Have you ever noticed how surreal and ridiculous we runners are seen from the outside? We runners can often be seen in the city: we slip away among other people occupying the sidewalk, we seem to be in an unspeakable hurry, perhaps our house is on fire and we need to get there as soon as possible. Maybe we need to save the world!
Today I was thinking about it while walking. I don’t know if you also happen to observe runners while in plain clothes. I normally send them a symbolic wink, as if to say, “I’m one of yours, my friend.” Other times, especially if it’s a few days that for one reason or another I don’t train, I look at them with envy because I know what they are feeling and how much I wish I could be in their shoes, literally.
Today, however, I happened to see with a different eye one who was running. I was unequivocally in plain clothes and he was unequivocally in his outfit. I tried to think about what other people who, like me, were walking thought about it. And I ended up that, from the outside, we are curious creatures: we are not rushing because we are in a hurry, nor we are rushing to reach a “B” destination as soon as possible, having started from an “A” origin. Often if you take a good look at us we are just struggling: we are pained, sweaty, fatigued.
Yet we don’t seem to feel upset for what we are doing.
No, it is not the rush that motivates us. Actually we run against the rush, we run to slow down. Not to go slower but to make time go slower, which is a different thing.
In daily life we often use this expression, “Not having time” in the sense of “not owning it” which is like saying “Not owning sunshine or air.” How can you own sunshine or air? You can’t, just as one cannot own time. If anything, it is time that has us and disposes of our lives.
In truth, this is not even the issue. To weather, sun and air we are completely indifferent. They exist regardless of us.
It is how we use the time that matters, so it would be more correct to say “I don’t really know how to manage time,” not “I don’t own the time.”
When we run, on the other hand, we know perfectly well how to manage it, because in that moment we are placing the maximum value on the time we have: we are using it to do something we enjoy doing and that makes us feel good.
You would think at this point that watching a movie and eating ice cream also make you feel good, and that is also true, but on a different level. What running (or sports, more generally) does to your mind, a movie or ice cream don’t. These things are just as enjoyable (actually: more enjoyable) but when the experience is over, you are left with nothing more than a watched movie or one more ice cream…that will settle on your body.
In fact, I would say that among the pleasant things, running and eating ice cream do not even play in the same league.
In search of your own time
After thinking about what the other people who, like me, were walking around were thinking about it, I went back to empathize with that runner and knew for sure what he was thinking and feeling: he was satisfied that he had done something he enjoyed, that he had brought home another workout, that he had paid attention to his own needs: he was happy that he knew what to do with his time.
When we run we make sense of time: it is one possible sense and there are others. There are a thousand ways to use it without being subdued to it: not letting others decide what to do with it is already a good start, but even the most independent individuals have often to organize their time according to others’ agendas, especially at work.
Running time, on the other hand, is one of the most personal and intimate times in existence. It’s that fraction of your day when “Ah, he’s out running.” It’s that moment when you are offline and you have the superpower to do something that not everyone understands but everyone eventually respects.
That is why when we run we are using our time in the best possible way: for ourselves, to regain inner balance, to feel satisfied, to be able to radiate good humor even to those around us who may not be running and struggle to understand what we will ever find doing it.
From now on you could say to those who ask you, “What do you ever find in running?” “I find my own time in it.”