How glorious it is to blaze a new trail, and suddenly to appear in learned society, a book of discoveries in one’s hand, like an unforeseen comet flashing through space!
While that line was written somewhat ironically, by a person of leisure placed under a 42-day house arrest for duelling, at which time he composed this "palliative" (i.e. relieving, if not curative) account of a 42-day "voyage around [his] room", I often think of it, maybe also ironically, when I fortify myself with runs before reappearing in society.
But it is tough when running time is infringed upon by the very activities a person wants to strengthen themselves for. That's been my life since my last post. I've needed to shift how I look at my running.
I've thought back to the old people I would once run past after newspaper shifts, around five or six in the morning, making their way up to a Chinese mountain peak - walking and stretching their arms in various directions, often accompanied by little transistor radios, emitting Cantonese opera, or the news. You should have seen their muscles! I've been telling myself that consistency - to whatever degree one is able to maintain - is enough: because even minimal consistency over a period of years will yield some form of result. Even walking up a mountain a few times a week brings strength.
Then, this week, one of my friends wrote to say that despite the arthritis that continues to affect her, she chooses to make "big experiences out of small adventures". I think she is a hero, learning to use what most people would let use them.

That thought deserves its own paragraph, and space. But it is relevant even to this trivial post on running because of the importance of making whatever running we can eke out of our schedules count.
These past few weeks, I have been far too sleep-deprived, and not even well-nourished enough due to eating bad food at the wrong times because of long work days, to do speed work. I decided to focus on form: trying to keep my hips open and swing my arms not like a chicken. And suddenly, for the first time since I began running two years ago, I feel like I have some semblance of control over my stride. Where I used to feel bewildered by the injunction to, "swing arms in sync with legs", or "pick up pace/knees", I now feel like my brain is better connected to my movement.
I was inspired to write this post by Lionel Trilling's mandate of "keeping the road open". Where he meant this to mean the importance of specialists sharing what they know with the public, I am thinking more of the importance of articulating what we do and why - when we have already made the effort to make it count.
The road is not only for runners!

Running is a practice of can. On many days, it is a practice of humility. But ultimately, it cedes to a storehouse of cumulative gifts, just like the palace of the mind. If every day, one adds to it, one day, one finds there are actually things that remain there, not forgotten, but internalised. Any pains caused by circumstance have less of a hold because the foundation is no longer in circumstance, but in one's own foundation.
The "palliative" is in the approach to the blazes that are never quite exactly defined, and rarely straight. Hopefully, one is taught this approach early on: lessons are more expedient than experience. Regardless, wherever there is learning, there is a lamp of knowledge that can be passed on from person to person (λαμπάδια ἔχοντες διαδώσουσιν ἀλλήλοις ἁμιλλώμενοι τοῖς ἵπποις). This passing on is not passive: to be able to pass it on, one has to stoke it and keep it alive (great related thought by Plutarch here).
Many are the blazes - including one encapsulated in this cartoon that I now think about every time I come home from runs covered in gnats.

 Brush: misprinted type.
Definitely not the best photo - featuring a cemented path - for a post on blazing trails! Hardy har.


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