by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations

CharityMiles first came to my attention through Patrick Rothfuss, who hopes to be able to use the app to help fund his Worldbuilders charity. He brought it to his readership’s attention because of PokemonGo — if everyone was already out and about hunting pokemon, after all, why not use all that walking for good? The app translates mileage into donation dollars for a charity of your choice, and while Worldbuilders isn’t currently an option, it is a team. The hope is that if the team games enough visibility, the app will let the Worldbuilders charity itself onto the list of potential charities to which to donate your hard-earned miles.

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In the meantime, however, would-be Worldbuilders donors are encouraged to send our miles to whatever charity we wish. And here I encountered a problem.

I run. A lot. I would have run a 50 mile race this spring if family health events hadn’t took a turn for the worst, and I have the MCM coming up this fall. (Yes, I am sorry Tim — this is a running post. Sort of.) I have, then, a decent amount of miles to pitch toward whatever charity I choose, and at first the choice was easy. I started scrolling through the then-alphabetized list (it has since been re-organized by other parameters, it seems — perhaps popularity, or perhaps the organizations compete to be first on the list?), saw the Alzheimer’s Association, and boom. Done.

Except it wasn’t.

I used to try to come up with mental games for running having to do with my mother and memory loss, it’s true. When first trying to acclimatize myself to longer distances, I would grow fatigued and try to trick myself into continuing with phrases like “if you just reach that tree before that guy, or the tracks in time to see the train, your mom will get well!” This is, at its heart, a childish gimmick doomed to failure, I know. I knew it then, too. But in the exhaustion of a 20+ mile run I was able to enjoy, in the sense-deadened alternate reality of the exhausted runner, the illusion that something I did, physically, mattered. That I could ask of my body something that would actually help my mother.

The CharityMiles app, it seemed, was an opportunity to live that fantasy. Suddenly my mileage did matter. I could exhaust my body in exchange for the knowledge that I’d contributed, however little, to a fund that would ideally go to research that would help combat, prevent, or mitigate the effects of the disease. Taking my former mental tricks as a cue, the opportunity to use the CharityMiles app to send money toward the Alzheimer’s Association should have delighted me.

But…I don’t send my miles that way.

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Why? Because it felt selfish.

Hear me out. I talk about this disease all the time. I do this though it sometimes makes people around me a little squeamish. I do this because it seems logically unlikely to me that the reverse — trying to suppress my knowledge of this looming cloud over my life — would be healthy. So when my sisters-in-law waste their precious years left with their mother belittling her or encouraging these petty squabbles, I seethe. And I say so. When I am happily enjoying @midnight only to see their comedy team dip again into the rich pool of material that is mocking people too old and out of sorts to fight back, I fume. I don’t presume to go on some sort of Twitter tirade about these events with the expectation that such a tirade get results, but I don’t try to suppress such reactions in the privacy of my own home (or, often, car) either. It’s everywhere, for me. Every time Hulu forces me to watch an ad of a happy older mother at her daughter’s first this, that or the other; every time my dad complains to me about a coworker going on some romantic holiday trip with his wife, I am saddened. And because sadness is useless to me, I am then angry. Which is at least energizing, versus the paralysis of sorrow.

What I am saying is that Alzheimer’s is an ever-present fact of my life. And it’s true that as baby boomers age, it is becoming a larger fact of many other lives, too. But insisting that that scrap of dawn-lit running I do, too, be wrapped up in this years-long avalanche of fury and regret is something I am no longer willing to do. It feels too much. It is — I am — asking too much, when it and I demand that every moment everyone else still has with their healthy, cognizant mother be tender and thoughtful. It is asking too much that I demand of the technology I carry around with me daily to grant me the illusion that my very ability to move can help. It’s a gimmick, as much if not more than my “you’ll cure her if you run faster!” ruse. It’s a gimmick I’m tired of trying to believe in, because even if they figured something out tomorrow, they can’t bring back what is already lost. You can’t reconstruct memories that are already gone.

I can, however, seek to ensure that what memories other people, healthy people, create are able to be made in the places I hold dear. That’s why I send my mileage instead to the National Park Service.

