Sunday, 1 April 2012

Running ought to be boring

On hearing how much I’ve been running, a friend asked whether I ever got bored. It was one of those questions that come out of nowhere: I had honestly never even considered that running could be boring. Repetitive, minimalist, requiring patience perhaps, but not boring.

But I imagine that joggers listen to music to keep themselves interested. This puzzles me: how could you run, i.e. do a sport that is exclusively about pace, timing, rhythm, whilst listening to a constantly varying playlist ? It’d be like conducting an orchestra with your ipod on. So one reason why running isn’t boring is that to run well you have to concentrate quite hard: maintaining a hard pace, but also constantly being sure not to burn out too soon. It’s like a balancing act where instead of not leaning too far right or left like a tightrope walker, you mustn’t lean too far forward (speeding up) or back (slowing down).

Another reason is that over the hour or longer spent running, thoughts seem to form an orderly succession through the mind. Without any attempt to think about one thing in particular, a meditative – damn, I thought I could write this blog without using the word ‘meditative’ – gnawing away at difficulties takes place, turning them over, inspecting them from all angles. Sometimes this leads to breakthroughs in my research: fearful of forgetting them, I write them down as soon as I get through the door, often with half-frozen hands, producing a handwriting that is weirdly different to my own. I sometimes wonder whether runners can as it were smell this on one another’s writing.

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