I’ve heard that walking has been the vehicle for many of history’s great ideas. Philosophical thought, plotlines for novels, and countless songs have been borne out of someone going for a walk. I bet running has had a similar, but different, effect on humankind. I’m trying to think about the differences between the thoughts that I have while going for a walk and the thoughts that I have while running. I think that most of the differences occur in the way a thought appears, rather than how I deal with the thought after it is gone. When walking, it’s almost like I can see the thought coming toward me like the light on a steady-moving freight train. I can track it as it approaches, arrives, then departs. I can tinker with the thought and expand on it. Maybe that’s why walking lends itself to fine-tuned ideas and maybe that’s why I go for a walk to think.
Running is different. When I run, my thoughts appear quietly and without warning. It’s like the relationship between sleeping and dreaming. I go to sleep, then there is lapse in perception that I am not consciously present for, then I am in a dream. Time has a tenuous relationship with the dream state; maybe it feels like I stay for a while, maybe not. Then I leave the dream; sometimes seamlessly back into sleep-nothingness, or sometimes with a start, into wakefulness. Running is just like that for me, except I am awake the whole time, sitting a little further back than normal in the driver’s seat of my consciousness. I am surprised by the thoughts that come to me. At times it’s almost as if they are given to me, which reminds me of the lore centered around the dreamworld.
A year ago I ran to get healthy, I ran to experience the physical and mental growth that running facilitates, and I ran to be a part of the running community. Now I run to dream. I run to go away and come back.
A series of small injuries may be in part to blame for this evolution. I hurt my foot and my lower back at the end of 2011. Not bad enough to stop me from running, but bad enough to make me reconsider my relationship with racing. It’s funny how a small injury can change your perspective in such a big way. Ironically, I felt like I had begun to miss out on running by running so much. By focusing on training and racing so much, running was beginning to lose the mystery and magic that had inspired me before I ever raced.
I feel healthy now, and I feel like running. I don’t care about fastest known times any more. I don’t care about racing. I just want to run. I want to dream without feeling like there’s a point to it, or something that it’s leading up to. Everything has always led up to Now anyway.