“No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” – Socrates
I want to open by admitting a deep dissatisfaction with our society. I think such confessions are ultimately grandiose and a bit pompous but I value honesty before anything else, so there it is. I am dissatisfied with our values, with how we communicate with one another, with what we expect of one another. Everything in our society and culture is based on the premise that the American way of life is based on common sense–how else would we live? It is based on the fact that we take society for granted–this is the way things are! We funnel embarrassing amounts of resources towards entertainment that kills the entertainers (football) or ridicule them while following their personal lives with a microscope (any celebrity ever). We value political polarization more than we value breaking bread across communities. We value 21st Century Time more than Human Time.
When you are out at mile 12 and six miles away from home and your legs are maybe starting to give out and your core is not holding up, you think only of a few things. Am I hydrated? Should I eat something and refuel? What if I don’t make it home–are there alternative routes I should take? Your focus is entirely on the relationship between the current state and potential of your physical body and a singular goal. I believe this state of existence is an ancient one, one that all humans past, present, and future have and will experience. If there’s anything to have faith in, I’m going to choose humans. And if I place my faith in humanity alone, then there’s nothing more valuable than finding time to connect to a fundamental human experience. Don’t take me to church–take me for a run. Let the muscle fibers of my limbs and the ancestral genes of my mitochondria re-engage with the chase, let them remember the expansive fields of Africa, let them remember that to be human is to strive.
We are shaped by two things–our genetics and our environment, and we have control over one of those things (for now). If I want to be a physically fit, ethically sound, intellectually engaged human being, do I spend my weekend meditating during a long run or eating cheese dip during a football game? We are products of our choices. I would never tell someone what to do, but I do believe some choices must be more valuable than others. So I run. And as I run I see families hauling lawn chairs and big coolers to the football game. And as I run I see families working together on landscaping or home repair. And as I run I see throngs of young people leaving a church, celebrating matrimony. And as I run I see people smoking on the bar patio, punctuating their environment with glossy eyes and deep sighs. And as I run I see other runners, other bikers, and other walkers, making eye contact, smiling, and giving that nod of understanding. We don’t believe we are better, but we know we share a motivation for being on the trail–bettering ourselves because we exist in community, in society, and we owe it to the people we love to be the best for them.
In math and science you know something by knowing the limits and extremes of something. What is the smallest amount I can detect with this measurement protocol? What is the most efficient way to run this process? What is the extreme limit of this equation? By subjecting the concepts, processes, and theories we propose to such scrutiny, by subjecting them to the stretching and pushing and pulling and wham-bamming of our minds and tools, we know what something is. How do you know yourself unless you’ve pushed yourself to different limits? Should you know yourself? If I am to accomplish my goals, I need to know my potential, my skills, and my limits, so I must know myself. So I run.
I run without music. I find the steady beat of my soles against a sidewalk and the up-and-down of my diaphragm are a foundation for meditation, and music distracts me from those grounding places. And in that state my mind is free to process. And after miles ran my brain has ran through everything I stress about, everything I worry about, everything I dream about, and it is done. There is serenity at the re-entrance through my apartment door to stretch and chug a protein shake. There is peace. So let me escape from the oversaturation of advertisement and noise in our society, and let me run.
I run because it is my heritage as a human. I run because I must, and I believe everyone should. I run for the people I love. I run to know myself. I run to find peace. I run because society is a contract, but humanity is stout. Humanity is steadfast. Humanity is irreversible. Humanity is unerasable. Humanity is shared.