Monday, February 20, 2006

Let us cool things down by a notch or two. I fear that I have written a post that is far too interesting below this one, so I will temper it with some ruminations on running. Unlike so many that run and discuss it over the Internet, particularly those that opt to dedicate blogs specifically to running, I don't run to lose weight, relieve stress, spend time by myself, learn life lessons or anything of the sort. Originally, I began running six years ago, in what is a little-known fact, with Danny by joining the cross country team, since we had nothing else to do in terms of an extracurricular activity. Danny spoke of some guy he knew by the name of Riyaad who was reputedly quite fast, having done something or other at some middle school track meet, and hoped that he too would join the team (even lesser-known fact: Riyaad was briefly a jumper in high schol).

Running, even when I could feebly stagger five kilometres wearing shorts that came below my knee in 27 or 28 minutes (27:54 was my fastest time in grade 9), was about competing. That goal remains to this day, though I no longer run races to avoid last place. I concede that I run because I enjoy it, but reductionist attempts at running are false. Running is not about this or that, it can not be reduced into some incomprehensible aphorism or heuristic, it is a sport in the same way as basketball or soccer are sports. I run because I want to be as good of a runner as I can be, whether that means running fast times or placing high in competitive races on the track, the roads or over cross country.

All sorts of things have come from running. In running long races and long runs, I have found an acute focus (though it comes and goes) and I have found that time slows and I relax when under pressure. I have become an environmentalist, come to know more about my body and myself than I ever could have imagined, and been to places both near and far that I would have never seen, that others have never seen and likely never will. I have found an outlet for self-expression that, though I can not articulate it, manifests itself in the ebb and flow of a race, in the ferocity of running hog-wild through busy streets and empty river valleys on a brilliantly sunny day, in gently loping along on a short, easy jog on a cold, dark street with no lights.

All of these, as great as they are, do not represent the reasons that I run, and certainly not what running is about. Competitive running is a desire to run as fast as I can. Doing so successfully, as I have done in the last three races I have run, as I did when I managed to go to OFSAA, is a reward that outweighs every long tempo on a magnificent day and every long run where it seemed like my springy stride would carry me forever at a comfortable four-and-a-half minutes per kilometre. In that sense, I run for the same reason gamers game, gamblers gamble, fashionistas fashion and rockers rock: to do it as well as possible, because it is fun to do so, or even try to do so.

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