11 July 2007

Making it Official

This shouldn't come as a big surprise to anyone (at least anyone who's read this blog lately), but I've decided to officially hang up my running shoes and end the quest to run every street in Brooklyn. The final tally was 872 unique miles, or just over half of the total. I'll leave it up to my loyal readers -- all three of you -- to work out whether the glass is half empty or half full, but I figured it was time to own up to the fact that I'm simply not going to run the other fifty percent.

It certainly was fun while it lasted, though. I got to see just about every neighborhood in the borough (okay, I didn't actually run in Brooklyn Heights or Dumbo, but I've been to those places on other occasions), and ride almost every mile of subway. Along the way I also took over 2000 photos (some of which came out pretty cool, if I do say so myself), and met some great people. When I started this, one of my stated reasons was to "get to know the place a little better." Well, I think I did. You could probably blindfold me, drop me off anywhere in the borough, and I'd know (well, within a minute or two) where I was and how to get home. I might not have accomplished everything that I set out to do, but I can't complain, either.

So there it is. And, just in case anyone wants a little more information, I've included the following exclusive interview. It's followed by two of the first pictures I took when I moved here, before I even started the running thing. Enjoy.

So, you've ended your quest.
That sounds like it ought to be on a greeting card. But yes.

What happened?
A couple of things. The primary one is that I injured myself pretty badly. I started having problems with my hamstrings and heels as early as October or so. But I often tend towards obsessive behavior, and continued to run while I was hurt.

That was stupid.
Agreed. It just made things worse. I rested for eight weeks or so this past spring, and then went on a couple of short "trial" runs in April and May. I tried to pretend I was healed up, but I was still hurting. I'm just now starting to feel 100% again.

Any other reasons?
Well, the other big one is school. Ostensibly, I've been working on my PhD in history, and all I need for my degree is to finish writing my dissertation. But last fall, when I was running 50 miles a week, the whole thing became a major drain on my time. There was the running, of course, but also the subway rides to and from the day's run, the recordkeeping, the blog, and planning the next day's run. By October or November I was probably spending six hours a day on it. And afterwards, I'd be too tired to do anything with the dissertation. I don't think it's a coincidence that once I stopped running, I drafted a full 60-page chapter and part of another in just a month or two.

So you hurt yourself, and you want to write some long paper that no one will ever read.
Correct. Except it's actually more like a book that no one will ever read.

Duly noted. Was there anything else that led you to your decision?
I suppose I do have this habit of getting really excited about new projects, but then losing interest later on.

Like your dissertation.
Or this interview.

Although you didn't get anywhere close to running the whole borough, you still managed to run about half of it. Any thoughts about where you did run, what you did see?
I think what I liked best was spending so much time in the neighborhoods that people often forget are even part of Brooklyn. It's almost like there are two separate boroughs. There's the swath that runs from Greenpoint and Williamsburg through downtown and Park Slope, basically everything to the north and west of Prospect Park, with a little bit of Bushwick and Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights thrown in. And then there's everything else. But I ended up spending the majority of my time in the latter. I ran all of Flatlands, for example, and all of Gerritsen Beach. All of Mill Basin and Sheepshead Bay and Gravesend and Bensonhurst. And I was within a few streets of running all of Canarsie. I ran half of East New York, most of Borough Park, and a majority of East Flatbush, Sunset Park, and Midwood. The blogs and the mainstream media do a good job of covering places like Brooklyn Heights and Williamsburg. But it was really great to get at to see the rest of the borough. Even if it was at seven in the morning, and I was covered in sweat.

Speaking of blogs, what are you going to do with Runs Brooklyn?
I figure I'll just leave it up there. You know, as a kind of historic artifact -- all the maps and photos and everything. Or as a tangible reminder of failure, in case I ever get too full of myself.

What's next? Planning to embark on any other big endeavors you probably won't finish?
Who knows? Maybe I'll start writing a novel. But seriously, the big news is that Kate and I are moving next month.

Where to?
Back to Iowa City.

Just couldn't handle it here in the big city, huh? Maybe Christine Rizk was right, after all.
Yeah, she's good. But the move is mostly the result of other factors: First, I received a substantial writing fellowship for the coming academic year, and I really want to work on finishing the dissertation. In fact, with the fellowship money rolling in beginning September 1st, I'm feeling a certain obligation to do so. I figured that being in an academic setting -- with the university and my advisor right there -- would help facilitate that. Second, Kate loves living here in the city, but she's not digging the museum scene and wants to go back to school and get another master's degree, probably in library science. And finally, it's really, really expensive to live here. We've already got enough debt, you know?
So last month I went out to Iowa City and rented us a little house with a big yard, in a quiet neighborhood. It's got a garage, and a basement, and a washer and dryer. I can bike anywhere I need to be in ten minutes. It's pretty sweet.

But Iowa's in the middle of nowhere!
Iowa City's a college town. There's plenty to do. Besides, I'll be writing for ten hours a day.

Are you going to start a blog out there?
My main goal for the next year is to work nonstop on the dissertation, and I want to minimize the distractions. So probably not. But I do hope to start running again.

