This makes no sense

18 Jan 2007

When I spoke to my parents on the week-end, my father asked me how my running was going and my mother asked if I were injured. My mother thinks that if I’m running, I must be injuring myself.

I find this annoying. Especially because I have injured myself running. She might be right. It makes me question myself. Should I run? Why do I want to run anyway? What do I gain from it?

I have always occasionally run places for transportation. I used to run to school when I was in high school. It gave me a chance to think. Then the track coach decided I should be on the track team. I hated track. I can’t think when racing on a track. The longest race we ran was a mile, and I’m no good at that short a distance. I felt really awful after each race and during training.

In college I got a good bike, and I didn’t need to run for transport any more. I don’t even know if my college had a track team, I made no effort to join it.

A few years ago I learned that racing long distances was kind of fun. I didn’t have to run so fast that my lungs hurt. I find a strange attraction to racing. There is no feeling like being in the middle of a herd of people all intently running; I have an odd sense of belonging. It is soothing to be surrounded by hundreds of footfalls.

At first I was just trotting along at an 8 minute mile pace. No pressure. Just the opposite from racing a mile in high school. But then I wanted to go faster. Odd that, it’s just what I hated. I moved out of the middle of the pack too, and lost the sense of belonging. Yet somehow the thrill of competition made up for losing the ease.

At first I could still enjoy the scenery, but as I got faster I got more focused on simply running and I couldn’t spare the attention for anything except moving my body.

Odd how much attention it takes just to move. It seems so natural, yet the faster we go the more focused we need to be. What am I so focused on? I’m not consciously aware of any thoughts, but the need for concentration is vast. I certainly can’t think about computer problems in the middle of a race.

So why do I race now? It isn’t a quiet time to think, as it used to be. It isn’t a relaxing chance to be with people. It isn’t a chance to look at the scenery. There’s just the thrill of the race, and the joy of focused intense movement.

Today I went out for a leisurely run on the trails. The temperature was pleasant, for the first time in a week. It felt good to move. The scenery was stunning — a beautiful clear day with good views of the channel islands. No one else out there. A chance to think — about why I run.

I passed 4 mountain bikers going up the hills, but there was no sense of competition — I had an unfair advantage going up, and they had an unfair advantage going down.

Such a completely different feel from racing a 10k.

I like doing both.

So why do I run? For many reasons. Contradictory reasons. Inexplicable reasons. But always, always because there is pleasure in movement.

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