I came across I column I wrote the other day.
It was from years ago, and it was about literature and how I can think about certain books and suddenly be back wherever I was the first time I read them. I think of “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton and picture myself sitting on a folding stepstool outside of the apartments my family lived in in Elyria, Ohio. I was in third grade.
Sometimes in that same memory, I’m selling lemonade to union guys coming to a United Auto Workers meeting my dad was holding at the event hall at the apartment complex. Maybe I read while I waited for customers. Maybe it was two separate events. Maybe the stepstool is the only constant.
It was black and yellow and the kind that has two steps, with rubber pads on each one. I used to turn it around and sit on the lower step and use the upper one as a desk. It’s the kind of stepstool I wish I had about once a week, especially when a smoke alarm battery starts chirping.
I don’t know what’s true. It’s all variations on a theme, just like everything.
But it made me think of words. And poetry. And music.
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Every time I hear the phrase “variations on a theme,” I think of the poem by Ken Koch, and who knows where I first read it. It’s variations on the poem “This is just to say,” by William Carlos Williams:
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
In Koch’s version, something goes awry, every time. Here’s my favorite:
We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.
I don’t know why I like it. For the same reason, I love all the Edward Gorey books, literary and twisted, just how I like it. Kind of funny and horrifying. Like all the best things, right?
I dig a little darkness in my art.
But mostly what I love is watching someone interpret someone else’s work. We all come at things from a different perspective, with all the ways we’ve been wronged or all the things we’ve hoped or all the ways we’ve loved and unloved, done and undone.
It happens in everything. I see it all the time – someone online will ask, “What’s your favorite race,” and 10 people post as many different replies. That’s OK. They all come at it in different ways. I love the Twin Cities Marathon because I was successful at qualifying for Boston there. I hate the Vermont City Marathon because I wasn’t. Same with Phoenix. It isn’t the fault of the race or the organizer, but sometimes you need something besides yourself to blame.
The variation can be in your training, in your perspective, in your reasoning for going at all. It doesn’t matter – it’s whatever you say it is.
A few weeks ago, I started teaching cycling classes at the gym again. I haven’t done it in about a year and I was a little anxious about starting up – how does their stereo system work, will I have any issues at 5 a.m., and will I be able to solve them. We went over the day before so I could try everything out, make sure I could make the microphone work, the music play. And in a moment of panic, I worried that my ancient iPod wouldn’t work.
I may be the only person left who hasn’t been streaming music on their phone. Instead, it’s just whatever songs are on my iPod, with whatever I’ve bought in the last year, having lost all of my iTunes music in the process of life.
So I signed up for Spotify, paid for the version without ads, and downloaded a playlist of some of my favorite spin class songs I’ve used in the past and a variety of other stuff. Maybe I can make this work without a bunch of bad pop (nothing against bad pop, I love it, too).
This was all glorious to Viv, 7, who realized she could now use my old iPod to play music. That’s meant she’d discovered a lot of songs that have what she calls – rightly so – inappropriate lyrics. It also means she’s blasting Jason Isbell or The Lumineers from the front yard, which makes me as proud as when I find her holed up with a book somewhere.
The soundtrack of my life is some of what I love, some of what the people I love adore and some of what I just grew up listening to on the radio. Just like those books can put me there, so can the songs, pulling off the road more often than I admit, to cry in my car for reasons I can’t explain. You just have to sit there and sing it and feel it.
The class went fine. An Avett Brothers song I’m obsessed with, “January Wedding,” came up during a spin and it was a poor choice, but I let it play out because it makes me happy. Nobody seemed to mind.
A friend of mine was telling me about a night she drove across northern Minnesota listening to the Avett Brothers the whole time, and another friend remembers nursing her newborn to a live recording of them. For each of these women, this is the background to those events, to that dark, dark drive, to that time in the middle of the night with a mewling baby and a sense of wonder mixed with terror. These are their variations on this Avett Brothers theme.
For me, I don’t know.
I think about a run at Good Earth State Park last year, just me and Neil Young.
