The Long Run

There is a certain solipsism to the long run. Ask any serious runner what day of the week their life revolves around, and much like many Americans the answer is almost unanimous – Saturday.

But it’s for a different reason. The Long Run.  There’s more to it than the name, though. There’s an almost mystical appreciation of its effect on a runner’s life – so much so that many runners approach it ritualistically, eschewing a late night Friday life in favor of winding down early in eager anticipation of an early morning.

The alarm goes off, half a sandwich, a few light muffins, or a bagel with peanut butter are devoured– and the communion proceeds apace. (Don’t worry, Baptists, only some runners carry alcohol with them.) Some runners run in groups, others solicit the magnanimous solitude of their own minds – using the time to think critically about events on hand, perhaps solve a few problems the week had them too stressed to figure out. (Ask me not how something as intentionally torturous as running for 3 hours engenders critical thinking, but that’s part of the magic.)  Many people use it as a chance to escape from life. Like a sudden road trip that leaves the family perplexed by a sudden and unanticipated event. “You’re going WHERE?!”

Of course to non-runner’s the response is, universally, “You’re running HOW far?”

Really, runners don’t tend to think in miles any more than the road tripper. It’s not the destination, per say (one always ends up back at home. There is a philosophical one of course, but I digress), but the experience.

The only thing I really think runners tend to think about before and during the long run is: “How hot will it be/what’s the humidity, where are my water stations, and how many carbohydrates do I need to carry with me?”

Not slices of bread. Though, if we can figure out how to distill german rye down to gu plasma and add cinnamon swirls, I’m in.

Someone create a kickstarter.

Perhaps the long run is a bit munchausen.  Many runners appreciate and respect their long run like some vague, irrevocable illness. Of course, it’s a hobby, but to many it’s a hobby that is, well, abnormal. After all, who makes a habit out of giving up Friday night, getting up in the pre-dawn darkness of glorious Saturday, and running for hours on end? (Did I mention you tend to want to spend the rest of the Saturday plastered to the couch, almost questioning one’s ritualized addiction to an activity that always ends in exhaustion and discomfort as your spoon deracinates a helpless jar of peanut butter?)

To me, the long run is a quasi-spiritual ekdysis. Hence the communion imagery. It’s a great way of getting away. Not from people, sure that’s part of it, but from my own mind. That math problem that was eating away at you? Probably solved. Grand unified theory? Probably not, but it was considered somewhere after the third water stop as hypoglycemia was setting in.

After all, you have to be somewhat mental to do what we do.

At this point I’ve rambled on enough.  My own ritual is beginning: water and gu are packed in the car. My route is (somewhat) planned, and my alarm is set for an unlawful hour.

In a few hours I’ll be unconscious, and as soon as that alarm goes off I’ll amble to my altar of sweat and figure out things from there.

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~ by nyelome on November 11, 2016.

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