Out on the roads there is fitness and self-discovery and the persons we were destined to be. – Dr. George Sheehan
There is always something to observe while running, internally as much as externally. Even when you push past your own good pace and the heart starts leaping about the thorax in a way that suggests flight from a deadly predator, cognitive capacities remain to take it all in… in stride as it were.
There are for example the good-humored flaneûrs, who, runners must reluctantly admit, are much better attuned to the human physiological capacities. Rather than worrying about their cardiovascular doings or being hellbent on exploring their runnerly limits, they wish to refresh their being, calmly, let the mind run free for a while and possibly catch a few gulps of fresh air. Wherever such might still be obtained, god only knows.
At any rate, they are in jolly good cheer and, seeing a poor runner approach, they often will accord him/her a smile that springs from their inner state. Unrushed and at peace it spreads across the face like the Buddha‘s very own. But I, shipwrecked inside my thumping body, arms pumping like a nineteenthcentury steam-engine, seeing such a calm smile, so incongruent with my flailing exertions, fall fully flat onto the face of misunderstanding. Or incomprehension.
And in this 180 beats/min agitation project those cynical cliches that leap to mind so easily: Ahhh, the haughty flaneur looking down upon the proletarian athlete, falsely worshipping the false god of his own body….poor sap! Or: Dear stripling, do you truly believe you can run from whatever it is you‘re running from? You‘re always right there withyourself, best get used to it! And finally: Forget about that long-loping hubris of yours and come join me here at the human scale. Slow down, is what your panicked heart is yelling my friend.
…so then even though I smile back doing my best in full stride to recapture my better zen self, I can always still feel the grey oil of those classless cliches coursing my cardiovascular circuit. Being one and the other at the same time, the essence of so much of our waking lives: being two.
At other times one becomes a witness to live and death. I was gallhumping along the left-side of the Lucerne–Horw axis, feeling my way into a vernal stride; a winter on the dreadmill doesn‘t do one’s running too much of a servic. Innocuous birdcall could be heard from bushes, shrubbery and the general huge green wall to my left, punctuated as it always is by the insipid call of sparrows and great tits [what nomenclature!]. Traffic was low-tide so I kept to this main artery, probably drawn by the huge body of Lake Lucerne, its archaic call to rejoin the waters of the world.
Suddenly a sparrow shot out of left field in a nosedive aimed at the very middle of the road, starkly reminding me that feral animals are oblivious to the ways of civilization, especially its big moving pieces of metal. But the next oncoming car was 20 meters out so the birdie had enough time to turn sharply skywards and make a twittering escape, if it even became aware of the approaching danger. Briefly I imagined all the avians, in their high-piled millions, that must have made acquaintance with fenders, windshields and grills at unsurvivable velocities. Just 40 meters later, another sparrow, having learned nothing from his colleague, skybombed into the street. This time the antagonist was a high-powered, fast-moving sports-car. The upward turn was elegant but sadly too late, followed by a plastick-feathery Plock! and the birdie being hurled to the street but missing the tires‘ path.
As I swiveled my head backwards running, line-of-sight severly departing from line-of-run, I saw the little brown mass there flapping feebly upon the blacktop, no blood in sight but the Grim One clearly upon it. The thought of making volte-face and snapping its neck occured to me briefly but I was aware of my lacking competence therein [finishing off game] and faintly afraid of inflicting some lasting emotional trauma on myself. Better to have it run over by one of the subsequent automobiles.
Then my mind, placidly, unperturbed, returned to the grave matter of my own pace. And distance from the now suddenly treacherous street.