A thought for your consideration:
About two miles from the start of the St. George marathon last October a woman pulled up and ran with me for two or three miles. We were running very comfortably, still high as kites from the thrill of being there. It was the first marathon for both of us. She introduced herself with the words, "A person ought to be able to just run like this forever." Her statement is something I believe is true.
But what purpose would it serve if we could? Read on.
Nowadays few people ever have occasion to travel more than a few blocks on foot. They rarely have the experience of enjoying life as true pedestrians.
When I was a kid, often my feet were my only mode of transportation. Sure, I had a bike, but I'd often walk by choice. And sometimes I even ran.
The idea of running with the purpose of going somewhere rarely occurs to most people these days, even those of us who spend a great deal of our time running. In our daily runs we usually wind up exactly where we started, running from home, out and back, or on some loop trail, or around in circles on a track. Usually the reasons we subject ourselves to these things are oriented around personal health goals, though those who stick with it also actually learn actually enjoy it.
Here follows the story of a recent weekend:
One Friday I rested from running, but engaged in an unusually arduous weight training session. On Saturday I went out and cranked out two cycles of my favorite outdoor running route, which involves some significant hills, for a total of 14.2 miles. Though I was pooped, I then drove to the gym and worked out with weights again for another 45 minutes. When I got home I plotted my runs for the coming week, for which I had a goal of 40 miles.
On Sunday, rather than resting, it was a beautiful day for a run, and I had a perfect slot for it, so I headed out from the house and ran a total of 5.7 miles. It felt fine. I anticipated paying the consequences on Monday.
But by Monday morning my 54.67-year-old legs were beginning to feel like stumps. So I figured I'd try a token easy run of about three miles, pump up the volume in midweek, and rest Friday in preparation for my fifteen-miler Saturday. (My week is measured from Sunday to Saturday.)
When I got to the gym, though I was a little sluggish getting started, eventually I found some legs, and finished five miles at a respectable pace, pushed weights and stretched for about twenty minutes, and headed home.
On the way to my car, I passed by a man in the parking lot who had just dropped a credit card on the ground and hadn't noticed it. In a friendly gesture I pointed his attention to it, and he responded gratefully.
In that moment I lost my concentration temporarily. I popped the trunk with the remote opener, dropped my car keys in my gym bag instead of the lap counter I had in my other hand, threw the bag in the trunk, slammed the lid shut, and found myself standing by my car hoping to unlock the driver's door with my lap counter. Click. Click. Nothing happened. What an idiot I felt like. Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb ...
My wife would not be home for another half hour or more, so it was useless to call her to come and get me. And I didn't want to call AAA to bail me out of this one. Besides, I would have had to pay some exorbitant fee to charge the phone call. (The cheapskates at the gym took away the courtesy phone last year.) What to do?
Well, the gym is a little over three miles from home. Hmm. Well, I could walk, I thought.
Walk? Walk!?? What, me, walk? Hey, three miles is a token run. No big whoop, right? Never mind that I'd already worked out for the day, and thought I was tired. If I left immediately, I would get home just about the time as my wife; then we could drive back and pick up my car. So that's exactly what I did.
And guess what? Even though I thought I was whupped after five miles in the gym, the run home was the most enjoyable short run I've had in months. Of course it helped that the route is 90% downhill, and it was a beautiful cool evening. When I got home I felt fabulous, and was barely breathing hard at all.
As I sailed home I thought of those times as a kid when I would use my feet to get where I had to go as quickly as I could get there, and remembered how much fun it could be. I wasn't trying to set a PR or to fulfill some goal yesterday. (OK, I confess I did note the extra time and mileage in my log!) All I was doing was trying to get somewhere I needed to be, and enjoying the trip while I was at it. And I asked myself how many non-running dudes I know who, when stuck three miles from home, it would even occur to, just to start lamming it home. None.
So as my temporary St. George running partner said, `A person ought to be able to just run forever.' Why? So he can run home, to name just one good reason.