Yesterday was the fourth of July, and as I continue to get gram post wishing everyone a Happy 4th, I find myself contemplating how freedom intersects with running. Sure, I could have ran up the monstrous hill near my house (what’s up 287 feet of gain) with an enormous American flag and waxed poetically about the warrants of our great nation and how that intersects with my chosen practice of running trails. But c’mon you’ve seen plenty of that.
What I did give significant thought to yesterday was how freedom, in my mind, aligns more with choice. Let me explain, many of us abstract the idea of freedom into the concept of doing whatever we want, or I dare say, giving zero fucks. Well if those are the parameters of freedom we aspire to, how do we the runner express it? If you asked me what I wanted to really do this morning, after a night of revelry, I would have said, “Sleep.” At mile 90 of any 100 miler, if I truly, as it were, “Gave zero fucks” I would stop, like every time. So by this YOLO definition a runner cannot possibly hope to achieve freedom. This potentially extends to some of our running brethren, whom want to run wild and free, ya know so long as the lighting is right and we can take pics, as well as those whom see running as a freeing experience where all the cares of the world to go away. While there are warrants to each of these concepts, any true runner knows the facts. Running can be a struggle, the cares of the world might in fact go away, but probably because your quads are literally destroyed, or the cares of the world sit right between your ears for 4 hours as you run 20 miles, been there. Also, running is constantly humbling, for instance I know for a fact I will never ever be faster that my high school self, whom did almost zero training and ate lots of Roast Beef. Lastly running consumes lots of FREE time, not so much the running itself but the talking and prepping. Not even mentioning the mental impact of the gram’s video content limit. (It’s is a little more than 1 minute for posts, 15 seconds in stories.)
Thus I come to the intersection of running and freedom as an opportunity to truly express choice or will. If you wake your ass up to run at 4:45 am, you exerted a choice. If you’re out there in the rain for an hour or two, you exerted your will on your mind and body. Time moves slower for a body in motion, this is true in physics and I would say to some extent running. While you are running there may be moments of lucid clarity, and profound euphoria, but these are fleeting moments, mostly there is just you; and coming up with clever Instagram copy is only going to last so long (plus no one reads the post part anyway, swipe). And if you are anything like me, being with just you means also being with your biggest critic. The freedom of running, in my mind, is the choice to confront yourself, to emphasize your choice, because for an hour long run you could ostensibly have to choose to continue running every second, every stride. That choice is freedom, freedom from any internal or external obstruction to do what you set out to do. That’s the freedom that will get you to the places you want to go, despite a path you might not like to take. That’s the type of freedom that I’m interested in, how about you?