Saturday morning was the kickoff for the 2023 spring marathon training with the Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders, a local running group that I've joined. I'm planning to run my first half marathon this spring, not the full 26.2 miles of a marathon, my god no, and while the training for my race doesn't actually start until the new year, the group encouraged us shorter-distance runners to join them for the first long-run of the season. The marathon runners ran 8 miles (which is, incidentally, the farthest distance I've ever run, so the 13.1 miles of a half marathon still feels like a huge stretch); my group — the 9'30"/mi pace group — ran 6 miles.

I've been thinking about how I might document this whole process, as there's a lot to write about with regards to education and technology — even though I swore I was going to do something else with my life, goddammit. Unfortunately, I'm still rather fascinated by the process of training (as a physiological and cultural practice that sometimes gets called "teaching" and sometimes gets called "learning" and sometimes gets sneered at by those who prefer those gerunds), the use of technology and data, the beliefs surrounding the whole "marathon" thing, and more. I want to write about this, sure, except I still find writing to be really challenging right now. I could not write about this, right? While I'm active on Instagram, I'm loathe to start using that platform in such a way that it becomes the sort of promotional performance that Twitter once was. It's too soon to say that everyone now lives in a post-Twitter world, of course, but I certainly do. And I'm not at all keen to recreate that "influencer" bullshit elsewhere, in words or in images or in videos. Other platforms don't help me think; they just showcase a kind of performativity that, depending on the activity, might appear to be thinking but seems more about appearing.

I am running to get into my body, not to get away from it. So yeah. Lots of thoughts there; not sure how I want to write, if I can write, if I can run 13.1 miles at a 9'30"/mi pace (or faster since that's my "training" pace).


On Thursday evening, I attended an in-person event — not my first since COVID, but certainly only my second or third — a talk at the neighborhood running store: Alison Mariella Désir discussing her book Running While Black. It's an excellent book, and it has given me a lot to think about as I am new to the sport and its history and culture, new to "the running community," a community that is overwhelmingly white, even in a city like Oakland. My neighborhood running store gets a shout-out in the closing paragraph of Désir's book as part of the movement to make running more inclusive, as the store is built by and for Black and brown runners. Désir said that the original title of her book was going to be "the unbearable whiteness of running," and every time I run or see runners or run with other runners, I think about this. When I volunteer with RBO, I think about this: about how the students in Oakland do not all have access to recess or gym, about how Black students get pushed towards track, while white and Asian students are encouraged to run cross-country — about how we stereotype and exclude and pre-judge even the youngest bodies, how running signals "health" in certain bodies and "criminality" in others.

As I sat in the audience on Thursday, I also thought about the ways in which I used to live-tweet these sorts of thoughts — thoughts that weren't always clearly formed but that could, with some coaxing, perhaps become something more. I thought about how I used to live-tweet these sorts of events. I suppose one rationalizes doing so as "sharing," as "learning in public," and so on. "Hey, look at me. Look at what I'm doing. I'm here. You're not." Etc.

Kin remarked recently that a co-worker was complaining that folks don't "show up" for one another, but when pressed, it seemed that this person meant that folks don't retweet one another, that they don't click the emoji beneath a Slack or Instagram post. "Showing up," in this formulation, isn't about praxis or care as much as it's about signaling. Social media has encouraged all sorts of these performances of presence, of community, of solidarity.

Running, of course, has its own performative practices — in and beyond digital spaces, and many of these are incredibly data-centric. As I consider how to write about this whole half-marathon-training process, I have to think about how much of that I want to participate in, how much I want to push back on, where I want my body and my mind to be and to go. And I have to remind myself that this is a blog; this is just another space where I train my craft, where I practice.

Audrey Watters


Audrey Watters


Back to Archives