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Again, it’s paltry, I know. They are so underfunded and so underappreciated that my puny dollars won’t reconstruct sliding path slopes or fight off the demented lobbying efforts of anti-government wingnuts. This, too — not the app’s donation function, which is real, but my ability to convince myself that every paltry step matters in a measurable way — may be a gimmick. But it is one that feels, more so than dwelling on the disease that destroys my family, my loved ones, charitable. There are people who have not seen Glacier, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, the Olympics. Hell, most of the people I know have not. My own husband, before I dragged him out to the canyons, hadn’t been outside his state since before college. But even though what dollars my running donates end up being too small to directly attribute to a funded project — something measurable — the idea of running to preserve and protect, rather than to continue a battle that my heart loses daily, feels better. (Even if it isn’t.) The parks, at their cloud-fogged heights and flood-scarred depths, will outlast me, and my mother, and my family’s misery. They’ll be there for people beyond the touch of this disease to treasure, and they’ll be there, hopefully, long past the point where Alzheimer’s is even an issue. When people are able to hold onto their memories again, they should be able to make memories in places like the parks. Places we are losing. I would rather fight for that future than for the one I’ve already lost. It makes the very beginning of my day have more in common with the sunrise I run into than the inevitable darkening I try not to see.

In reading over an article I wrote the other day, my husband asked me why there wasn’t a firmer, more pronounced conclusion, and in the grim joy I take in the obliqueness of texting as a medium (we were at our respective workplaces) I responded that “if I knew if it was worth crafting memories only to lose them, I wouldn’t be writing.” While gratuitously morbid, this statement is at its heart true. I don’t know if it is worth it. I know I don’t intend to cease, but that doesn’t impart worth to the effort. Ensuring that the vistas to which I return, physically and mentally, will still be there for others, though? That has worth. That’s no mental trick I need to employ to make my running or writing or persisting matter.

GoParks, indeed.

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train like you weren’t crushed when you overheard someone say they skip all your training posts : week 12

Temp: 50s-60s

Shoes: Yeah so…had to ditch the Merrells with the mileage increase. I fought it forever but they’re just too small. They’re okay if it’s freezing cold and your feet don’t expand too much but not now that it’s warmer. So I went in search of Altras the running store didn’t have — the ones bright as parrots. No luck on those, and I needed them that day to start breaking them in so I had no interest in placing an order. The store guy began a conciliatory spiel I am long familiar with.

“So, ah, if those others were uncomfortable, I mean, would you be open to, er, trying men’s shoes? It’s just that sometimes they’re a little more forgiving in the toe box and these companies, you know, they don’t really understand–”

“I don’t care if they’re pink and sparkly. I need to run 50 miles in them.”

“Okay then! Let’s try these ones on!”

So I got men’s zero-drop Altras in Happy Meal colors, and ran 12 miles in them. Immediately noticeable improvement on the downhills. Downhill in the Merrells was torture because my toes slammed right up against the shoe the whole way. Running downhill should not be torture. It should be a gift. Thank you running store guy for these big boxy Altras. Downhill is now as awesome as it should be.

Hunger: Eat all the things.

Road Wildlife: Bunches of kids with basketballs. A lot of pitbulls. Some large beautiful red dog whose gardening owner panicked when she realized it was trotting over to slobber me. No need for concern, lady. I love your giant slobbery dog. It’s like a small horse.

I think I will get the N7 hat to go with the top for the race. I’m not generally a proponent of ball caps but no one likes sunburned skull where the part in your hair is (or falls, when running, no matter how tightly you tie your ponytail) and honestly that last humid-as-hell marathon really sold me on the utility of ball caps, however much I dislike them. So I figure if I’m going to wear one it should at least be part of the get-up. And in the MCM (I made the lottery! yay!) I don’t want to appear to claim an affiliation I lack (via borrowing an actual military hat for the occasion from my dad, for example). I’ll just wear the regalia of the only ship I ever served on…

train like you’re not gonna screw up week 8

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Temp: 40s

Shoes: robin’s egg blue merrells (best colors ever btw merrell!)

Hunger: Meh

Road Wildlife: Lots of kids on easter egg hunts. Also, a 1973 Firebird.

Toenail Casualties: 2

Finally did the full long run I was supposed to this week, plus all the other runs. (Well, minus two miles. But the sun came out and I ran out of water.) It wasn’t the run last week that upset my legs, I think — it was the squats with the lifting. Because even on a 20 mile run my legs were imperturbable. It was the rest of me that grew tired. So much so that that sweet inescapable wall of sleep slammed down hard Saturday night. Granted, there is no stopping the sleep train for me usually anyway — no amount of coffee will stave it off — but I highly recommend long runs for people who struggle with insomnia. I don’t think your body could fight off sleep after that kind of exertion. And there is no sleep like the post-long run sleep. It doesn’t matter how you’re positioned; whether you’re in a bed, on a chair or in the dirt (this is why I don’t mind using campsites at races). You are out.

You don’t even have the energy for nightmares. I dreamed the Lions won.

train like forte week 7

 

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She does love running. But then when she slips and says so she tries to take it back and say it’s just “for training.” What gives, Forte? I’d happily go running with you. Especially when it’s warm enough for people to be catcalling. Go on, asshats. Yell at the girl with the giant sword. See how long you keep your puny ones.

