I tend to compartmentalize activities throughout the day. I like to answer email for the first hour I’m at my desk. I peck out a blog post during my commute home and call to check-in with the family on Wednesday evenings after Nike Speed. And, I listen to running podcasts while I walk the dog each morning.
As you know, Matt’s Dump Runners Club podcast is my favorite. (His new format within a two-week cycle is a stroke of genius, and his episodes get better and better.) But recently he tipped me off to a new podcast called turfcasts, thinking I would be interested in Brenn’s vignettes of his marathon training and racing in New York City. Matt hasn’t given me bad advice yet, so I checked out the first episode, “Prologue: Running and Boredom.” In less time than it takes me to run a lap around the East Village Track, I was charmed by its thoughtful NPR-esque presentation. I wanted more, and so I downloaded them all and listened to the first dozen episodes on Wednesday. Matilda was thrilled because it meant she got lots of walks.
Brenn, the host and narrator of turfcasts, is about my age, ran track growing up in Rochester NY, lives in Brooklyn with his wife, and races for the Central Park Track Club (which means he’s one of the fast, lanky guys in orange we see at local races). He is training for the Big Sur International Marathon, which is the same day as my Flora London Marathon.
He sets the scene so we’re right there with him, stride for stride; and he has the chops to describe the things about our city that only runners tend to notice or think about. In “When Nature Calls,” Brenn reads the passage which hooked me:
These observations of dogs, dancers, and silhouettes, pedestrian as they may seem, are more poignant when running, because the mere act of running, like any form of moderate or intense exercise, tilts the perceptual and emotional plane. Observations register as impressions. These impressions provide the color to the run. As for the running part of the run, there are better and worse days, but the basics are always the same: a management of breathing, a negotiation with pain, and a feeling of relief when done. Recalling how one feels during a run is like recalling a day at the office. Recalling what one sees during a run is like recollecting a dream.
After a few episodes, I was lulled by their essayistic quality, and recognized the three separate satisfactions Brenn delivers to his listeners: one guaranteed laugh, at least one nod of recognition, and the “Ah-ha!” that accompanies the oblique, casual poignancy of his conclusions.
If you run in New York City, if you listen to NPR, if you enjoy being told a story, you will enjoy Brenn’s turfcasts. They are of a manageable length–never longer than 9 minutes. For me, that’s ideal because I rarely have more than 15 minutes of uninterrupted time.
The writing on this podcast is so good that listening to it is a little bit like training with a faster runner. I’m both inspired and annoyed: Brenn prods me to look at and think about my running more keenly, and he also motivates me to up my game here on PF.
the potency of the cheering crowds in the New York City Marathon: “The sirens do call, but not from Manhattan-from Brooklyn. Spectators line several deep along Fourth Avenue….After a silent passing through the Hassidic neighborhood, Hipsterland is raucous.”
the weather conditions in the 2009 Bronx Half-Marathon: “The wind was strong enough to make drafting a legitimate strategy.”
his running shoe fetish: “Mimura [Asics’ Japanese master cobbler] compares runners and their shoes to Samurais and their swords. How refreshing and appropriate is this reverent approach. I imagine Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill rewritten.”