Tuesday, 13 September 2011

#25: For No One

It seems like ages ago that I last wrote anything about anything and while I still have very little important to say, I felt it was my duty to put together something for your collective amusement. So here it goes...

The primary reason that I haven't had time (or energy) to do much writing is that marathon training has stepped up a notch and a large minority of my time is spent running; and when I'm not actually out running, I'm thinking and mentally preparing for the next time I will be. To be perfectly honest, I have to admit that I've become a bit obsessed with it of late to the point where it's becoming distracting. It should come as no surprise to anyone that I take my running and training very seriously (perhaps too much so!) and want to do the best possible job I can in order to succeed. As this is my first attempt at the distance, there is a great deal of trust and belief that must be had that the training and hard work will in fact pay off come race day. While tempo, race pace and speed work are an inherent parts of the training and workouts, I will never come close to actually running the given distance (42.2km) at the planned pace (4:00/km) which means that I must have faith that I will be able to complete the task on the day given the training I have dedicated 14 weeks towards.

I won't go into too much detail because they simply aren't exciting in the least, but my mileage has increased to roughly 120km per week which will continue for the next two weeks before beginning a two week taper leading to October 16th. I'll be doing a tune-up race this weekend in St. Catherine’s (the Run for the Grapes Half-marathon) where we (Doyle and myself) will plan to start out roughly at goal pace and then pick it up in the second part of the race as long as things are feeling good. This will provide confidence in executing a plan and also test our physical fitness and mental stability.

But enough about my running. There are some other topics of recent interest that I'd like to comment on and hope you find it insightful.

First up: The Running Room and who is and isn't a "runner". I know that I've said/written/suggested here and elsewhere that running for me is a pursuit of excellence and self-improvement and thus race times and performance play a major role in my personal motivation for running. But I also understand and appreciate that this is not true or important for everyone. In fact, there are hundreds of reasons why individuals run and all of them are equally acceptable and worthy. Not everyone can run a sub 3 hour marathon or a sub 40 10k nor should they be expected too. There is no one size fits all definition of what it takes to be a runner and so as long as we share an interest and passion for running and the value and significance it adds to our lives; then we are all runners. I do not intend to differentiate types and qualities of runners (although difference surely exist) or suggest that some are less worthy of the title of "runner" than others; but again, I do acknowledge that differences do exist and may mean different things to different people. And while I may have criticised the Running Room in the past for catering, marketing and ultimately profiting from a particular demographic that I do not relate well too; they do an exceptional job to get people involved in the sport and increase the overall popularity of running. Ultimately what matters to me is the promotion and pursuit of increased health and fitness; something I will support every time. And we should all be agreed that anyone interested in running is on side with these goals. So let's agree that we are all runners and we are all in for the same pursuits of improved health, fitness, and personal satisfaction.

Next: Women's (professional) sport. A friend of mine and previous colleague is very active in pointing out the unfair discrimination and inequality that woman’s sport continues to face and the uphill battle that it faces. Yes, I agree, it sucks and it's unfair. Men get paid more, get more attention and get more opportunity to develop and succeed in the sporting world. Women DO deserve equal opportunity to participate and enjoy the many advantages that sport can provide and offer... BUT when it comes to professional sports, we are taking about a business that is interested in profits and entertainment value. And let's face it, women's sports can't deliver! No one cares about women's basketball, softball or even hockey (the Olympics are a 4 year exception) because let's be honest, it's boring and women aren't as good as the guys. This is an inarguable fact; not one that is socially constructed or perceived. A woman will never run faster than a man in the 100m or even the marathon; she will never jump higher or throw a javelin further. She will not score more goals, sink more baskets or hit more home runs. And while I agree that these accomplishments are essentially meaningless in themselves; people want to see the fastest, strongest and most skilled...and that will always be a man. This isn't misogynist or sexist; it's fucking true! End of story.

Finally: obesity. Yes, my topic of eternal interest and (unfortunately) one that is not likely to go away any time soon. Perhaps not surprising (or maybe so) is that my primary 'opposition' to obesity and indirectly to people who are obese is one of (public) health. I do not believe that being overweight/obese is healthy (not physically, emotionally or socially!) and thus I am an advocate of its prevention, intervention and treatment. Obviously, doing any of these things has and continues to be an extremely problematic issue that gains a considerable deal of attention and this is only likely to grow in the near future. I therefore can offer no obvious solutions to fix this monumental problem. This will require a great deal of time and likely will need to consider specific individuals and small samples rather than large groups or populations, which is why I believe we have failed so greatly so far. The obesity "epidemic" is a social problem that is 'caused'/results from individual (in)action and thus requires individual solutions. Essentially, I believe that being healthy (which in this case means not being obese) is not only a personal responsibility; but that it is also a social responsibility. Bad habits and behaviour are dangerously contagious, especially when such behaviour requires doing nothing at all! Obesity is also a (socio)economic issue, a cultural and ethnic issue and even an aesthetic issue; and despite a growing voice to suggest otherwise, it IS an issue and one which needs to be addressed. I admit that there are dozens, hundreds, and perhaps thousands of factors and determinants which all contribute to the final effect (an increasingly obese society); but that does not mean that the problem is so hopelessly complicated that it is futile or naive to suggest simple solutions. Fundamental thermodynamics offers the simplest of these solutions: by decreasing one's energy intake (Eating Less!) and increasing its expenditure/usage (Moving More!), physical mass (ie body weight) can be converted (not technically lost) to other forms and the body will get smaller! So we can tax junk food and sugary drinks; we can ban food advertising to kids; we can put bigger labels on food packages; we can teach kids about healthy eating and even suggest that they get more physical activity... but we also have to tell everyone to do the math and find out what balance of energy, in vs out, works for them and keeps them healthy.

And one last thing: If you own a bike, please don't ride it on the sidewalk! I used to think that slow walking people annoyed me most in this world, but my ire has now been firmly directed towards the idiots who feel the need to cycle in the middle of downtown Toronto sidewalks. There is absolutely no need for this. It's not only about safety and following the law; it about courtesy and common sense. My patience with the human race is reaching it's limits...

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