I recently pulled up “Athens County” by Jonathon Edwards, a terrible song, as I plan a trip home to Ohio later this summer to see my dad, whose mind is crumbling around him, who played Paul Simon’s “Graceland” for me nonstop for years, who made me listen to Marty Robbins as we drove through the night to Rhode Island. Who loves Jimmy Buffett and took me to see him at outdoor venues throughout Ohio. Is it the best music I’ve ever heard? No, not even close. But I was some of the best times of my life.
My cheeseburger in paradise was wine coolers at Blossom Music Center in Ohio.
The runs I’ve done in these cities lay alongside these soundtracks, layered on the books I read and the NPR shows I listened to, the local food I ate and the people I knew.
It’s all variations on a theme, the theme of just living. The theme of not knowing what you’ve done, of knowing all along, of knowing it was wrong or right, of knowing there’s only one way, and that’s through.
This past weekend, I was riding my bike to Luverne, Minn., and there was some gravel, and I’m still a little sketchy on it, still worried about falling, still sometimes taking medicine to make my wrist stop hurting. And as I rolled through the countryside, I sang to myself over and over, “The hardest part is through,” a line from a Lumineers song, a sentiment echoed in everything from embroidery to 12-step programs.
And yet it’s true.
I started this post thinking I would talk about some of my favorite cover songs, and about why I love them – to hear how someone else imagines something – stemmed partly from the Spotify stations that play acoustic covers and partly from thinking again about this drive in Ohio and Woody Guthrie songs interpreted by Billy Bragg and Wilco. I will always be in my car between Columbus and Cleveland, listening to “California Stars,” laying on the gravel road at The Ridges, the bike path that runs along the Hocking River.
I’ll be there with Lucinda Williams. I’ll be in Athens with Van Morrison and NPR. I’ll be in Good Earth with Neil Young. In the Phoenix marathon with Quintron and Miss Pussycat or Dennis Ferrer, step by metronome step toward just missing qualifying for Boston.
Right now, I’m reading “Less” by Andrew Sean Greer, and it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. I mark nearly every page with words I want to live in. I’m about three-fourths through the book, and some of it I can’t stop thinking about. Think about this: A line where the narrator describes someone as the kind of person who doesn’t need to be reminded to put his oxygen mask on first. That tells you everything you need to know about that person.
But then there’s this, talking about grief, the “salt in the pudding,” as he writes.
“Didn't Roman generals hire slaves to march beside them in a triumphant parade and remind them that they too would die? Even your narrator, one morning after what should have been a happy occasion, was found shivering at the end of the bed (spouse: "I really wish you weren't crying right now"). Don't little children, awakened one morning and told, "Now you're five!" - don't they wail at the universe's descent into chaos? The sun slowly dying, the spiral arm spreading, the molecules drifting apart second by second toward our inevitable heat death - shouldn't we all wail to the stars?”
So when the Avett Brothers say, “are you aware the shape I’m in, my hands they shake, my head it spins.”
We’ll take you in.
Like a pair of stolen, polished dimes. Ask to dance. It’s fine.
Wail to the stars. Steal the plums from the icebox. Fins to the left.
Walk the tightrope in the snow, walk it again between the towers.
Jacqueline Palfy is a longtime runner, reader and writer, marathoner, mom and board member of the nonprofit Sioux Falls Area Running Club. Her contributions to the 605 Running Co. blog will appear every other Tuesday. You can follow her on Twitter @runnerJPK or reach her at email@example.com. Story ideas are encouraged.
Do you remember what you were doing four years ago?
Our store will be celebrating its fourth birthday this month!
Four years ago I was working full time for my parents at The Cookie Jar Eatery. My life was full of new things. I had recently graduated from college, gotten married and bought a house. You’d have a much better chance of finding me on a golf course in those days than out training for marathons. In fact I was barely a runner four years ago. My resume consisted of one half marathon and two 5k’s. So how did I end up as a part owner of the 605 Running Company?
