Sunday, March 8, 2009


Yesterday I went running outside for the first time this season, and I had an amazing experience. The critical factors were relatively warm weather, sunshine, blue skies, my iPod, and endorphins.

(Endorphins, in case you don’t know, are substances released by the body during exercise. They’re thought to be the source of the “runner’s high.”)

I got out at 6:30 a.m. or so, and ran down by the East River, on my standard route to the Brooklyn Bridge and back. I think it’s about five miles. The temperature when I began was in the mid-40s but getting warmer.

I had never run outside with my iPod before. After I bought it just a few months ago, I loaded it up with all my music -- literally everything.

Well, the first mile or two of a run are always the hardest, and I discovered while laboring along that my iPod is inadequately organized. It’s full of folk music and light rock, and I had it on shuffle. I’m here to tell you, you just can’t run to Joan Baez, as wonderful as she is. I need to create a special “running” playlist pronto!

Anyway, I made it down to the bridge, feeling better and better as I warmed up, and skipping past songs that didn’t suit the moment. There’s a sign at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge that explains its history, and I touched it and turned for home, as I always do.

This is about when the endorphins really began to surge. I ran past all the old guys from Chinatown doing tai-chi facing the river; I ran in the shadows beneath the FDR Drive, under the Williamsburg Bridge, past the empty soccer fields in East River Park. The sun was rising and brightening, reflecting off the river’s surface, darting in and out from behind passing trees.

My iPod landed on a great running song -- for one who came of age in the ‘80s, anyway -- “Alive and Kicking,” by Simple Minds. And just then I rounded the bend near the Con-Edison plant at 14th Street, and all of midtown was laid out in front of me: the United Nations, the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings, all that amazing architecture and POWER. And I felt FANTASTIC. I thought, “Holy cow! This isn’t a movie! This is really me, living here in the greatest city on the planet, healthy on a beautiful day! This is my LIFE!”

And then, a few minutes later, as I began to slow down at 23rd Street, “Alive and Kicking” ended and the iPod magically landed on a song I'd long thought would be perfect to have played at the conclusion of my funeral: “Good Night,” by the Beatles.

Now, it might seem morose, but it was a truly beautiful moment. I love that song, as intentionally sappy as it is, and coming right after “Alive and Kicking,” just as I stopped running, it seemed to say: Life is short. In the grand scheme of things, it passes as quickly as the interval between two songs on an iPod.

It choked me up a bit, which sounds silly, but even thinking about it now makes me marvel. So I guess I can’t entirely blame the endorphins.

(Photo: As I walked back to my apartment after my run, I found these two perfect gerbera daisies lying on the sidewalk! Another piece of everyday magic? Or just a floral delivery gone awry?)


  1. Sounds like you couldn't have choreographed your run better if you had tried! The fact that you were choked up by the end means the endorphins were flowing at full tilt. Bravo for a first spring run!

  2. It doesn't sound silly to me.

    I love the ipod as movie sound track to my life. Though I don't run, I often walk around while listening.

    Music is very powerful, not as powerful as endorphins, though!

    Your post made me "homesick" for NYC. Beautiful.

  3. nice description here of your run, I was with you. I love running --makes you feel so alive !

  4. lots of magical raise a great subject music to accompany various activities -

    there are a few baez songs that I think would work....the night they drove old dixie down comes to mind.... but that is a cover, but aren't most of her songs that?

    by the way she was great last night! I posted my 'review' as it is on the mouse today.

  5. I just planted gerbera daisies. I didn't run, though.

  6. Fabulous! Everyday magic? You bet!

    I have an old eighties CD tunes to work out to. That might work for running. If I find it, its yours.

  7. Thanks for your comments today, Steve. I plan on it! I look forward to seeing your daffies and tulips. I love both of those flowers.