The lizards are out there doing push-ups every morning. They've reminded me that I can't let this lazy ass be a lazy ass.
I've got to start small, but I've got to start.
Oh, I work hard in the garden, digging and digging and digging so that I hurt every where. But I do that for a week, then I sit on my bottom for another few weeks before I do it again. I can't let the digging be my only regular exercise. It clearly isn't enough. I feel too gooey to be content with digging alone, so running it is.
I had never run much before my senior year of high school. During that year, probably against my own better judgement, I joined my school's cross country team. To join a team where the majority of the girls had been running long distances since pulling themselves out of the womb, had been running even when the temperature was below zero and it hurt to breathe, was to say the least a painful experience.
My coach put me on a strict plan my first week out: run one minute, walk one minute, for two miles. The next week: run five minutes, walk one, for three miles. Pretty soon, I was running five miles without thinking about stopping. While I was able to move my body for relatively long distances within the first few weeks of the season, I wasn't able to move it very quickly. I remember one friend of mine, after seeing me running along the road while he was driving home from school tell me, "Christina, to run, you have to pick up your feet and move them." I've never been a fan of sarcasm; that comment did not go over too well. I was taking small steps, but at least I was taking them, and taking lots of them at that.
As it does for everyone who runs regularly, it got easier and faster. I remember the moment when it felt possible to not just jog along, but really run. I was running a loop near my house, and had turned the corner where I was closest to Lake Minnetonka, just steps away. As I ran through that corner, away from the lake on the second leg of the run towards home, I could feel my knees lift higher with each step and my stride extend. My breathing was in perfect rhythm to my footsteps, and it felt like my heart was right in the physical concert too. Sweating, breathing hard, I didn't feel tired. I felt free and elated. I controlled every single part of my body, from the swinging left hand to the heel-toe step.
At the end-of-season award ceremony, my coach gave me the award for Most Improved. He stood in front of the team, called me forward, and congratulated me on "improving as much as the Grand Canyon is big."
I did it once.
A few years after moving to Pasadena, I took a long meandering walk that led me to the Rose Bowl. The circuit around the stadium was irregularly shaped, skirting the edges of the canyon, and was full of people: strong and weak, fat and slim, old and young. Mothers jogged behind strollers with twins inside, hipsters ran in their hot-colored shoes, middle-aged couples walked their dogs, a handsome young man held his very elderly grandmother's hand as they made their way around. Hundreds of people used this place to exercise and accepted all the other people there too. Seeing these people, I knew I could feel good about running here.
I began again, following my old coach's routine for me. I would run frequently at the same time, and eventually, I built a no-introduction, no-name, no-conversation running relationship with a middle-aged man who had a similar schedule to me. We would frequently encounter each other at the southwest corner of the circuit, fall in stride with each other, and after a few paces, begin to race. We'd race each other as fast as we reasonably could (considering that neither of us were track-star-material and both of us were working this race into the middle of a longer run) down the length of the circuit to the other end. Once there, we'd just stop racing. The winner would continue at his or her pace, and the loser at his or her own. The only thing he ever said to me was "good run."
I did it a second time, but then I stopped. Time to start again.
What running teaches: I've done it before. I can do it again.
Sweet Braised Whole Scallions
From Molly Steven's All About Braising
What to do with scallions? Cook them? Really? Yes.
Put them in the oven, go for a run, come back and finish these babies off, to end up with a succulent pan of mild onion-y goodness. To counteract all the positive benefits of that run, you could top these with a shower of fried bread crumbs, but they're wonderful the way they are. This is an extremely flexibly recipe that I modified a bit to make for a larger crowd, but I'll share it as originally published so that you can play with it as you like.
You will need:
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 pound scallions, roots and scraggly tips trimmed away
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh tarragon or parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Lemon juice to taste
To make the dish:
Heat the oven to 350 and smear most of the butter all over the bottom and sides of a 9x13" baking dish. Lay half of the onions lengthwise along the bottom of the dish with the bulbs against a short end. Lay the other half of the onions the other direction so that the greens overlap in the middle of the pan.
Pour the water over the onions, cut up the remaining butter into tiny pieces (or smudges) and drop over the onions, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and your herb of choice, cover with tinfoil, and place the whole thing in the oven to braise for 35-40 minutes.
Remove the foil from the dish and raise the heat to 450. Roast the scallions for 20 minutes, then shake the pan back and forth to coat the scallions with the glaze that will have formed. Continue to roast the onions until all the liquid evaporates and they delicious brown caramelized edges. Squirt with a spray of lemon juice and serve.
This should serve six folks, whether they've gone running that day or not.