Almanack Contributor Janelle Schwartz

Janelle Schwartz

Janelle A. Schwartz teaches literature and environmental studies at Hamilton College. She is the author of Worm Work: Recasting Romanticism, and the founder and general director of Hamilton’s soon-to-launch Academic Program in the Adirondacks. Sited in Keene, this experiential, interdisciplinary semester considers the nature of place and place-making through stewardship and the liberal arts.

Janelle is working on her first travel narrative/memoir, Land and Sky and Chocolate Milk, about the relationship between solitary running, the contemplative moment, and land use in Alaska, New Orleans, the Adirondacks, and some other sites in between. Alaska used to be home for Janelle, but she is thrilled to call the Adirondacks home (home at last!) as of this coming summer.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Running Solo: Thoughts Ahead Of My Feet

valley_view_jaschwartzI’ve been called the Pippy Longstocking or Punky Brewster of running. Pick your generation, I suppose. I get myself into and out of my own troubles, and I tend to run in whatever multitude of clothing layers I can cobble together on a cold day.  The only article of clothing I find indisputably important is the sports bra. It’s my whole support team. (Oof. I’ll take that rim shot now!)

Today was a cold, bluebird day. Beautiful. Crisp. Just under 20 degrees when I set out, with the sun blazing overhead, tricking me into thinking I was warmer than I was. Truth be told, I’d only been running about 15 minutes when I could no longer really feel my legs. Just a slightly rough sensation as I rubbed one wool-covered hand across one reddened thigh. Oh yes. I was wearing shorts. Seemed like the right thing to do. Sunny = shorts. Right? Shorts and a-burst-of-color knee-high socks, socks that, having lost some of their elasticity, would slide slowly down to mid-calf every second mile or so. Annoying. Yet illustrative of the wearisome state of always being “on.” My socks, strangely enough, were telling me, nagging me to relax. I just know they were. Let go, they pestered. Slide a little, slouch, exhale. What a tease. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Solitary Runner in the Adirondack Park

welcom_wil_signThe winter blanket covering Wilmington last weekend looked decidedly more threadbare, even crusty, than the crippling snows covering Buffalo. Maybe the new season here couldn’t decide exactly when to begin – and so it heaved a resigned sigh rather than a consummate barbaric yawp. YAWP! I whooped aloud in the pre-morning haze, hoping to give unto winter what winter had yet to give unto us.

I set out to run as the sun topped the mountains off the back of my right shoulder. Powerful pinks and streaking yellows skirted the elevated horizon, only to be devoured by a familiar cloud cover. From Route 86, I hit the crossroads, the sign to Santa’s Workshop beckoning me up the Toll Road while the knowledge of a hot drink at the Little Supermarket urged me further into town.

I ignored both.

Instead, I kept on the straight trajectory, running up Bonnieview for as long as I felt like it. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Solitary Runner in the Adirondack Park

downhill_hurricane_rdMore or less around this time, three years ago, I started to train for the 2012 Boston Marathon. Something like 117 degrees on the pavement, 95 or so ambient temp, that race was one of the hottest on record. It was the year before the dreadful bombing. And it took me practically six hours to complete. (I had trained to do it in four and a half.) Needless to say, I run slow and steady. Notwithstanding the suffocating heat of April 2012, I run a 10-minute mile—no matter what. When I think I’m sprinting: 10-minute mile. When I feel like I’m dragging: 10-minute mile. When I’m just perfect, trouncing along at a comfortable clip with a wacky spring in my step, dancing hands, and a bobbing head: 10-minute mile.

I enjoy the leisurely pace, most often because I run through rural landscapes, soaking in their (to me) intrinsic and needed sublimity while also stepping up and down and up and down into quickening challenges. Also, because I have very little drive for social, human-to-human competition. I compete only with myself or the raven croaking overhead, with how far that next tree or bend in the road or rocky outcropping appears on the horizon. Overcrowded, organized races are an anomaly for me, typically run because my brother asked me to or because I feel the notorious tug of the “I ought to’s” as part of a community or simply because I could bring a free beer back for my husband! I’m a self-described recluse (albeit along with said husband and three dogs); I choose solitude over socializing, introspection over conversation. Thus I choose to run… alone. » Continue Reading.