The Philosophy of Running


Let me preface this with: while I am not a scholar of philosophy, I do hope that by our very nature – humans are philosophers. We are thinkers, tinkerers, and problem solvers using what tools we have to answer the bigger questions, to break up the monotony of everyday life and busyness. And this nature is easily applied to running where some of us do the bulk of our thinking or perhaps where we abstain because of a realization that a way to solve a problem is to simply not think.

When I first started running it was about the body. It was about the motion, one foot in front of the other. It was awkward and I have never felt particularly suited to it, even though there are those that assert that we are all born runners. Well, when you’re as close to the ground as I am and have more body mass that feels like it is being pulled to that same ground – it’s bound to feel a little hard/odd. So, there I was, running along and really just thinking about the act itself; “How do I get from point A to B? How do I improve? How do I go further? What is this all about??”

As time progressed it became more about the mind and about how running became an answer to a problem – real or imagined. I needed the physical movement, the repetition, to get to a place of zen where I could unpack things that were usually put away and out of sight. So, then the running became about that – about getting through the thoughts, not just packing them away, and then reaching that “nirvana”, if you will.

I have been running for about 10 years, give or take a few breaks in there, and the more I run, the more I realize that running is my metaphor for life. Sometimes injury strikes – that is a metaphor for what is out of our control. You’re running up a hill and you wonder “why am I doing this again?”, because it teaches us discipline or because we realize that we are capable of more than we thought.

An important lesson regarding the life-running intersection that I have learned lately is the lesson of the boring. When you start running, it’s all one big PR-fest. There are so many races and costumes and new people – it’s exciting, it is reminiscent of all of those wonderful firsts of life, all over again. But like everything else, after time, that fades a little. You realize, you don’t have to run as much or as far and that you don’t care as much as you once did about the medal or the shirt or the beer at the finish. Another autumn occurs in an unlikely place – your life as a runner.

What is the solution? Well, that’s different for everyone, but the common thread is that the focus must shift and that we must do it for the simple joy or for the needed discipline of a harried world.

Running, deeper than you think.

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