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Running, Revisited (+ Greek Yogurt + Granola)

9 March 2012


[Once I ran across this bridge; I will again.]

Up early this morning (6:20 or so) to lace up my running shoes in the quiet gloom of the apartment. I unwound my hair from the braid I put it into when I sleep and and tied it up. I found my ipod. I gulped water. I took a deep breath. Then I went out into the cool morning and found myself again. I don’t think I need to detail how much I’ve missed this: the slapping of my feet against the pavement, rush of breath in and out, increased pulse rate, and the particular solitude that comes while on a run even if you’re running with someone else (if that makes sense). It’s a sort of a singular communion of mind and body that takes you out of your waking conscious and then returns you to it cleansed and emptied-out.

I’ve been plagued with various injuries since June, a combination of life stress (see: wedding planning), not taking enough time to recover, getting older (!), and sitting during far too many hours of the day. I tried acupuncture, rest, and finally aggressive Active Release Therapy which most helped my poor tight muscles to relax. I tried to make my peace with not running, embraced swimming anew, and have thrown myself more fully into yoga. All of these are very good things.

But … When you’re a runner you want to run. I mean, right? I started running track at 14 and seriously began long-distance about 10 years ago. I’ve run 2 marathons and countless halfs and 10-milers. Injury or no, running is something that grounds me and puts things to rights. So to write that I’ve been missing it is a bit of understatement.

Still, as I work my way back from this latest Achilles issue, I can’t help but laugh. Of all the things to be plagued with the worst, it has to have a Greek reference! It’s appropriate in a funny way, even as I’m bored to tears with the heel drops I do each morning and night to strengthen it back up to par again.

Of course, Achilles probably never experienced any heel discomfort himself (though it’s true the Greeks are well versed in running; see the messenger Pheidippides who ran the 26.2 miles from the Battle of Marathon to Athens, promptly dropping dead upon arrival). His mother Thetis dipped him into the river Styx in hopes he’d become immortal; unfortunately she held him by his wee heel which became the only part of him not protected. Later a great warrior in the fight for Troy, Achilles seemed invincible until he was felled by an arrow that hit him – you guessed it – right on his vulnerable heel. The term ‘Achilles’ heel’ has now come to represent our greatest weakness – for a glass of single malt, another chocolate chip cookie, for Greek yogurt and granola.

Oh, those Greeks. So many double entendres in the old myths. Although for me my right Achilles tendon quite literally represented my Achilles’ heel (ouch!), I might argue that my left could be my penchant for bowls and bowls of (Greek) yogurt, (maple syrup sweetened) granola, fruit, and honey.

Maybe it’s that this particular combination is the perfect post-run treat – I don’t mind telling you last week I ran 6 miles after work (slow and steady as she goes; I’ll take it) and all I could think about for the last few miles was a) yogurt b) granola. I was so hungry I didn’t even care if I left out the fruit – that’s more of a morning inclusion anyway – and the first thing I did after stretching out properly was to pour myself out a massive portion (item: I later ate dinner). Oh, it’s good stuff – morning, snack, or night.

Now, I don’t know of granola is necessarily a ‘Greek thing’, and I don’t recall seeing any the last time I was there. But yogurt certainly is: thick, creamy, slightly sour and perfect for sweet and savory dishes alike (the salty, garlicky tziki I ate in the mountains with my friend Simon has never been replicated, or even imitated; likewise the plate of yogurt with sweet, ripe nectarines drizzled with local honey I shared on my patio on Spetses with Kurt and Emily). In America, so far from that clear ocean and dry landscape, I buy Fage 1% and imagine myself there. The granola helps bring me back to the present.

For a granola recipe I’ll direct you to my friend Anne’s lovely post which should do the trick nicely. There are many variations of course, and in the spirit of creativity I urge you to try your own dried fruit and nut combinations. And if chocolate is your own secret (or not-so) Achilles’ heel, please do add some in. I promise not to tell.

For me, I’m easy as long as I can keep on running. At this point I’m not asking to run another marathon (though, sigh …); this morning’s 4-miler was enough, and I am grateful. Perhaps that’s been my true Achilles’ heel of late: I’ve forgotten in the rush of life and work and doing that feeling of gratefulness. Oh, such a simple feeling but it is the most lovely. I hope to hold on to it again for a good long while.

Also 1. Greek yogurt and 2. Granola, preferably together – but I think you picked up on that already. Food of the gods, indeed.

  • Anne Zimmerman 12 March 2012 at 10:03 am

    Thanks for the granola link. That recipe is definitely a keeper. And how a propos that for the entire post I was thinking a) must eat yogurt and granola later today, and b) must ask Nicole for running tips since I’m a slow turtle starting to run at an already advanced age. Ouch.

  • Lesley 11 March 2012 at 8:04 am

    I hear you. If you’re a runner, you just want to get back to running. And feeling good while doing it.
    Here’s to a new and healthy season, albeit maybe different from years past. Congrats on your ten year distance runniversary! I celebrate the same this year, too. Exciting!

  • Molly 10 March 2012 at 4:02 am

    So glad you’re running again! xo

  • Stacy 9 March 2012 at 8:42 pm

    As a fellow runner (and avid granola-and-greek-yogurt-eater), I can imagine how happy you are to be running again! And your post reminded me to be grateful for it–thanks for that. (Also, I just posted a variation of Melissa Clark’s granola recipe, too: there are few things better than that combination of good oil and maple syrup with oats and nuts and such…swoon!)

  • Sanda 9 March 2012 at 7:17 pm

    Oh, your writing is so lovely! I can certainly identify with a love of yogurt, fruit and granola. I am not a runner, but my daily walks serve the same purpose for me as running does for you.