Running is teaching me that there's a lot to be gained from doing something that, not only am I not very good at yet, but most likely I'll never be much good at it. By 'good' I mean able to run like those who are at the front of a race pack, those who run with a fluid grace and poise that is beautiful to see. I'm usually trying to catch up with the back of the pack and I've yet to be accused of running gracefully.
Because I know I'm going to be slow I don't worry about watching the clock. Saying that runners are generally interested in their times is a major understatement. Time, for most runners, is an obsession: time per kilometre, average pace, target time, personal best time... and all this monitored, tabulated, graphed against heart rate and distance data from the well-wired runner's armoury of strapped-on devices.
Don't get me wrong - I can well understand the fascination with time and measurement and I find it easy to relate to running gear-freaks who lust after the latest Garmin. I'm a geek loud and proud in other contexts and I love gadgets. But somehow with running I got onto the Luddite path and discovered that I like it: how it feels and where it takes you.
Time is just one facet of the everyday runner's experience and there's nothing wrong with measuring it, or challenging yourself in terms of it. But, as Kenneth Slessor says in Five Bells...
Time that is moved by little fidget wheelsThere are so many other facets to running - pleasures and experiences that don't slip away with age, as one's pace inevitably does, but actually come into sharper focus. The simple satisfaction of doing something for its own sake. The vividness of moments. The physicality of movement. The awareness of the natural world as we run through it. The opportunity for child-like joys, such as running through puddles, that most adults bar themselves from. These and many others, some that I would find hard to put into words adequately, are there to be had from running. Even from my slow, chugging version of it.
Is not my time, the flood that does not flow.*
* For more on this great Australian poem visit ABC Radio National's Book Show web site