, that I was finished as a runner, that I needed to move on with my life and forget the joy of running. But once a runner, always a runner. Continue reading

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Filed under Columbia University, Dining Suggestions, New York City, Restaurants, Running

Sockerbit: Salty Licorice

In our lives, places call to us at our right times. I returned to New York Friday afternoon for my junior year at Columbia. Instead of finding friends and dinner uptown, I wandered the narrow, posh corners of Bleecker Street. That morning, flying low over Queens headed towards LaGuardia, my plane seemed liable to scrape the bay. To steady my suddenly religious hands, I listened to Bruce Springsteen’s The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle, an album fixated on lost lovers and New York’s intestinal streets. Springsteen’s voice hesitates on every bridge, immature and tentative, still sounding its own depth. For instance, “Kitty’s Back” is written in lo0se, sprawling lines that take more meaning from sandy intonation than narrative coherence. “Cat somehow lost his baby down on Bleecker Street,” Springsteen sings—Cat lost Kitty to “some city dude,” yet, he remains helplessly in love.  I went for a run looking for Cat’s baby, looking for Kitty or whatever provoked Springsteen to devote seven minutes and nine seconds chronicling the nightmarish underground villages of Lower Manhattan. Following Riverside Park south along the Hudson where sedge and ornamental grass grow up to the old piers, I skirted the water and the wind. Down along those wooden wrecks, Manhattan still smells like a port. The white graceful pleasure boats bobbing there in the dirty Hudson could still haul black fish and spill their guts. The corrupted skeletons of stevedores and dock cranes could still reanimate, rising in creaking rusted iron piles.

Off the park the neighborhood slips from thick warehouses to brownstones. The intimate corners of Bleecker Street soak up the light of many starry marketing executives. They drink Riesling and eat spaghetti con vongole. They are grapes swollen and rotting in their own skins. Among those woolly sweaters of Phylloxera I never found Kitty, just women wearing garments sewn from yellow flies. I did, however, catch a spot of unblemished, enchanting skin. It called to me in the hushed diastole of the Hudson’s malformed waves.

There is a quiet and studiously clean candy store on Christopher Street called Sockerbit, and last night, I found myself reading Swedish candy labels with a marvelous intensity. Continue reading


Filed under Columbia University, New York City, Running

Triathloning: Heat Acclimation with Aged Duck

In my last triathloning column, I discussed my dislike of swimming.

72 degrees and I’m schvitzing. Central Park feels like an oven, roasting me to a perfect degree of doneness. Gusts of warm air buffet my back, and I start counting down the miles to a water break. Going from Fargo—a frigid 55 in the mornings—to New York shocked my system. Simple runs proved unnaturally difficult and I dreaded heading out into the “heat.” Explaining my poor performance as a problem of “heat acclimation” seemed ridiculous, since I was actually exercising at room temperature. But with high humidity intensifying the temperature and a poorly prepared personal thermostat, I was experiencing all the symptoms of heat acclimation: an inability to sweat enough, a too high concentration of salt in my sweat, and accelerated heart rate. Continue reading

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Filed under Running, Triathlon

Marathoning: The Fargo Marathon (Part 2)

Yesterday, I wrote about what it means to be a consistent winner.

In every race, there is a moment that justifies the struggle and legitimates the pain. At the 20th mile marker, I encountered a man sporting a too tight t-shirt and an impressive Jewfro. He  enthusiastically beat a cowbell, dancing to his own music. As I ran past, I shouted, “More cowbell!” He beat that cowbell even harder, and I ran faster. Since the Fargo marathon bills itself as “Rock ‘n Roll,” bands line up along the course. From a solitary man plucking a banjo on his front porch to a garage band playing heavy metal, the acts were humble and inspiring, head-scratching and repellent. Unlike at the St. Louis marathon, Fargo residents blanket the entire route, listening to their local talent and cheering on the runners. When legs start to give out, it helps to hear a cowbell’s manic rhythm. Continue reading

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Marathoning: The Fargo Marathon (Part 1)

In my last Marathoning column, I talked about the taper.

“To be a consistent winner means preparing not just one day, one month, or even one year—but for a lifetime.” –Bill Rodgers

This quote hung on my wall from September to May. Every morning, I woke up and paused, readying myself for the run ahead. Anyone who has ever laced a pair of shoes and headed into the dawn understands the trepidation that presages pain. The first step is infinitely harder than the second; the instant of decision in which we commit to the run is a resignation to discomfort. To become a runner is to become deaf, to ignore the seductive whisper of a warm bed and its comforting caress. We run to know our strength, our discipline, our tireless struggle against our imperfections. Continue reading

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