In Search of Purity

When road running, I’d sometimes hear catcalls and comments from pedestrians or bystanders. Some people would simply say “Good morning” and smile. Others would comment with something more memorable, such as “Sige, takbo ka lang, mararating mo rin ang gusto mong abutin.” (“Go, just keep on running. You’ll get to where you want to be eventually.”) Or something to that effect. Those words of wisdom came from a drunk, pot-bellied guy on a passing truck. He was so loud that I heard him over the din of the truck and my iPod music. Hearing him made me smile. It also got me started on a long, silent soliloquy about why I run.
The little, unexpected things are what I love about running. I love feeling the wind against my face. I love feeling free and carefree. (Yes, those two are different.) I love feeling strong and fit. I love running to the beat of my favorite music. I also enjoy being “thought-less” in a meditative way, just attuning to my breathing, to my legs and arms, and letting go. I love the me-time that running affords me. I love seeing a father carrying his little tot on his back, elderly couples walking hand-in-hand, tired people coming home from work, and children marching off to school with their oversized backpacks. These sights are precious. They remind me that I’m one with these honest, loving, hardworking folks. (I don’t know why I assume they’re honest and loving and so on… it just feels that way to me when I’m running, and I feel a close kinship with them.) And last but not least, I relish the tired-but-I-did-it! feeling that comes after I’ve accomplished (or surpassed) my running goal for the day.
What I don’t like about running is when it gets technical. I confess that I don’t enjoy running intervals (e.g. run-walk-run for set periods of time). I also don’t really enjoy following a plan for a week or a month. I don’t like comparing runs and going after PRs. I don’t like feeling pressured to do core and strengthening workouts. I know that these things are meant to guide and help the runner, but they somehow diminish the pure pleasure of just running.
It’s the same with badminton, another sport that I enjoy. I don’t really enjoy training and tournaments as much as just playing for the love of the game. I don’t like having to think about footwork, drops, stances, grip and so on. I also don’t enjoy the drama and conflict that sometimes arise just because you’re in a group and you have to interact with other individuals. I just love to play, and play with abandon. If only I could do just that all the time.
All this reminds me of a favorite poem by Walt Whitman.
When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
Right on, Mr. Whitman. Next time I run, I’ll junk the learn’d astronomer’s advice (and my timer watch), and just enjoy the road and the stars.

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