Do you think you'll miss anything about Brooklyn?
Sure. I'll miss walking around, mostly, seeing the different neighborhoods. I'll miss a couple of restaurants. I'll miss seeing stuff at BAM. I'll miss the view from our kitchen window.
I'll miss the Cyclones. And I'll miss being so close to everything in Manhattan, especially the opera. Kate's definitely going to miss her friends, but thankfully, I don't have any, so it's not as much of a problem for me. I was also going to say that I'll miss reading all the local blogs, but I suppose I can still do that in Iowa, and probably will.

Anything you won't miss?
Well, there's the G train, of course. Alternate side of the street parking. Car alarms. The BQE, that Target downtown, and all those kids with exactly the same haircut, tattoos, and eyeglasses. There might be others, but that's most of it.

What about Greenpoint? Will you miss living there?

To be honest, I got a little tired of living on a busy street, what with all the noise and everything. Otherwise, I suppose it's a perfectly fine neighborhood, although being neither Polish nor particularly hip, I sometimes felt a little out of place.

You're not hip at all.
True enough. But I think that only proves my point.

It seems that we're running short on time, so let's try to wrap things up. Two final questions: First, any shout-outs? Anyone you want to thank?
Absolutely. In fact, the most unexpected aspect of the whole running and blogging thing has been the amount of interest, encouragement, and support I've received. Even from complete strangers, some of which I'm now very pleased to call friends. In fact, there are a number of folks I probably ought to single out by name (at least first name -- you know who you are): Stephanie, Michael, Renee, Kristen, Susan, Kathleen, Don, Julie, Claude, Ron, Mel, and Dad. And special thanks to Linda, Bob, and Jen. Thanks again, everyone. Sorry if I let you down.

Last question.
About time. I feel like this has been going on forever.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
There are a few things, I guess. I wish I'd paced myself better, especially in the fall when things started really hurting. I think, in retrospect, that perhaps walking all of Brooklyn might have made more sense. Kind of like what Jen is doing in California. It would've taken longer, sure, but there'd be less opportunity for injury. And then I could've stopped and explored more places, gone into stores or museums or whatever. Oh, and I wish I could've had lunch or coffee with Christine Rizk. Seriously. It would've been a hoot.

That should do it. Good luck in your post-Brooklyn life.
Thanks. It's been fun.

The promised photos:

truck, red hook
Red Hook

gate, park slope
Park Slope


At 7:01 PM, Blogger stephanie said...

I want to say that I'm sorry to hear this, but it sounds like your upcoming move is sitting just fine by you, so I think I'm more sad for myself that there won't be anymore updates! Or maybe to hear that running that many miles a week is incompatible with writing a dissertation. Or that NY is losing someone who seemed to be able to cut through all the BS and snarkiness with a ton of integrity.

Best of luck in your future endeavors -- come back and post every once in a while to let us know how things are going!

At 12:23 AM, Anonymous susan said...

Heck--over 50% plus getting so comfortable with & knowledgeable about Brooklyn are both great accomplishments in my book. It's been a wonderful blog--thanks Gary for the journey! I look forward to your next obsession of whatever length.

At 1:44 PM, Anonymous Patrick said...

Sad to see you go; it's been great following your runs... and your photos. As someone who basically just runs round and round Prospect Park all spaced-out, it's nice to see someone's got their eyes on and makes running something social. Reading this blog has been great running inspiration for me. Great work.

Now, maybe you can start a dissertation blog that inspires me to finish mine!

Good luck.

At 10:08 PM, Blogger Dennis said...

Happy trails!

At 12:30 AM, Anonymous TA said...

Aw, I'm sad it's over. I've enjoyed reading your blog so much, and I enjoyed the non-run entries as much as the run ones. Well, at least my block is one that you ran.

Best of luck with the dissertation. I just finished mine; the relief and excitement you feel when everyone calls you "Doctor" is awesome.

At 6:02 PM, Blogger Gary said...

Wow, thanks, everyone. For the very kind words, and for even paying attention in the first place. It was, indeed, a lot of fun, and I really do miss checking out the different neighborhoods and taking pictures. But, as so many people in my life (Kate, my folks, my advisor) constantly remind me, I've really got to finish the dissertation. With the fellowship this year, I might actually be able to do it.

Thanks again. And congratulations, ta!

At 3:32 PM, Anonymous linda (dropping the "humbled" tag) said...

See, you have more than three readers! Even if some of them are tardy: taking months to start Kafka on the Shore (though just days to finish it) and, more pertinently here, failing to check your blog while on vacation.

But I'm back now, and wanted to chime in with my mix of selfish disappointment (no more Runs Brooklyn updates!) and happiness for you and Kate about your impending moves, both career and geographic.

In addition to being great reading, your blog inspired me to be more observant on my own runs, both here in Detroit and in Brooklyn.

Good luck with everything!

At 6:21 PM, Blogger ReneeMc said...

Gary, you ran more of Brooklyn than probably anyone else! Have you looked into that? Though I suppose it would be hard to prove.

