Air Thresh: Prologue / by Edmund Milly

So. I ran across Canada. Like, from my apartment in Montreal to the Pacific Ocean in Vancouver. I went solo, pushing my camping gear and supplies in a jogging stroller and averaging 30 miles a day. This is a story I’ve already told, but, since this is me starting my new blog about my life as a singer who runs, and it is to be in many ways the chronicle of my life after this significant and unusual event, I feel that you ought to know.

When I came back from that journey, I took my longest ever break from running, a solid 18 months. Perhaps a few weeks without running were necessary to give my body time to recover, but I believe that the extremely prolonged break with which I ended up was mostly the product of psychological need. I wasn’t able to process it at the time, but my entire relationship with running could never be the same after running 3100 miles in one summer. Certain moments on the run stick out in my memory as turning points, the times when my tears turned into laughter and my running made me feel alive - cresting a hill near Montreal River, powering through pouring rain in a Northern Ontario thunderstorm, feeling pushed forward by some external force the day I covered 56 miles from Wawa to White River. I was changed by these events. Parts of me were burnt away, and other parts were refined.

The changes might be summed up as a series of contrasts. I used to run in fits and starts, alternating periods of heavy mileage with periods of almost total negligence; now I run seven days a week, often the same amount each day. I used to think I was hardcore; now I realize I’m pretty amateur, but I pass no judgment on myself for that, I just slowly, steadily work towards running faster and longer. I used to run because I was depressed; now I run because it allows me to express my inner harmony. I used to run to confront pain; now when I run, I find pleasure. I used to run because it was part of my personality; now I run to purge myself of personality. I used to listen to music on the run; now I find it distracts me from my own breath. I used to run to finish; now I run to win. I used to run because it made me feel human; now I run to leave the weight of my humanity behind. I run because I’m an animal.

And yet, my running has also become more disciplined and calculated. If I cross my aerobic threshold, I do so with full awareness and forethought. My breathing has become deeper and more mindful even as I consciously subjugate its rhythm to my footfalls. My cadence is a steady 180 bpm: 4 footfalls to the inhalation and 4 to the exhalation on an easy day, 3-3 when approaching aerobic threshold, 2-2 in a race. Exercise physiology and books have been helpful to me - when I read about running, I no longer seek narrative so much as information, research.

And so, where my previous blog was primarily concerned with narrative, this one will perhaps place more emphasis on research - my own and others'. I’m often going to talk about various experiments with nutrition, training, shoes, lifestyle, etc. as they pertain to performance in running and singing - either/or, not usually both at once. Other times I’ll talk about books or people that I’ve found interesting or that have impacted the way I practice running and singing.

But what does "air thresh" mean? And what crossover can there be between maximizing one's performance as a singer and as a runner? Without an outlet for my writing since Ascending and Descending, I've been building up a backlog of things I need to talk about, and I'm excited to get into these questions and more in this space. So stay tuned!