Running on Grass

Before elaborating, allow me to disambiguate. If you happened to have stumbled in here as a result of searching on various euphemisms for a widely and commonly consumed substance only recently legalized in certain places, such as my own place of Seattle, I’m afraid you have been led astray. I claim no recent experience or expertise with any recently legalized substance – that is, any experience beyond a brief jamming experience in an AmTrak observation dining car with someone who was very evidently somewhat more experienced than myself. But then the unfortunate young man was arrested in Minot ND. Sorry to disappoint you, but the boys in blue did not even bother to interrogate me.

No, I refer here to your garden variety grass – the kind that is never quite satisfied with its assigned role in the middle of the yard and every spring insists on encroaching any surrounding flower bed.

At the risk of blatant hypocrisy, I offer the simplest of advice regarding running on grass: Don’t. In fact, don’t drive on grass either – be it the garden variety or the recently legalized variety.

The fact is that I am aggressively and determinedly trampling said grass all along the perimeter of Greenlake Park even as I dream up this little conceit which you now read. Hypocrite that I am, I may hope to continue such blatant hypocrisy for as long as my tender old joints manage to hold themselves together and the tender blades of grass manage to live on despite my tramplings.

Ah… perhaps I must needs elaborate somewhat on the active part of this title.

A brief catalog of your basic running surfaces, beginning from where I stand:

Grass: the gentlest of surfaces no matter how footsore
Gravel: quite nearly as gentle, though much noisier, and easily prone to get pushed aside to reveal…
Dirt: which actually may vary considerably in hardness, depending mostly on density of traffic, from soft as sawdust to…
Asphalt: Essentially merciless but not nearly so much so as…
Concrete: Heaven forbid.

And then, of course, grass trampling, similar to gravel trampling, also eventually produces dirt of varying degrees of hardness.

And then there’s my sneaker print vs. my carbon footprint. Not only are my very exertions producing extra carbon dioxide, but each blade of grass which succumbs beneath my heel subtracts, if only slightly, from the oxygen supply.

In fact look right here. Apparently I am not the only sack of worn out joints and ligaments who has chosen to avoid the concrete sidewalk, the asphalt running path, and even the gravel by the road. Even here beneath my pounding sneakers a long patch of dirt has begun to emerge.

My mind wanders back to the spring of 1970 and I am walking across the campus in Pullman (thankfully not as an undergraduate, but I will endeavor to be no more offensive to unfortunate minorities here than may be absolutely necessary). There, right next to a similar stretch of dirt which cut through the corner between a couple of those ubiquitous campus pathways, some biology undergrad had posted a sign on which she or he had calculated the average rate of oxygen production per square inch of turf. But of course this is the new millenium. I will leave you to google the answer to that computation for yourself.


We have completed our meandering 3 and a half or so miles around Greenlake. We have studiously avoided any and all harsher running surfaces in hopes of preserving our extremities, but putting the lush green ambience of the park, if not the entire ecosystem at risk. The best I could manage toward trying to equalize my personal carbon footprint: