On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My runs are not a "journey"

I'm about to go off on someone - maybe even you. Don't take it personally.

Do you ever get philosophical about running?

I don't.

Not me. Although I do like running in the snow.
Oh, I love running. Obviously. Its benefits are many: physical well-being; emotional well-being; "me time;" smug feeling of being superior to non-runners; I don't need to enumerate the benefits here. You probably know them. You're reading a running blog.

But not a benefit for me? My runs are not transcendental. Or at least not often.

I read a few running blogs, as you can imagine. It's interesting to read about people's struggles with running - and, for many of us, it does seem to be a Sisyphean struggle. We're always fighting running: fighting to make time, fighting to keep at it, fighting through phases where we don't improve or have lost motivation, fighting to run more, to run harder, to run faster.

Of course, it doesn't take a particularly astute observer to point out that we're actually fighting ourselves. Running is neutral, right? It's just there. You do it or you don't do it.

Not me. Although I did grow up near Chicago.
One thing that I hate to see in running blogs is melodrama. Unintentional hyperbole. Average runs that become life-changing. Speedwork that becomes superman's flight. Love letters to one's body or to one's run or to nature. All written in earnest. This drives me bonkers.

Am I jealous of these runners, whose every run seems to transcend and become a thing of beauty? I really don't think so. Any run can be beautiful; any run is beautiful on its own. But for me, the beauty of running is doing it and doing it again. It's not the acute memory of the wind through the trees on a perfect day. It's seeing the ongoing changes: seeing leafy trees in the spring and the same trees, leafless, in the fall. Seeing the branches drip with rain or be heavy with snow. The beauty of running is not the light reflecting off the river in the morning, but the constancy of the river being there every day when I run near it. The Hudson River in New York, the Schuylkill when I lived in Philly. The scenery changes, I change, but the run doesn't change.

Or maybe the beauty is in me. Because I am strong and powerful and beautiful, or something. I can't even say that in jest.

NB: None of this applies to treadmills, because they are just miserable and soul-sucking and there is nothing beautiful about running on a treadmill.
Definitely not me. I don't even like beaches.


  1. "Definitely not me. I don't even like beaches." That frickin cracked me up.

    I wish my runs were soul enlightening too - for a long time I thought I was "doing it wrong" because I didn't have that ethereal feeling out on a run. I realized that I did it because it was hard and because it wasn't pleasant. It makes me tougher. The lack of awesome is what keeps me coming back :-)

  2. YES! I read all these reports, and I start to feel insecure - like, what am I missing? What did I do wrong that I don't feel that on my run?

  3. HAHAHAHA! I feel the exact same way!!! (Except for the not liking beaches part. That is just wrong.)

  4. Oh, double posting, sorry. The other thing that annoys the crap out of me? Body-talk. "Oh, I didn't know the legs had it in them today." "Ok, legs, let's do it!" GAG.

  5. LOL. So, you are totally not a Nike commercial. I totally get that. I just know a good run from a bad run. But when I get through the bad run, I'm happy it's over. When I get a good run, I'm shocked. Elated by it. But most of them, like life, are just kind of mediocre. I'm getting it in and getting it done.

  6. I thought I had a life changing run once, but then I realized it was just gas.

  7. Thank you guys! Ian, what a terrible joke. Loosey, NO, I'm definitely not a Nike commercial! And Carla - yes, talking to one's legs is the worst! Total running blog cliche. "I checked in with my legs to see if they could hold this pace... They said they could." My legs do not talk to me!

  8. Hmmmm, actually Tracy, my legs do talk to me. They usually scream "WHY THE EFF ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME???"

  9. Hahahaha- "Checking in with the legs." That has definitely caught on in running blog jargon. I want someone to make a list of all the goofy-ass phrases and terms we've grown accustomed to in blogland.

    I like where you're going with the "seeing the ongoing changes" bit. "The scenery changes, I change, but the run doesn't change." ... hmm, that paragraph is setting off my GETTING-PHILOSOPHICAL-ABOUT-RUNNING meter!

  10. I was wondering if anyone would notice how philosophical I was being :)

  11. I don't even have time to talk let alone think about how the wind is softly touching my hair or whatever. All I can handle is thinking over and over and over "You aren't going to actually die, even though it currently feels that way"

  12. This post and all the comments have me laughing! I feel the same way! A run is a run! Most days its hard and sucks..Nothing really ever changes lol

  13. Ha! I don't think I know any bloggers that do this, but I can imagine some bloggers I know writing in this style. They are the same people who are moved by a bowl of oatmeal.

  14. What, you don't commune with your burning lungs/running induced indigestion? You don't get all Zen when asshole drivers on cell phones almost kill you?

    As a non-philosophical person, it's hard for me to get all hippie dippy reflectionated about anything. And by golly, I do enjoy running, but I enjoy it for a host of reasons beyond time to be philosophical. Occasionally, I'll admire the scenery or be happy that I get this time to myself on a beautiful day, but that's not, I think, what you're talking about. And I should also point out that, by simple running-math, you have to slog through a lot of mediocre and crappy runs for every one great run. Sucky odds, but that's how they do.