Running, Zombies, and Some New Goals

A few months ago I signed up to run a half marathon. I ran one of these for the first time last year to show myself that I could manage to pick a goal, stick with it, and succeed at the race. I should say what I mean by succeed though. I’m not a fast runner. Success for me was hitting the correct mileage in a decent time rather than what would be considered by most runners to be a good time.

I had a lot motivating me last year not the least of which was that I had just turned thirty. This didn’t freak me out so much as remind me that I’d spent most of my twenties contemplating things like running a half or full marathon without ever, you know, getting up to actually go running. I was also at a point in my dissertation where long runs in blustery weather made for some good contemplation time while I started to figure out how all the various pieces I was working with would fit together. The exercise had the added benefit of being a way of working off stress and otherwise being all round a healthier, happier individual. In fact, I went from being a horrible insomniac to having a relatively mild case here and there. Frankly, that last one made the whole thing worth the time and effort.

All of this leads me to my real reason for writing: I can’t run worth squat right now. Prior to getting sick last month I was running a regular four miles at a decent clip. I wasn’t in shape, but should the zombie apocalypse have happened I would have had a decent chance at survival. Then I caught the flu and a throat infection. Or as I prefer to think of it, a plucky band of germ friends set up shop in my throat and hijinks ensued. It lasted so long and was so painful that I decided to liken it to the clichéd set up of a sitcom that everyone shakes their heads about and wonders how it can keep getting renewed every year while a show like Firefly got cancelled.

That’s right. Firefly. I went there.

Anyway, after the nagging death cough had finally dissipated I went out for a quick run thinking I’d bounce back easily enough so long as I took care not to over do it. This led to the following inner monologue while I tried to run just one mile: “Ok, I’m running. Good deal. Off we go. Gotta get some mileage. Already signed up for the race. Nothing to it. Phew, I’m feeling pretty beat up here. How far have I gone – oh, thirty feet. Crap. The zombies! The zombies are totally gonna eat my precious brains now!!!” And so on. After a few more runs I’m up to a decent two miles and some change. My biggest issue thus far has been the battle between my mental expectations and my feeble body’s inability to meet them. I want to be running five or six miles right now (as I was last year at this point). The stitch in my side says otherwise.

Since I’m starting practically from scratch (or at least it feels that way), I decided to start posting about my training and progress here as a means to get some motivation and as a way to record my training so I can look back on it next year (when I may try to do a full marathon). I still have enough time to train for the race and I don’t doubt I’ll complete it so long as I don’t get sick or injured. Completing it isn’t my main goal though. My big goal is to improve on last year’s performance. The time to beat is 2:19:03 at a pace of 10:37. Here goes.

(Also, just so you know, if you have a golf cart, I may be in touch. You may be my only hope.)

The Fog of Mining

Ken Ward Jr. has an interesting post regarding the rumors about new strip mining at Blair Mountain. Right now it seems that everything is a bit hazy. The Sierra Club’s press release about the increased activity at Blair can be found here. I’ll be trying to keep up with this one as it develops.

[Update 2/9/12]: Ken Ward Jr. has a statement by an Arch Coal spokeswoman denying that there are any plans to mine Blair Mountain.

Implicit Blame

For the past six months or so my dissertation work has kept me from keeping up with any mining or mining safety news. Nevertheless, I do my best to watch the headlines. The latest headline out of West Virginia’s legislative response to the Upper Big Branch Disaster in 2010 has me boggled. Dave Jamieson at Huffington Post has what looks to be a good overview of the situation. The legislation in question is pushing for mandatory drug testing. This is in spite of the fact that drug usage played no role in the disaster. I also want to emphasize that there seems to be no evidence of any drug usage by any of the victims of the disaster.

More than likely there are any number of influences from the industry on this legislation. That said, I have to go even further than Celeste Monforton, the public health expert Jamieson quotes in his article. Monforton describes the drug testing discussion as a distraction. I think it’s worse than that. There’s an implicit cast of blame that occurs with this rhetoric when it’s attached to legislation specifically labeled as a response to Upper Big Branch. It becomes a red herring that suggests the men who died were somehow responsible for the fate that befell them. Whatever the merits of drug testing in the mining industry, the legislative battle over it has implicitly created a fallacious discourse about Upper Big Branch that needs to be cut off before it can get started.

More on Colbert’s Shenanigans

Dahlia Lithwick has an interesting piece at Slate that covers Stephen Colbert’s shenanigans (and let’s face it, shenanigans is really the word to use) with his super PAC. Lithwick points to a lot of the issues with Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court in 2010. Personally I’m a fan of what Colbert is doing if for no other reason than it raises awareness of the inherent…well, shenanigan nature of campaign finance and the murky waters that is the sea of super PACs. If nothing else the ramifications of money (be it public, private, limited, or unlimited) on our political campaigns is something that deserves widespread attention. That said, you can certainly make an argument about the quality of that awareness, but I’m willing to say that at this point quantity might be more important than quality.

Also, there’s some genuinely good comedy coming out of all of this. I’m pretty sure none of this would be happening if that wasn’t the case.