Three brothers, two cities and the love of running. The Watley Brothers have a long history in both Sioux Falls and Lincoln, Nebraska. Four years ago Grant and Paul were both at the University of Sioux Falls while Logan had become a very active member with the Lincoln Running Company in Nebraska. With their combined experiences the brothers hatched a plan to create a running community center in Sioux Falls. A speciality outfitter helping runners of all abilities find success through the sport they had loved throughout their lives.
Back then things looked a little different in Downtown Sioux Falls too. We had a number vacancies up and down Phillips Avenue. I remember being very vocal in membership meetings for DTSF about the need for us to actively recruit more business to the block. Out of those meetings came the Downtown Incubator Program. The 605 Running Company was the first business to utilize this program.
I applied to work at the store part time on the nights and weekends. When I interviewed, Paul and the General Manager Wayne had a conversation about how they had already hired enough employees and that the plan was to meet me, but not hire me. After we walked through the unfinished store, chatted about the downtown business community and shared war stories about USF I was hired. Part time, nights and weekends. My personal goal was to save the money I made at the store for a new truck that I’d had my sights on (fun fact, I still don’t own that truck).
After a month in business Paul was presented with a job opportunity in is actual profession in Texas that he couldn’t pass up. With his departure came a job opening. Leaving the family business was a very difficult decision for me. I had worked in that bakery since high school and my parents had supported every turn my career had taken through college and as a budding young professional. Helping to build a new business from the ground up was the equivalent of graduate school for me. The Watley’s gave me unprecedented decision making abilities and tasked me with growing the business with a community first approach. A lot of the things we’ve done are very non-traditional, but our business is people and our profits are measured by our communities success and growth through running.
In four years as our business has grown and we’ve added more employees we’ve also been able to add private coaching services. Our store has sponsored and managed local races including our spring half marathon that was a major success. We have also worked with local running clubs Sioux Falls Women Run (which didn’t exist when we opened), Sioux Falls Area Running Club and the Prairie Striders Running Club to grow the sport. Finally, we’ve become better at what we do at the shop. Our hands on experience has made us better shoe fitters, our running resumes continue to grow which helps us add products that runners actually need and use. We are truly your local running specialty outfitters. My hope is that you view our shop as a place to go to be prepared to run, not just a place to go buy a thing.
Four years have gone by very fast. Like a graduating senior from high school our best days are certainly in front of us and not behind us. Believe me when I tell you we are just getting started and we have a ton of fun and exciting things planned for the future of 605 Running Company. I’m so humbled to be a part of this running community and cannot thank you all enough for your support of our business over the years.
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Greg Koch is the General Manager/Co-Owner of the 605 Running Company. When he is not at the store he volunteers on the Sioux Falls Marathon Board and Co-Coaches his church softball co-ed team. Greg is an avid runner and enjoys being outdoors whenever possible. Follow Greg on Instagram @gregrun605
Earlier this year, the Sioux Falls Area Running Club elected a new board.
If you’re not familiar with the club, it’s the longest nonprofit running club in Sioux Falls and puts on the kids cross-country series in the fall and the trail series that runs through Big Sioux, Good Earth and Newton Hills state parks.
It’s a great group that supports all the other groups in town – from local businesses catering to runners and cyclists to other running clubs and training groups. Why? Because we just like to run.
In full disclosure: I’ve been a member for at least 15 years and a board member for about a decade. It’s ebbed and flowed over the years, mirroring life.
But this year the club has a new energy, a new focus and a new commitment to better understanding how to serve the Sioux Falls running community and help support everyone else out there trying to do the same thing.
I asked our board members to share a bit about themselves so you could see who they are and what they’re trying to do. Below are our bios.
Reach out. Tell us what you want, what you need, if you can volunteer.
What struck me as I read all of this is that we all have the same reasons for running: To clear our heads. To socialize. To be grateful we can run or race or recover. That we all do it because we need to be outside, or because we love nature or because this is what our friends do, and we’ve fallen in with a bad crowd.
This is who we are. Join us.
Thanks to our blog sponsor!
