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