Congratulations on the fellowship! That's awesome. You will be able to buckle down and write without all of the stress of NYC. The minute I am done with coursework, I'm packing my bags and moving somewhere that it doesn't take an hour to get where I am going.

If you think the downtown Target is bad, run over to the one on Erskine Street. It makes the Atlantic Center Target seem like a dream.

Best of luck!

At 10:20 PM, Blogger walksBKLYN said...

Sad to see a fellow vegatarian, baseball loving, brooklynite pack the house up and set off. But i must say that the house with the back yard and the washer and dryer sounds awesome. I suppose it's up to Chester and I to walk all of Gowanus then, and perhaps Carroll Gardens, and park Slope....
Good luck with the dissertation, and with finding decent baseball, vegetarian fare and places to explore back in Iowa city. Go Cyclones (both BKLYN and Iowa state)

At 12:22 PM, Blogger Gary said...

Linda: Thanks, as always. I've always appreciated your interest, encouragement, friendship, and, at times, sympathy. Maybe I didn't run as many miles as I thought I would, but given the new friends I've made in the process, I'll consider it a successful venture nonetheless.

Renee, thanks too. You, of all people know what it's like, trying to balance the academic and the personal, the writing and the running. Thanks for all the great comments and encouragement. Naturally, I wish you luck with your coursework and dissertation, and, hopefully, moving on.

And Walksbklyn, you've got your work cut out for you. Judging by the photos Chester looks plenty capable of keeping pace with you wherever your walks take you. But maybe it's time to update the blog, hmmm?

As for Iowa City veg dining options, we've got an organic vegan restaurant, a decent falafel place and two Indian restaurants, one all vegetarian. Many other places have decent options, too. And we've even got a well-stocked (if dreadfully overpriced) food co-op. I'm certainly not going to starve, especially if Kate's doing the cooking! Baseball's not a problem, either -- there's single-A ball less than a half-hour away in Cedar Rapids, and three other minor league teams within an hour and a half. As with most things, the constraints will come from lack of financial resources, not lack of opportunity.

Anyway, thanks again, everyone. For all the kind words, and for following along the whole time.

At 12:54 PM, Blogger sps said...

As a runner myself, albeit currently a former HS and Div 1 runner, I've been lurking on your site with interest for awhile. I'm sorry to hear the pavement took it's toll...I know all too well the daily pains of running. However, you set by most standards an astronomic goal and while you didn't get there, you went farther down that path that most people ever will.

I have a few questions for you regarding the experience and would appreciate it if you could drop me a line at spschaefer at gmail dot com. thanks

At 4:47 PM, Blogger Suzanne44 said...

Hey! Glass better than half full! And never say never, unless you have some kind of crystal ball thingy that says definitively that you won't some day find yourself back in Brooklyn with a ton of free time and a new plan...

Continuing with the cliches, just let me say...it's not the destination but the journey that matters. And you were kind enough to let us share your journey - very generous of you, so thanks, and good luck!

Cheers from Catron County!

At 10:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too am sorry to read that you're departing. Although I don't run or know Brooklyn (home = San Jose), your photos have been magnificant. I will miss your keen eye the most.

Enjoy the heartland.

At 10:35 PM, Blogger Claude Scales said...

Whoa! I've neglected keeping up with other blogs for a while, and now I see this. I'm really sorry to see you go, and wish I could have spent more time with you and Kate. Nevertheless, I'm sure it's best for both of you, and wish you Godspeed. And, do finish that dissertation. Some years hence (I do plan to be around for at least 30 more - I've just started running again after about a 30 year hiatus) I want to read your insightful analysis of the historical forces that lead to the great Democratic triumph of 2008.

At 7:30 AM, Blogger Gary said...

Suzanne and anonymous,

Thanks, too, for all the nice words. I sure appreciate it. I've missed a few things about the midwest (the weather, however, is not among them), and I'm kind of looking forward to being back. Kate and I also have good friends in Iowa, the Chicago area, and even Racine, Wisconsin, so it'll be good to see all of them as well.

And Claude, I also wish we'd been able to get together at least to chat for a bit. Judging by S-AB, you're an eminently interesting guy, with eclectic tastes and catholic interests. But if you're really going to be around for another 30 years, well, then, I'm sure you'll be adding a whole lot more to your blog. Which is, btw, one of the few I've got bookmarked and which I plan to follow from Iowa.

Thanks for all the encouragement over the last year, and especially your sympathy during those rough times for me and Kate.

At 7:17 AM, Anonymous John said...

I agree with this completely, thanks for the post.

At 11:48 PM, Blogger Cecil said...

love your photos.. how do i subscribe to your blog?

At 4:58 AM, Anonymous dirnewyorkcity said...

In case you visit NYC in the future and run again, visit us at Greenwich Village.

Best of luck to you and your future endeavors. Happy to discover this blog. Awesome photos!

At 8:30 AM, Anonymous smartwool said...

Best of luck in your upcoming runs and endeavor, you can surpass all of it. More power!

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At 3:20 AM, Blogger lia Sophia said...

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At 2:50 AM, Anonymous Social Networks said...

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