The romance of running - and fitness in general, I think - is it gives us the satisfaction of doing something, and through that crucible, making ourselves into something else. No one pushes us out the door. No one logs of the miles for you. Your legs, your effort, your choices. You either train or you don't. You either eat like an adult or a child with an overdeveloped sweet tooth.
Again, this isn't just running. I've progressed to the point where I'm doing my pullups and dips with 20 lbs added weight now, since my scrawny ass isn't sufficient resistance. Am I bragging by saying this? Pretty much. But effort earns you that right.
I bring this up, not to further discuss my mediocre fitness (I know a guy who does dips with 135 lbs hanging off his waist - it's insane. And I'm certainly not the fastest guy I know.), but to say that this notion is a little off base, at best, and fucking delusional at worst.
Simply, this recreational fitness thing does not make me a badass, a hardass, or any other kind of "ass" - except, maybe, a self-important ass, at times. It does not draw lineage from me back to whatever ancient warrior culture is trendy these days. It does not make me a better, more worthwhile person than someone who simply goes on walks over their lunch break, or hell, sits on their ass all day. And it does not make me a martyr, deserving of tens of facebook "likes" for completing another "epic" workout. Recreational fitness is not an albatross, not a cross to be born.
It is, rather, a supreme luxury, afforded to me based on a number of factors I had nothing to do with. Not a damn thing. I was born in a first world country, a healthy baby to healthy parents. I was raised without any wants or needs, allowed to play (or not) whatever sports I wanted, and eat like a growing kid ought to. I was given the opportunity to pursue whatever interests I developed, without family pressure, and without financial or logistical limits. I had books and basketballs and a dog.
Sitting here, right now, I'm typing this in my air-conditioned room, on my laptop computer, with which I'm connected to wireless internet. I'm wearing new clothes and have just returned from the gym, where I worked out and showered. I ate food to compensate for the 13 miles I ran, because there are 24-hour grocery stores where you can buy endless amounts of supremely nutritious food. Or not. I could have had ice cream for dinner. The point is, I can, almost literally, eat as much of whatever I want. In a world where roughly half of the population is starving, that's impossibly absurd.
Tomorrow, I will get my first paycheck from my new job. I will drive to this job in my car and sit in front of a computer, where I will nitpick minute details of academic writing. I will enjoy it, both because the work is intellectually stimulating, and because the co workers have been very welcoming and helpful. I will be paid for this in another two weeks - not a lot of money, but more than many people will see in a lifetime. And I will use this to buy all of the things mentioned above, to feed myself and support my recreational calorie burning.
There are too many circumstances and too many people who have collectively made this possible. I can't know of or name them all. (Although I should say, hi Mom and Dad. Obviously you did a lot - the most - to make everything possible. And you're reading this, because you're still endlessly supportive. Thanks.)
To be clear, this isn't first world guilt, nor is it an anti-exercise screed. I am proud of the fact that I've managed to coax my body into doing some pretty cool shit. Other people should be proud of themselves as well. This is simply awareness. Awareness that, of all possible realities, I've been given a pretty damn good one. Awareness that I didn't put this life together myself, and that no endeavor - not mine, and not anyone's - is truly solitary.