Saturday, 30 June 2012

#73: Within You Without You

4:21am, Sat 30 June 2012

Have you ever closed your eyes and had the feeling that the world around you is getting larger and larger, that massive, endless and overwhelming space is building and that as you get smaller and smaller, you are overtaken by a profound and terrifying sense of insignificance, helplessness and fear?

Perhaps it was the lack of sleep, the cocktail of drugs pre and post surgery or simply the total sum of stresses experienced in the past 24hrs, but it was during one such experience early this morning that my mind began to race, and a perfect articulation of thoughts materialized in my brain.

Recently, I read somewhere an article which spoke about 'the code' of running which according to the author relates to the declining incidence of the friendly wave or nod to fellow runners. For reasons then unknown, I was deeply 'bothered' by this and only now believe I know why.

There are two ways to insult what I do as a runner. The direct way is to belittle the sport that I so love and enjoy. That of course being track and field, specifically running. The indirect route and one becoming increasingly prevalent is to glamorize and celebrate a similar but in my opinion unrelated 'sport'/activity that is 'extreme' endurance running. For you see while seemingly very similar in terms of the goal of the events (to cover distance) and essential movements employed (bipedal locomotion); they actually couldn't be more different.

When I, and others like me, run track, be it 100m or 42.2k (not technically a track event but bear with me), I run for a very simple reason. That being to cover that distance as quickly and as efficiently as I possibly can. To do this I must invest a tremendous amount of time, physical and mental energy/effort, resources and employ very specific forms of training, knowledge and experience. Regardless of the time it takes to do this, what stays the same for both myself as well as the world record holder is our shared desire to push our bodies to yet unimaginable limits to be the best we can possibly be and then strive to be even better. This is what it means not only to run, but to run well.

With 'extrene' running, I argue this desire is not shared or even valued. Rather the time, the energy, the resources and the approach to training is simply not employed in order to strive for any personal (subjective) or absolute (objective) excellence. Rather it is wasted (in my opinion) in the pointless and misplaced pursuit of cheap glory, incomparable challenge and a false sense of self-actualization. These are activities with built-in excuses NOT to run fast and NOT to run well. The extreme distance, the unfavourable terrain, the unbearable conditions. These are nothing more than convenient and admittedly 'true' excuses which cloud the nature of the challenge and allow participants the opportunity to hide behind a veil of  blatant mediocrity. What they do is NOT the same thing that I do when I run. We are doing very different things and they cannot be compared. 

Today I will run a 5k race and many will ask why. I will not run as fast as I should run. I will not run as fast as I could and can run. But I will run nonetheless and provide no excuses to explain myself. I don't run because I 'want' to run, or 'need' to run... I run because that is simply what I do. It is what I love to do and will always do. It is who I am and always will be. It is the only thing that truly makes me feel alive in this world. It is the thing that prevents the world from becoming bigger and bigger and prevents me from becoming smaller, insignificant and afraid.

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