Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Three Hours and a Sunburn Later...

With my marathon only four weeks away, the amount of time required for training is peaking. You'll have to forgive me but because of the time spent training it ends up being pretty much the only thing I talk about. This past Saturday was a 19 miler. A little over three hours of straight running. About the time my runs passed ten miles, the straight line urban runs turned extremely monotonous. I had become too accustomed to my route, both for my sanity and for my ability to grow as a runner. I knew exactly the places I could cheat, knew how to time the traffic lights if I was feeling tired, and barely ever had to deal with a hill.

Someone at work tipped me off to the >8 mile loop at Kensington Metropark. Last week I did the loop twice. This week I did two loops plus a spur out on a horse track.

When you're out there, on your own for that long, running, it really shapes the experience of your weekend. So much so that, when the question is asked, what I did this weekend, the default answer is simply "I ran".

Comedy break---
As I said to myself "Iran". I realized I must share this MAD TV classic.

The point is, runs this long become an experience and get you in touch with a certain Place.

The Kensington run exposes me to hills, unknowns, extreme winds and a challenge I can't find in my own back yard. Google says that there is only about an 80ft vertical range to the run but with all the hills throughout the course, it really begins to add up.

It doesn't look like much as a Google track, but it sure takes some effort!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Little University Down the Road

Last year I was fortunate enough to be elected to the Eastern Michigan University Alumni Association Board of Directors.   I'm required by law, well, a sheet that I signed, to state that my opinions are my own, and do not represent the Alumni board as a whole.  Of course, I won't be mentioning anything disparaging here. My involvement with the group has brought to light some little known facts about the university that often falls within the shadow of the University of Michigan, just s few miles down the road.

Eastern Michigan's roots are as a teaching college.  To this day it pumps out some of the best prepared elementary educators in the country.  Despite some terrible press over the last 10 years over a murder cover up, and an extremely controversial new President's house and one of the worst runs in NCAA football history, EMU has built itself an impressive alumni base that is spreading quite literally around the world. 

I took some data showing the location of the EMU alumni base and made a country map. I haven't included numbers because that's not really the point. I'm pleased to see that the near 150,000 living alumni seem to be making an impact all over the world.  So while it's Easy to think of EMU as U of M's little sibling, were making quite a splash internationally.

Two places jumped out as me as real surprises, Angola and Swaziland.  I never would have expected the amount of alumni in those areas.  Time to investigate!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pure Michigan

If you don't like it, wait five minutes - so the Michigan weather adage goes.

It's easy to get jealous of those sporting latitudes nearer to zero than myself.  Most of us Michiganders (and most of us prefer that demonym), will point to the fact that we have four distinct seasons as a reason our state is so wonderful. We are the same people that ask "What happened to spring" when the weather jumps from 40 to the mid 80's in a few hours as it did Sunday. 

The temperature swing happened as I was on a 15 mile run through, interestingly enough 6 different cities.  Six different cities and 40 degrees in the course of a morning got me thinking about the extremes we see in Michigan, despite our moderate lat/long. 

Temperature swings are one thing, time is another. We're "blessed" to use a daylight savings "system" causing us to jump between -4 and -5GMT and causing daylights swings so dramatic that the first hint of morning can be seen just eight hours after that last light of day in June.  Winter, of course brings the depressing opposite, where 8 hours of real light causes many of us to wake up in the dark, drive to work in the dark and drive home in the dark.  While light perks up any day, it's strange that work probably still isn't the "perkiest" time during a cold winter day. Fortunately, cabin fever is clearing up all over the state.

Now that we in the midwest are getting away from the penguin walk induced by long periods of cold air its almost nice to look back at all the extremes we in Michigan experience.  Although, as far as running is concerned, we can postpone the 80 degree days another five weeks or so.

And we have funding for our wonderful tourism campaign.

Speaking of running, I have to figure out a 17 mile route for this weekend.  I'm growing pretty tired of the area near my house and might actually have to drive-to-run, which I generally avoid, most often because of the short days we have in the winter and spring months!  At least I'll have an opportunity to see something new!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Putting a Capital "P" in Place or The Old Train Station Down Michigan Ave.

The Five Themes of Geography brought clarity to school teachers everywhere in an otherwise sprawling set of geographic concepts.  While I maintain that geography, in a broad sense, can include anything, I've concluded that the CONCEPT of place is not given adequate consideration in our geographic lexicon.

My field, Urban Planning takes consideration of Place to the next level.  I'd like to begin capitalizing Place in this sense. I've always wanted to create new conventions anyway.

We're taught that humans interact with the environment and that there are numerous cultural considerations that go with that, but what is rarely discussed is the emotional interaction with places.  The thoughts, the history, the sense of being one gets as they exist as PART of a Place.  It's also important to think of a Place over time and that ones existence in that Place is perpetually fleeting. The idea is that a Place is the sum of the parts of the people that create it.

So what the heck am I talking about?

The Michigan Central Train Station is one of the most beautiful structures around.  Its majestic art deco lines jump up at the sky leaving an indelible impression on those who sit in its shadow.  Paradoxically, the building is a shadow of its former self.  Gutted, rotting, broken and dilapidated, it sits with the threat of its demise and with that, the loss of it as the cornerstone of a true Place, existing as it did through the ups and downs of the City of Detroit.

For me the station is special.  It makes me think, yearn, learn and wonder. When I am near it and when I think of it I become connected to the Place. Not the location, the Place.

Here's to hoping this Place will see better days. I encourage you to look up more information on the station. It's quite the soap opera here in Southeast Michigan!