Temp: 30s, 40s. Gloves required in morning, though.

Shoes: Black Merrells unless running pre-work in which case road flats (have to rush).

Hunger: Recovered from Worst Food-Poisoning Since Granada. Hunger assuaged by Ferelden turnip and barley stew.

Road wildlife: Not much. Just cold enough for no one to come out yet.

I, um…really hope I can do this race. Between weather and illness (and a house application meaning a temp gym membership in lieu of weather improvement wasn’t an option) I’ve skimped on a lot of the mid-week runs. Granted, every marathon I’ve done I screwed up the training program somehow, and the last one more than most — but that one was all downhill anyway, so I didn’t have to feel like I paid for it. There isn’t a way around fifty miles of fuckedness, though, if I don’t get back on track here…

And yes, there has been much Rune Factory 4. Because, last night especially, my legs were not pleased with me at trying to do the full-length long run after a week of vacation and then illness.

 

train like it’s not always something (and it’s always something)

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Temp: 30s, snow, wind. (TODAY THOUGH AMIRITE?!)

Shoes: Both the newer Merrells. All Out Rush really does give noticeably more cushion. I noticed though that its sole is Merrell-branded; the Bare Access Trail are Vibram. Do you suppose as a shoe company you eventually want to inch away from Vibram if you can? Are there pretty steep licensing agreements? I assume so. Still, the Vibram trail shoes do cling better to snow than the less-intense Merrell-brand soles.

Hunger: Ah…for food? Fine. But for water? Are there words to describe the despair of reaching for your waist water bottle at mile 12 and discovering that you’d missed a thread in twisting it shut and it had all leaked down your leg — your leg, which was too numbed by the cold to feel the icy slick of water down its side? Conversely, I’ve yet to be able to adequately describe the euphoric taste of humble tapwater when you so desperately, desperately need it.

Road wildlife: Gangly college runner boy who actually waved hello in passing. No one ever says hello here. Ever. I’ve stopped trying. So thank you, crazy kid in short shorts in snow. Buck the trend! Defy the chilly demeanor of your statesmen and say hello now and again. It will probably go okay. At the very least you’ll make people who hail from places where saying hello is normal feel good.

 

train like you didn’t skip a week for illness…wait no, bad idea

Temp: GLORIOUS*. Fiercely warm and windy and sunny.

Shoes: I think the precursor to these? (Again, no model name on the tag…) Which would normally be fine — I wore them in the last marathon — but the cloth doesn’t shed water like the mesh on the other shoes does, which meant that all the giant puddles of snow that I couldn’t avoid permeated the shoe and the wool socks and stayed there, making for wet-shoe blisters. “This is how you get gangrene!” I told myself in Jessica Walter’s best “this is how you get ants!” voice, before ending the run early.

Hunger: Ravenous. I’ve never had to stop a run because I’m too hungry before. Granted I usually run right out the door in the mornings for long runs and I waited on this one to get as much of the snow melted as possible, but still. Does sudden sunlight increase metabolism?

Road wildlife: Throngs of people soaking up sunshine for the first time in forever.

*Note that this applies to the long run only. The weather the rest of the week was a bit crap.

train like your nostrils aren’t frozen week 3

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Temp: Right around zero. Snow. Wind.

Shoes: Merrell BareAccess Trail. Which are in fact grippier on snow, ice, and frozen slurry than their less colorful counterparts I tested last week.

Hunger: Rapacious. Due to cold?

Road wildlife: Gas leak, fight that combatants were vocally threatening to turn into a gunfight. Because, you know. America.

Not a great week. Cut the 18 mile run down to 10.5 when the wind picked up. It was just too cold — windchill around -10 — and I don’t have a face mask. Worrisomely, too, I experienced knee pain, which I’ve never had in my life. The internet, ever the reliable source, speculates that this may be a side effect of extreme cold conditions — something about it being more difficult for the body to lubricate its own joints. But it kind of sucked. True, there were frost slicks on my legs and my sunglasses had snow just sitting around their edges, so it was cold, but I mean…I was wearing long pants. My form was fine. My knees should be able to deal. I had one of those otherwise ridiculous rain vests on, so it broke the wind around my torso, but what are you supposed to do about your legs? Go for those swooshy windbreaker pants, 80s style? Would that even help? I ran at 20 below last year, but there was no wind then. The wind hurts.

On the up side: in the inevitable event that a long run day dawns and I forgot to buy gummies, incorporating the local running store into the route is both doable and relatively safe. I need to find a way to store the gummies so that they won’t freeze though. Chomping into a frozen gummy is not a way to make friends with your teeth. Ow.