Every new pair of running shoes smells faintly of hope. It’s part of the bargain, I guess. Put your money down, make your dreams come true. But after a while you stop noticing. Hope simply becomes your partner, your mate, your significant other, part of what drives you. But stop running and those same shoes begin to give off a whiff of despair, staring back from cold desolation of the closet or jumbled together in that useless pile by the door. It’s an odd transformation, but it holds. That’s as much wisdom as I can offer after thirty-plus years in the game.
We live with such hope sewn into our hearts. It’s always there, in the next run, the next race, the next text or phone call. Do people even make phone calls anymore? These days the phone is too tedious, too involving. It’s like letter writing I can’t be bothered — which is a long way from when long distance was used only for births, weddings, holidays and funerals. Go figure.
They ask why we do it, and what’s to say? It’s the best I can do with what I’ve got? How about that? Because not doing it is a calcification of whatever spirit I have left? That work for you? What is losing after all, but the probable outcome of trying? So we try, then try again. Because the more we try the less value we accord loss, and greater the satisfaction if it works out otherwise. But don’t rely too much that it will. You’ll just be setting yourself up.
Ever take a shit on a run in somebody’s yard and rather than feel guilty come away feeling ennobled? Who else does that but a runner or a vagabond? Name me another sport gives you that freedom? Makes you feel like you own the world. And what difference does it make your gender? (And man, haven’t we become lost in that thicket lately?) Ever seen piss running down the street at a late-starting marathon? Can you tell the gender of that piss? It has no gender; it’s just runner piss. And no questions asked.
Call it a benediction if you want. It’s there for the taking. You’re different as a runner. Clad like that they can’t tell if you’re a democrat or republican, a believer or an atheist. Not by your stride they can’t. It’s what makes the sport what it is, the great leveler. You are the time you hit or the distance done, nothing more. Whether you bound like a Thompson’s Gazelle or thrash around like a Whooping Crane, makes no difference. What’s your time? Tell me that and I’ll have all I need.
Runners don’t dine, they fill the void. Know why? Cause if you do doubles your whole life is ruled by the clock, and food is fuel, and when it’s time to eat, down it goes so out it’ll come before your forced to shit in someone’s yard, righteously or not. That’s just transit time math. You want convention? Find another hobby.
Most people’s lives are consumed by looking ahead or reminiscing. A runner’s life has little time for that. There is no two kilometers ahead. It’s this stride, that breath, this arm swing. Get ahead of yourself and you won’t get there as fast. Get lost in the past, and that’s where you’ll end up. The moment, that’s the thing, right here, right now. This is for victory. Like good sex, to be honest, and not just the orgasm, but the whole sweet buildup and tender afterglow.
What am I trying to say? For some people life is the middle seat. For others it’s the comfort of exit aisles. And who makes out that passenger manifest? So forget losing, dismiss winning, and start doing. It’ll all come out in the wash, even that faint whiff of false hope in that next pair of new shoes.