On Running

At the behest of my father, I ran cross country in high school. He demanded that I do some kind of sport, and I chose distance running mainly (I think) because it meant that I didn’t have to really cooperate with a team or do anything complicated. I didn’t have to learn to hit or kick or pass or anything subtle. I just had to learn to run. I thought it would be simple. I was right. Running is very simple. That does not mean that it is easy.

Since high school, I have only rarely jogged. When I lived in Narita I regularly biked through the rice fields and bamboo groves near my apartment, but seldom jogged. Last year, I went to a gym on a regular basis (before said gym went under) and worked on a number of exercises and weights a few times a week. I did not run, though. Bicycling, jumping jacks, push-ups, weights- these were all well and good. Anything but running. Running was the only exercise that I actively did not want to do.

I’ve started running again. I hate it. It feels great.

Jogging is at once an act of punishing self-abnegation, and also a source of great satisfaction. It does hurt. When I run, I huff, puff, and feel various parts of my body buzz and twist in pain. Or, if not pain, then some other feeling that is certainly not pleasure. I’m steady, but I do not go particularly fast. Every moment is a moment in which I have to tell myself “I have the capacity to withstand an additional moment of pain.” Every pace invites the next, and every unit of distance screams “we will withstand more.” Running is an act of passing through pain in order to get to other, additional pain, and more pain after that. Lots of life is like that. Running makes it explicit.

It is satisfying, though. I’ve only started running again recently, but at the end of a jog (or during it) I pause and realize that I do not need to be passive. Also, I realize that even though I create difficulty for myself (such as jogging arbitrary distances) I can also overcome such difficulties. Running is a visceral reminder that a human can take action and self-create both challenges and solutions. We can act. We do not wait to act or simply get acted upon, we do not just observe or stew or bide time. Running (such a simple activity) is a reminder that we can dramatically do. Also, it’s good for you, so that’s a nice bonus.

I would not say I like like running. I do however, enjoy it. I would not describe myself as a masochist, but knowing that one can both create (and subsequently crush) a given challenge using only the power of one’s legs makes for a worthy satisfaction, and a good pain.

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