To the tower in Tevas
One of the best parts of running — or walking, bicycling or even driving a car — is actually getting somewhere. Once in a while (once recently even) I’ll run in circles on a track, but I don’t have much patience for it because I’m not actually going anywhere except around and around. Treadmill running is even worse. I don’t think I’ve even stepped on a treadmill in six or seven years. There are things I enjoy in the gym, certainly, but treadmill running ain’t one of ’em.
This is one of the reasons I like living in San Francisco. I can lace up my shoes and hit the road and actually end up somewhere. Even I just end up at the Bay that’s fine, but there are so many notable destinations within easy distance that San Francisco is a really fun place to run.
I headed out today like I did a few days ago, down past the California College of the Arts and across the railroad tracks to Mission Creek. Instead of sticking to the South side, I went looking for a path on the North side. What I found was more of a promenade than a running trail or the mini-park I found on the South side. It’s a wide open straight sidewalk path; it’s very pleasant but except for the view of the front sides of the houseboats on the other side of the water it lacks the charm and personality of the path on the South side. If I lived over there I’m sure you couldn’t stop me from spending time on that promenade especially because of its adjacency to Philz Coffee, but I’m sure I’d make the trip across the bridge to the South side as well.
Farther along in front of the China Basin Building (a building I worked in briefly in 1991 — oh how the neighborhood has changed!) I could see that the Lefty O’Doul Bridge was drawn up, a bit of a treat for me as I’ve only seen the bridge drawn once before. It’s nice to see engineering in action when it normally sits in the same positioncertainly not idle since thousands of cars and pedestrians cross the bridge every day, but nonetheless, being raised is the time when an otherwise hideous bridge turns into a marvel of not-so-modern technology.
Today’s run was an experiment. It was the first run other than the three-tenths of a mile down to Jackson Park the other day that I ran in sandals. The Tevas are «sport sandals» and therefore have most of the evils of modern running shoesthick, padded sole, arch support and so onbut I’m not willing to run on city streets in bare feet and I do want to experiment with changing up the style of shoe, and running in a sandal at least seems like a (slightly) more free and natural way to keep my foot than in a running shoe.
I hadn’t gotten much more than a mile and a half away from home before I realized I was developing blisters on each foot. I stopped at the Northeast corner of AT&T Park and slipped on the socks I’d stashed in my pockets and kept going, though from there I took plenty of walk breaks.
I had a wild hare to run up Telegraph Hill. If truth be told, I did a lot more walking than running, but I did arrive at the top. There were a lot of people up there for a weekday, which I hope says good things about our tourism industry, rather than being a sign of great numbers of unemployed San Franciscans with nothing better to do on a Thursday than sunbathe on Telegraph Hill.
There is one very gratifying aspect of spending time on Telegraph Hill for me. Two years ago I did a pen and ink drawing of Coit Tower as seen from the air with the Telegraph Hill neighborhood in the background. The drawing was made mostly from reference photographs I took from a helicopter. While I made trips to Coit Tower to check on details I couldn’t see from the photos, I did not visit all the buildings in the background of the drawing. As I go through the streets on top of Telegraph Hill I see buildings, trees, and intersections that I recognize from the time I spent working on the drawing. Even seeing what I got wrong is a kind of a treat for me.
Coming up Telegraph Hill I stuck mostly to the streets, the last half a block ascending the Filbert Street steps, and then I came back down the Greenwich Street steps. At Montgomery Street the steps take an unexpected turn beneath the entrance to someone’s houseit’s a little like an underground passage. Once I determined that it really was the right way to go (it wasn’t that hard because of the street sign where there was no street and a handmade sign reading «STEPS» attached to it) it was nice to have a little shade.
I wasn’t the only one with the idea to climb Telegraph Hill today. As a small group of runners came up the steps past me, I said to them, «it’s easier on the way down, I promise» to which I heard, «don’t worry, I believe you!» in reply.
It wasn’t very long after I got back to The Embarcadero that I felt the blister on my right foot break. After that I did more walking than running. I don’t mind running on a blister as much as I used to since it’s not a structural injury. I am very sensitive to the onset of any joint or back pain because I know that if I keep doing whatever caused it I could injure myself badly, but a blister is the sort of thing I can run through because I know it isn’t signaling anything worse. It hurts almost as much to walk on a blister as it does to run on one, so there just isn’t a lot of upside to walking.
Even with all the walking I did, I got home exhausted. My calves are not as stiff as they were when I started, which tells me I was right that running with them was the right move. Sometimes stiffness means I need to rest and sometimes it means I need to get moving. I don’t always make the right call. Even so, I can tell that my legs are going to be complaining tomorrow. As much as I don’t like to take pills in anticipation of pain, I think some ibuprofen may be called for tonight.