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 position—certainly 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 shoes—thick, padded sole, arch sup­port and so on—but 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 house—it’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.

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