What I think about when I think about running.

Corblimey wrote a nice piece the other day about his running addiction, which prompted me to write this post…

Like most philosophy graduates, I carry with me an arsenal of clichéd quotes, which I randomly interject conversations with, in a somewhat pretentious and ultimately futile attempt to make myself sound vaguely intellectual.

One that does mean more to me than most of the catalogue of sound bites I pay lip service to, however, is the famous Socratic assertion that ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ I love this sprit of questioning, analyzing and dissecting. It’s definitely true that engaging in it too often can become a wearisome burden- I know this only too well- but I definitely think life would be poorer without such an attitude.

About four months ago I decided to run the New York Half Marathon, and for the last sixteen or so weeks I have been waking at ungodly hours, pounding the pavements of Manhattan and sucking in the swirling exhaust fumes that envelop the West Side Highway.

Talking to my good friend and marathon running guru Mr. Stolerman the other day, I realized that I hadn’t actually given any genuine thought or consideration to why I was actually running. Socrates would have been appalled.

The answer seemed somewhat of a mystery. Why on earth do I run? It’s certainly not because of the feeling of my knees jarring as my feet repeatedly hit unforgiving and disappointedly solid ground, my oxygen-starved lungs burning as they desperately grasp for air, my head swirling, my temples throbbing, not to mention the chafing, the details of which I feel I should spare you. Whilst there are undoubtedly some runners with masochistic tendencies who thrive on, and dare I say, enjoy this pain, these have never been feelings I have derived any pleasure from. So why exactly do I do it?

Running yesterday morning, I think I figured it out. It’s a few things really. Firstly, it turns out that I really enjoy the battle- not the physiological one, but more the psychological challenge. Every time I run, what I really have to fight- and normally every few minutes- are the voices in my head (it’s funny how having voices rather than a voice makes me sound that little bit more unhinged) imploring me to give up, to stop, to slow down, to quit. There’s something truly satisfying about silencing these voices, ignoring the urges to stop and finding the mental strength and willpower to carry on and get it done.

Also, despite aural relief being pumped through my headphones, the majesty of the New York skyline, and the sight of depressed looking suited bankers on their way to the office, I often find that after my run I can’t accurately recall having seen or heard anything. On the run I’m alone, completely in my head, seemingly blind and deaf to what’s going on around me. Living in New York, there is something truly priceless about this solitude and space.

Okay, so there you have it- a somewhat self-indulgent post, but I feel slightly better having worked out why on earth I’m running the Half-Marathon in 11 days. Gulp…

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4 responses to “What I think about when I think about running.

  1. Hadn’t really thought about it from a philosophical angle. I guess I’m addicted because, while I don’t have that masochistic tendency, there is something immensly satisfying in pushing your body’s limits and I also enjoy the clarity that results from being inside your own head for an hour.

    Good luck on the marathon.

  2. I appreciate the title of guru, much obliged. Ultimately, I feel that despite being a sociable character, there is something about the peace and solitude of running and the ability to be alone with one’s thoughts that really draws me to the sport. I also enjoy short shorts.

    Run well Mr V, remember what I’ve told you and you will do good my boy. Also, take heed from Volkswagen, their views on competition, which you mentioned in one of your previous blogs, are highly appropriate for such an occassion…

    • Thanks for the words of encouragement Mr S. I shall indeed heed your advice, and will try my to summon the spirit of VW to be the best that I can

  3. I am guessing your title references it, but if you haven’t see it, check out Haruki Murakami’s “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”.

    http://www.amazon.com/What-Talk-about-When-Running/dp/1433243881

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