Archive for the ‘Existentialism’ Category

Week 17 – In which Allan is hit by a squirrel, given “evils” by a gangster fox, runs even further and discovers “existential running”

September 23, 2008

This week:
Weight: once again, still at about 76kg! (target: 73kg) but I don’t really care at the moment; Miles run in the last seven days: 35.92 (57.8077 km)
Total funds raised up quite a bit: £376.79 (including Gift Aid) Only £623.21 to go. Sponsor me at my Justgiving page by clicking here.
Days to go to the New York Marathon: 39 (oh my!).

I think the change of season is having an effect on the wildlife of North London. It is very noticeably darker when I do my early morning runs. So, for example, one morning last week as I ran on to Hampstead Heath, two geese flew (heading south?) picturesquely (majestically, even) across a very bright moon shining in a dark night sky. 

Another morning as I left the house – again in darkness – a fox which was a few metres down the road gave me an aggressive and arrogant stare, as if he were in a Guy Ritchie film, and was about to say, “This is my manor, son! You’re only here right now because I let you. You remember all those rabbits and guinae pigs your kids used to have that disappeared? I had them. Understand. So naff off.” (Actually that sounded more like Fletcher in Porridge, but you get the idea.) “Gangster fox terrorises Tufnell Park runner shock!”

And on another morning  run – yet again in the dark – a squirrel ran into me.  I thought squirrels sense of self preservation was such that they were pretty good at avoiding humans, but it seems not. I wasn’t trying to sneak up on it or anything (because that would be quite odd in a man of my age), but as I was running along this squirrel didn’t seem to notice I was there until I was right next to it at which point it panicked and ran straight into my foot, then bounced off and ran away.

The point of all this being that this equinochial period is a time of change. Days get visibly shorter each week. Temperatures drop. Animals change their behaviour – flying south for the winter (birds), being bolder and more aggressive in their foraging for food (fox) or stupider (squirrel). And I have been thinking about some changes too.

I have done some very long runs recently. Longer than I have ever run before. Last week I ran 18 miles (29.1291km) and, the weekend just gone, 20 miles (32.2030km). This has helped me to turn a corner in my thinking about the marathon.  Having done these runs, I now know I can finish the marathon. Even if I have to walk the last six miles, I can do it. This is quite a profound change from the way I felt a few weeks ago when I was panicking about it.

One of the things that has changed is that I have been making sure I eat my porridge before long runs and I have been drinking energy drinks and energy gels during the long runs.  Energy gels are absolutely disgusting – “The great taste of vomit with the texture of wallpaper glue!” -but they do seem to give me the energy I need to run a very long way. (Be warned Nestle makes one brand of energy product called PowerBar.) So I am not so worried about the 3kg I still need to lose to reach my target at the moment. I am making sure I have the fuel I need to run a long way.

I have also been reading a book called Running & Philosophy: a marathon for the mind, edited by Michael W Austin. Which is “a unique anthology of essays exploring the philosophical wisdom runners contemplate when out for a run. It features writings from some of America’s leading philosophers, including Martha Nussbaum, Charles Taliaferro, and J.P. Moreland.” (Thanks to Kathryn of the Bradford chapter of the north of England regional branch of RunAllanRun readers for recommending this to me.) It features such exciting chapter titles as “Chasing Happiness Together: Running and Aristotle’s Philosophy of Friendship”, “John Dewey and the Beautiful Stride: Running as Aesthetic Experience”, “Can We Experience SIgnificance on a Treadmill?” (to save you the effort, the answer is “not really”) and the surprisingly upbeat “Existential Running”. Some of it is a bit forced but there are some really interesting essays which are helpful in linking some of the feelings of elation and struggle involved in running to some established theories about life and happiness. 

So, since I have after all chosen to do this marathon and this training ,when I get up and go running in the dark or run a “challenging” 20 miles it can be useful to think about freedom and choice and all that sort of stuff . Or I can just enjoy the amusing antics of my local woodland creatures!

Birds are flying south
I am running in the dark
But still enlightened!