Running allows for introspection, for clarity of mind, and free thought. There is an isolation, freedom of constraint both physical and mental, and an allowance for ideas to come and go as freely as each step lands. There is no one dictating the path you must take, and no expectation on your performance, other than those that you impose upon yourself. We run for health, for fitness, for travel. We run because it is the best way to take in a city. We run to get closer to something we love, and we run away from that which brings us pain.
I run to seek a void.
This void, the all unknowing, kilometer 7 of a 10km run, or kilometer 37 of a 42km marathon, this is the freedom from thought that some runners thirst for. These sentiments are echoed in Mark Sutcliffe’s book, Why I Run:
But sometimes, as long as you’re not in the middle of a crowded race or on a trail run through the forest or wallowing in self-pity, it can be helpful to look at the road behind you. You may find it reassuring to see how far you’ve come.
Running allows us to progress forward through space and time, and to quantify that progression. Seldom in life are we granted such an opportunity to see a goal ahead of us, and have in our arsenal the tools we need to achieve said goal. With running we have everything we need, at all times. We have our body, and our mind. We don’t have excuses, and justifications, we need not our voice, or the voice of any others. We don’t need music, or ambient sound. We exist in a vacuum filled with oxygen rich air, a paradox of sorts, where we have nothing, and nothing is all we need. We exist in a Void. I thoroughly enjoyed The Oatmeal’s take on the idea of The Void, particularly this quote:
This void, this senseless existence is the paradise we seek, where we could run forever, is sometimes filled with thoughts. Happy, sad, jealous, envious, angry, mad, exalted, benevolent thoughts that range the gambit of emotion. And so seldom are we granted an opportunity to explore these thoughts of others. We live with these thoughts step by step on the trail, and they exist for fleeting moments, or are stewed upon for run after run, day after day… but they exist in this void. I never had considered asking others what they were thinking while running past them on our anti-parallel paths, it is some what of an unspoken rule, that you cannot breach their Void. Lucky not everyone feels this inhibited.
This idea of prying into the minds of runners as their thoughts run wild is explored in a beautiful new short film by Matan Rochlitz, Ivo Gormley. From The Runners:
Liberated from responsibilities, their guards drop dramatically, releasing funny and brutally frank confessions, and weaving a powerful narrative behind the anonymous masses.
It captures the beauty of the thoughts we have as runners, and shares them, so candidly, with the public.
Running is physical activity, so each run I start, and finish, I literally consider that I am running for my life. Each step I take propels me forward toward my goals, each breath I take inspires me to continue, each path is a new adventure waiting to happen, and each run fills my head with more ideas than I could ever keep…