Sunday, September 12, 2010

Why I run

(and hike and camp and . . .)

"Short cut this way" - spectator sign at 2004 Chicago Marathon
"No short cuts" - 2004 Chicago Marathoners cry on seeing the sign

There are lots of reasons to promote running. Fitness. Competition. Glory. Euphoria. Myself, after 20 years of running I'm not going to turn heads by my fitness. The only races where I've gotten prizes are races where noone serious shows up (don't laugh, it has happened. The funny thing, I was teasing the eventual winner about it before the race). And I don't get euphoria from just running any more (ok, maybe if there is a real good hill. Note: my idea of a real good hill is one that a car cannot drive up.)

But what I do get is connect to reality. My profession is one of abstraction. How to make an abstraction of our world so we can understand it better. But, as I had to explain to one of my students, when you are faced with an actual instance, there is no need for abstraction. In running, hiking, camping the road, trail, hill, stream, field is present with you, and you have to deal with it as it is. Heat, water, cold, ice, rain, snow, hazards, obstacles, are things you face. The constraints of fuel, food, water and the limits of your body, skill, knowledge and training have to be considered before you start, and their effects have to be dealt with. Preparation matters, and you pay a price if you skimp. There are real hazards. I've written journal entries for the purpose of informing whoever discovered them. I've given reports that a trail was hazardous and should have been closed.

I think we live in a society that likes to ignore reality, preferring to view perception as more important. And they can use power derived from fait, moral righteousness or power to enforce their views. But that does not count when it is you, your fitness, skill, training and nature. And I like having one part of my life where that is unambiguously true.

J, J and I at the finish
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