Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Runner in Society

I adore the society of runners that shows itself when one runner passes within sight of another -- we wave at one another, wordlessly acknowledging our common pursuit, and that simple gesture conveys more community than an hour of typical small-talk: each sees the other passing over the same terrain, enduring the same unkind weather, wearing the same silly clothes, accepting the same hardships for the same inexpressible reasons. We could be next-door neighbors, but transfigured by our weird garb, the brevity of the passing, and the absurd setting of the encounter -- a silent country highway, a barely-paved side street, the thin shoulder of an access road -- there is no recognition, and no identification, other than runner. That tells more than enough, and it's a truly beautiful thing.

Not everything about running is quite so ennobling or sunny. Consider this:

It slightly disappoints me that this video portrays a runner who has put in a morning run of 15 miles, and who expects to make a long run of 20-22 miles in the same week, and yet expects to finish the marathon for which he is preparing in 4-5 hours. I don't think you need to put in that kind of training mileage to finish in 4-5 hours, but I could be wrong. Your mileage may vary?

As either of the regular readers of this precious, precious blog will attest, I am loath to say self-congratulatory things about running or my own running. People who do that appall me. With that said, the more disappointing feature of the video is its self-congratulatory stance toward running: the bystander character is a little too awestruck at the physical demands of the sport, whereas my experience is that non-runners pause ever so briefly on awe before moving directly to something closer to pity or scorn. They regard distance runners with roughly the indifference-suffused contempt with which I regard those who fritter away hours and life-span trying to master motorcycle stunts, ascend impossible mountain peaks, or partake of that parkour crap. I hope to see some of the above in funny video reels, but I resent being prevailed upon to stand in awe of what they do.

It's an iron-clad law of human interaction: other people's avocations are fucking stupid.

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