I think that track and field is one of the most interesting sports, when looked at from the perspective of a philosopher. This is mostly because philosophers spend much of their time asking “why?”, and I did a lot of the same when I was participating in track and field. I can’t really imagine why you wouldn’t. I mean who would repeatedly subject themselves to the torture of intense physical activity five days a week for two to three hours a day. And not just intense physical activity, but running, which is extremely abusive to things like your knees, arteries, and other items that generally come in useful later in life. Plus it’s just darned hard. There’s no way humans were supposed to be runners.
The only positive is runners high. However, this only kicks into affect after you’re already run five or six miles, and seeing as most novices start out with one or two, it does not benefit the runners who need it most. And don’t even get me started about hills. Oh my goodness. I’ve lived in Florida for three years now and I can tell you Florida is a state built for runners. Except the life threatening levels of humidity. In any event, Florida has absolutely no hills. The whole state is like, four feet above sea level. It just doesn’t change. It’s amazing. Everything is flat. Great for running. If you live in a state other than Florida, like, Colorado, there’s hills which are the arch nemesis to the runner. When man said, “Oh I think I’ll go for a run today”, God replied by conforming the Earth to include hills. More proof that man was not meant to be a runner. And if you’re of the church of science, there’s those physics laws that say a body in motion will stay in motion and a body at rest will stay at rest. Now when you and I popped out of the womb into the world, we sure weren’t moving. Regardless, it’s something that we’ve convinced ourselves is a good thing so we do it, and that leads to some interesting parallels, when the philosophy thing happens.
See another reason that running may peak the interest of your average, everyday, run of the mill philosopher, is that a runners life is a lot like…life. That was a horrible way to say that. What I mean is, running has a lot of parallels to events in life, and the different things that we experience. There are highs and lows, good runs and extremely horrible ones. There are good times and bad times, and good times and shin splints. There are the things that we can control, and the things we can’t. Like how much reflective spandex you wear, and how close the snowplow comes to slicing you in half. Running actually parallels a lot of things that we all experience in everyday life. To those who say after reading this that you could really make this argument about anything, I say, yeah, well shush and let me make it about running. So there.
There is a particular occurence in running though that I’d like to call attention to on this particular evening, or whatever time it is wherever you are. Being in track and field in high school, I would occaisionally run in races against other people. As anyone who has ever been in high school or track and field knows, everyone always seems to run faster in the races. This being the case, many race runs often leave the runner feeling terrible, even on a day with the wind in their favor. When the wind is against them, it can be just horrible. The mental capacity to simply put one foot in front of the other becomes somthing that requires excessive willpower and mental toughness. It is these tough races where something happens that is very interesting. See, whether the runner knows it or not, they will rely on the laws of physics (seriously, physics is everywhere) to help them in finishing the race.
The last 100 meters of any race always seem to be covered with air that is pysically thicker than the rest. There always seems to be more resistance there than any other part. When the runner gets to this part, on these bad days, especially if they are neck and neck with another runner, then will throw their upper body over their feet, in a maneuver that changes their center of gravity so much so that they would literally fall flat on their face if they didn’t take another step. The reaction to this CG change is hardwired in the brain deeper than the things that make them want to stop running, so they keep going. They keep going just far enough, until they have thrown themselves across the finish line in a heroic dive, and get far enough out of the way so as to not get trampled by other runners. And then, they collapse in a pile of heaving, sweaty, pimply, adolescent flesh just lying there on the rubber (or cinder, if you’re old school) gorging their lungs on the sweet, sweet oxygen that the red blood cells in their veins are so desperately screaming for.
This, this is the part that’s so interesting. Because the thought process at this particular moment, is,”Oh my goodness I’m so immensly happy that that experience is over and I really never want to do it again.” This is followed by, “I don’t care how I did, or what my time was, I just want to lie here in my little pile and maybe I’ll try and move in a few hours.” This event of incredible effort and work ethic has just reduced this bit of matter that matters into a hopeless, discouraged, and relieved pile on a high school track. It just so happens that being in a pile on a high school track is an amazing place to have some time with your thoughts. In which, inevitably, the runner will ask the question in the second sentence of this post. Why? Why are the forcing themselves through this torture five days a week, two to three hours a day just to be subjected to this on raceday? Why are they even running in the first place? Why does it matter? Why should they keep going?
I’ve been told recently that some of my writing is lacking in the part where I actually get to the point. And I suppose that that’s true. Many times I do miss the point, arrive at the wrong one, or never get to one at all. Getting to the point is something that I think…well…should be done. I mean, it’s a very good question, what’s the point? One that’s often hard to answer. One that we’re often scared to ask. One that I am scared to ask. It’s easy to be fluffy. It’s easy to make stuff up to fill the space around the infintesimal part of the world where there’s actually a point. Just take a read through some of my posts. The thing is that here, at this point in time and space, I think that there actually IS a point.
It’s ok to be the pile of flesh on the high school track. It’s ok to be down and hopeless and deflated. It’s ok to ask why, to wonder what the point is. It’s even ok to not know the answer sometimes. The critical moment for that runner, is the moment when he (or she, but in this case it’s a he) get’s up. All of the things in the beginning of this paragraph are ok, if the runner gets up and there is resolve and new hope and track practice tomorrow. It’s ok if there is resolve and new hope and a choir practice information session tomorrow. It’s not ok if there’s no new resolve. It’s even worse if the runner doesn’t get up. We all fall down. We all have those races. We all end up in a heap at some point in our lives. But people who love us and care about us help us back up, and give us water, and a towel, and an energy bar. And we help the people we love get back up, and we give them an energy bar in return. And the circle of pointless points goes on and on, round and round. Oh, and Matt, I looked it up, it’s called a soliloquy. Thanks for reading everyone, goodnight.