almost religious

In "Run For Your Life",  NY Marathon founder Fred Lebow's brother, already tearful, says with gravitas of his sibling that, "Running was his religion". I immediately wondered: would I even recognise if it was becoming a religion for me? I already meet the definition by following the pursuit "with great devotion". Moreover, like many others, I see it as a system capable of addressing universal questions - some, at least. Running is also emotional, and can get deep.
I've already mentioned how at the marathon finishing zone I met other runners upset over the training investment not yielding desired results. I felt my own struggles - betrayed by my now dog-eared training log, thumbed through over and over as if it would cede answers (is it enough? will I get injured?) like an oracle. This seems like semi-religious behaviour. I might be saved from more of it because I literally cannot afford to take limit-pushing risks, not having the means for physical therapy. But I am not saved from watching running on youtube, or dreaming about running accoutrements. I am not saved from spending time trying to figure out how to reach places I'd like to run in further from where I live. Finally, I am not saved from the attractiveness of the life lessons that can be practiced in it.
Running can be grasped for, as a living metaphor to explain part of the inner journey, whatever that means, as it if can be pinned down by a dictionary definition, displayed like in a butterfly hibernation box. I do get why for many, lifestyle and diet changes associated with race training is more comprehensible than, say, an Easter fast. After all, the result of race training likely brings a finisher's medal. By contrast, the fruits of fasting are far less tangible, and can be invisible to eyes that see only motes. The culture we live in requires the shared language of the medal - so, again, the bitterness over a slow marathon race time, regardless of whether this bitterness is actually a character flaw.

There's a tendency to want things smooth - and yet, to need the bumpiness. There's a wish for the one-size-fits-all solution to life's questions but also a need to translate the particularities of our lives into a language that can be universally understood. I'd hazard the statement that we're probably on the middle road, between the two extremes, so long as we are feeling the uncomfortable tension.
The tension between the standardized and the surprising is encapsulated by a beautiful French trail running film shot in Thailand. At one point, the host describes how when he asked locals about trails that would be up to 50k in length,  the locals were "astounded" ("ahurissant") at the prospect of running, for leisure, along the paths they use for labour and transport (around the 7:40 mark). It is a really short moment in the conversation, but I found it jarring. The film is unabashed by its own values: no questions are raised as to the anthropological ethics of intriguing children in remote villages with drones. Despite this, it captures something of the Thai atmosphere - inclusive of the awkwardness of filming the squatting man endlessly stirring the food that is being made for them: the man largely ignored as they chat away about trail running, or, the awkward scene where Le Saux and the host are talking inside of a temple, and locals are filmed as they pray. That aspects of a "Thai atmosphere" were filmed in Chiang Mai is not without significance: that city was one of the first to be standardized, in "1987 Visit Thailand Year", when the roads were literally made smooth.
But the point from that film I want to come back to is the contrast between the leisure of running and work; the question of whether serious runners take running as work; the problem of what happens when levels of devotion are given over to what we do.

I've run past this many times.
Brush: misprinted type.


Popular posts from this blog

running biography

masters in training

arcane trails