Tag Archives: running

Practice makes truth

My brother Tim and I have been talking about running lately, partially because my book club just read “Born to Run.”  Tim’s a fan of the book.  I am now, too.   The conversations also are happening because Tim has taken to snapping pictures on his runs in the Pacific Northwest.  He is a photographer, so these are not your average look-at-this-cool-leaf photos.  I like that each of his running stories has a different angle.  That’s the thing about running–so many angles to offer.  Of course, it helps to have a top notch visual artist interpreting those angles.

My voice students have been hearing me quote my singing interpretation of “Born to Run” the last few weeks:  Practice being confident.  Practice telling stories.  Practice believing that singing is easy.  Practice those for long enough, and you’ll forget you’re practicing.

“Lesson two,” Caballo called.  “Think Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast.  You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad.  Then work on light.  Make it effortless, like you don’t give a shit how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go.  When you’ve practiced that  so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smoooooooth.  You won’t have to worry about the last one–you get those, and you’ll be fast.” (Born to Run, Christopher McDougall, page 111)

Variation on a theme

I think it’s funny when a thought or an idea keeps appearing once it’s first recognized.  Take my recent post on “Carmen and the Bull” as an example.  The show synopsis that I ended up using reads thusly:

Join in the fun as a singing, dancing, traveling gypsy befriends a little bull, his mom and most unlikely of all—a bullfighter! Using the music from the opera Carmen, and loosely based on the beloved story Ferdinand the Bull,Union Avenue Opera’s education team delights young and old audiences alike with a new depiction of a timeless theme: Be True To Yourself. As it turns out, when Ferdinand is the best version of himself, good things happen to everyone involved!

I flipped open the most recent Runner’s World a day after writing about the children’s opera.  Literally the first thing I saw was an ad for the new book, “To Be a Runner.”  I almost laughed when I read the book description:

Dave Davies interviewed journalist and author Pete Hamill on Fresh Air yesterday, and I think I actually DID laugh out loud when Hamill replied to Davies’ question about the author’s changed drinking habits (and not, incidentally, because drinking habits are funny):

But from the professional and personal standpoint, a lot of it was about trying to find out what was there as a writer because my ambition was not to be better than Faulkner or Hemingway or anything like that. It was to be the best version of myself that I could conceivably be in the time I had on the planet.

I guess we’re all trying to figure out how to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be.  A timeless theme?  Yes, indeed.  It’s showing up everywhere.

sticking with the theme

I almost felt like it was a professional development workshop when I arrived at the base of the Washington Monument this past Saturday.  I huffed and puffed and looked in front of me and behind me at My Nation’s Capital and thought, “Wow, I feel patriotic right about now.”  And then I remembered that I get to sing the National Anthem again, and soon.

The thought accompanied me as I ran the 5k back to my friends’ house in Capital Hill.

As I inch towards the mic this Saturday morning before a bunch of people who are Pedaling the Cause, I’ll surely hold that view and feeling in my mind…and then I’ll sing about it.  Not a bad hour of professional development, eh?

“Focus on the up”

My Alexander Technique teacher said those words to me yesterday, mid-lesson.  The first thing I thought was of the sweet kindergarten boy who volunteered to be the bunny in Union Avenue Opera’s educational performance of Little Red Riding Hood last Friday.  He added a bounce to the role that I’ve never seen before, replete with upward commitment–a nearly tangible determination to be the best bunny he could be.  While continuing through the forest in my red cape, I inwardly marveled at that youthful, joyous expression of springiness.  Focus on the up.

My high school voice students were more nervous than bouncy last Thursday night when they gathered at my house with friend and colleague Elizabeth Schleicher’s students.  It was a non-recital.  A chance to sing in front of peers with an accompanist and no parents.  A chance to see how other people are doing with their voice and body exploration.  A chance to see how it feels to share music simply for the sake of sharing.  A chance express.  Their “up” challenge involved a little more focus, more poise, and more confidence.  Who couldn’t use an extra serving of that?

I witnessed yet another kind of “up” at the Girls on the Run 5K a few days ago.  I have been involved with the organization on and off during the last several years, and was invited to the microphone this year.

National Anthem

Photos by Tyson Kanoya

As I sang the National Anthem, I stared out at the crowd from a perfectly elevated perch.  Take the committed bounce of my little bunny, stir in the nerves of my high schoolers, add 10 weeks of preparation, some rain, and a Sunday morning, multiply by 4,400 runners, and you get a rocket of enthusiasm.  Neither gravity nor precipitation was going to bring that crowd down.

Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan said a few words.


A six-time marathoner herself, she related to the focus, determination and commitment necessary to run any distance.   It’s the the same kind of focus, determination and commitment that the runners will take with them as they venture through life, she suggested.  It will lead them and the world around them to exceptional places.  They are on their way up.  Way to focus.

Lori Chalupny, member of the 2008 gold medal winning US soccer team took Mrs. Carnahan’s message and hit it home.  Work hard, and sometimes your sky-high dreams come true.  They did, after all, for her.


Starting Line