Name: Nathan Schwab
Family: Wife, Rachael, and kids Brady, 6, and Lily, 3
Occupation: Personal banker and financial advisor at First Bank & Trust
Board position: President and Director of the Trail Series
What are you reading or binge-watching: “Red Rising” trilogy and the World Cup
What are you training for: Nothing right now, but this fall the Glacier Hills 20K or 30K
When and why did you start running: In 2005, I graduated from college and figured I should do something to stay in shape. I love running for a lot of reasons – personal time to clear my head, listen to music or just get away from everything. I’m a pretty competitive runner, and I love the strategy of racing and pushing myself to my limits. I’m primarily a trail runner. Nothing beats the dirt, prairie, trees and animals to truly escape the daily grind. I especially love the varied terrain and hills. It’s so much less about pace and more about the pure experience of the run.
Name: Sharleen Stevens
Family: Husband and forever-crew person, Jeff
Occupation: Inspector at Showplace
Board position: Membership co-chair
What are you reading or binge-watching: I’m in the middle of three books and trying to keep up with reality shows “The Bachelorette” and “Big Brother.”
What are you training for: Superior 100 in September
When and why did you start running: I’ve been a runner since junior high, but I’ve kept it up as I’ve gotten older and become better in different ways. It’s so intrinsically rewarding – it’s my therapy, and I love to see where and how far my body can take me.
Name: Laurie Ayala
Family: Husband and four kids, ranging in age from 12 to 24
Occupation: Health and wellness programming
Board position: Membership co-chair
What are you reading or binge-watching: “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande
What are you training for: I’m injured!
When and why did you start running: I love running because no matter how fast, slow I am, how much like a gazelle or lumbering elephant, there is a place for me and others like me in this sport.
Name: Phil Breed
Family: Two best friends – my wife, Donna and my dog, Ned
Occupation: School counselor at Dakota Valley Middle School and assistant cross-country coach, DV PROWL wellness coordinator
Board position: Administrative assistant and secretary
What are you reading: "Complete Guide to Foam Rolling" by Kyle Stul and "Queen of the Night" J. A. Jance
What are you training for: No training this summer -- all recreational running.
When and why did you start running: In seventh grade track, I wanted to be a hurdler and my coach said I was a distance runner, and he was right. Now, I run mostly trails, which keeps me in the here and now of footfall as well as the beauty of what’s around me and a clear mind.
Name: Jacqueline Palfy
Family: Boyfriend, Patrick and two kids, Jack, 9 and Viv, 7
Occupation: Media relations for Sanford Health, blogger, occasional spin class instructor, book club founder
Board position: Marketing co-chair
What are you reading or binge-watching: “Less” by Andrew Sean Greer
What are you training for: Just trying to build back up after a few spring injuries, and hoping for a longer trail run in the fall
When and why did you start running: I ran track and cross-country (poorly) in high school, then took a hiatus to mountain bike and make generally bad choices. In 2001, I looked around at my life and realized I needed to make a change, so I started running again. I haven’t looked back. It helps me ease anxiety and depression, it helps me make new friends, it keeps me in shape and centers me – over and over, every time.
Name: Scott Kennedy
Family: Son, Brian, 20; fiancée Becky and her two kids, Wyatt, 22 and Josie, 11.
Occupation: Vice-president of business development for Veracity, an inspection company. I work remotely.
Board position: Marketing co-chair
What are you reading or binge-watching: I enjoy watching true crime shows: Dateline, etc.
What are you training for: Ironman 70.3 in Indian Wells/ La Quinta in December.
When and why did you start running: I started running on and off in 2010. In February 2015, I was unhappy with how I felt and decided to make a change. From that point on, I ran 4-5 days a week and started to lose weight, and I also found it helped relieve stress. 5Ks turned into 10Ks and finally a marathon in October 2015. Running requires little equipment or training to start. I travel for work a lot – but I can run anywhere and often meet new people wherever I am. I also love how the Sioux Falls running community bands together in the winter to keep each other motivated with group runs.