Happy National Running Day 2015! What is your run today?
Ever since I started running, even back when I almost exclusively ran on the treadmill, I’ve felt the same love for running that some people feel for horseback riding, great poetry, or travel. It’s a passion, a lifestyle, a freedom. Why do I love running? I could create an endless list, so rather I will focus on what I most currently appreciate about running.
“That was the real secret of the Tarahumara: they’d never forgotten what it felt like to love running. They remembered that running was mankind’s first fine art, our original act of inspired creation. Way before we were scratching pictures on caves or beating rhythms on hollow trees, we were perfecting the art of combining our breath and mind and muscles into fluid self-propulsion over wild terrain. And when our ancestors finally did make their first cave paintings, what were the first designs? A downward slash, lightning bolts through the bottom and middle—behold, the Running Man.” – Christopher McDougall, Born to Run
It’s Sport at Its Purest
In order to run, all you need is an open road and shoes (or, if you’re some people I see out on my trail, shoes are optional). Running can become as detail-oriented as we desire, but at its very essence, it is simple and pure. You move your feet fast in a forward motion. Compared to many sports which require expensive equipment, running is the everyman’s (and woman’s) sport. You do not need to be talented, coordinated, fast, rich, or fit. You just go at your pace for as long as you desire. Other sports using running in a rather Kantian manner, as a means to an end, whether those ends are conditioning, punishment, or staying fit in the off-season. We runners value running as Aristotle taught one should value true friendship: as something joyful, beneficial, and pursued for the good of the runner and the run, not to be treated in a utilitarian manner. Give to running your best effort each time and running will give back to you: a healthy body, a sound mind, a renewed spirit.
“The distance runner is mysteriously reconciling the separations of body and mind, of pain and pleasure, of the conscious and the unconscious. He is repairing the rent, and healing the wound in his divided self. He has found a way to make the ordinary extraordinary; the commonplace unique; the everyday eternal.” – George Sheehan, Running and Being
As Henry David Thoreau wrote over 150 years ago, “our life is frittered away by detail,” and this is even more so relevant for the modern, technological life. Life is complicated. Running embraces simplicity. I have come to even more appreciate running once I forfeited music during my runs. While I still run with my phone for personal safety, I’m not plugged in. There is an ineffable freedom to the simpler side of life found along a wooded trail, running alongside the rabbits and ducks, hearing only the music of the wind and the water. No fancy equipment, no fluorescent light, just you and nature. Spend some time out on your next run noticing and appreciating the tiny and simple things. Rather than mulling over your to-do list, let your mind just be present and wander where it may. Even if the rest of your day is packed with commitments and distractions, running provides the outlet to keep your life from being caught up in all the other details.
“In mind’s special processes, a ten-mile run takes far longer than the 60 minutes reported by a grandfather clock. Such time, in fact, hardly exists at all in the real world; it is all out on the trail somewhere, and you only go back to it when you are out there.” – John L. Parker, Once a Runner
Goals and Progress
Running does not require goals: you could never train for a race and keep every run easy and still reap its mental and physical benefits. That said, humans are ontologically goal-oriented people. Our desire for progress has crafted languages built empires, invented technologies, discovered medicines, and so on. Progress does not have to be grand and earth-shattering; for many of us, progress occurs in the realm of our own personal life. Goals can be professional, personal, physical, spiritual, and so on; running is only one area in life in which we can set goals and track our progress. What’s marvelous and inspiring about running is that it provides us with concrete data to directly and tangibly measure our progress. We run farther, faster, and up higher hills than we previously did. We can discipline and train ourselves through clear and precise means to achieve our new goals. And when we fall short, we simply pick up, keep moving forward, and try, try again. Personal records, Boston qualifying times, new race distances, and the like are goals along the way in the progress towards the making of our best selves.
“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” – Kathrine Switzer
Questions of the Day:
Why do you run?
What’s your run today?
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