August 8, 2014

Narrative and Context

There's a sentiment expressed (ironically, yes) on running blogs and message boards, when discussions get overly technical or argumentative, that we should all just shutup and go for a run. Chill, and stop thinking so hard, basically. I'd like to put aside the irony of someone taking the time to comment that others shouldn't take the time to comment for a moment, and say that this sentiment isn't one I share.

Not to say that it isn't valid. Plenty of people enjoy running for the act, and that is, of course, perfect. It's a very simple thing, running. One foot at a time, and away you go. There's a local guy who races plenty, with whom I've spoken, who just runs 30 minutes a day. He doesn't consider pace, or distance - though he goes plenty hard, from what I've seen. He knows nothing at all about the biochemistry that informs his fitness, nor does he care. He runs, races well - but only ever on a whim - and enjoys it.

But there are - while perhaps fewer - a not insignificant number of neurotic headcases like myself who sometimes enjoy the ideas more than the acts. Again, I do realize the inherent potential for minor blasphemy here. That I spend more time every day reading about running than actually hammering out miles (though most would say I run plenty) speaks to a certain pencil necked sensibility, a bookishness I've always been happy to embrace.

I don't, however, think these are contradictory notions. Reading about mitochondrial adaptations gives meaning and purpose to runs that would otherwise be mere movement. That movement is of course pleasant in its own right, but like words, needs context to demonstrate its true poetry. And those adaptations - like so much of biology - goes beyond imagination, truly a case of reality outpacing fiction. We are, in this case, protagonists of our own narratives, and the authors too. We can shape ourselves by our actions, exert control in a world that so often deprives us of any semblance of autonomy. And we can do so knowingly, eyes perpetually wide in amazement.

This was - and remains - the central appeal of running, to me. It began with questions. Could I run a lot? What would happen if I did? Could I finish a half marathon? A full? An ultra? How would I do those things? How would I then optimize performance? (That last question will never be answered with total satisfaction, acting instead as a perpetual rabbit.) These questions give context to the act, purpose to an hour or two every day, makes letters, words, and narrative out of otherwise incomprehensible shapes.

(Please note that, in all of this, I'm speaking only for myself. And that I'm a happy dork.)


  1. you should go for a run. And then you should blog or talk and speculate about it however you want.

    1. Oh I will. Just had to kill a little time while waiting on laundry.