Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Matter of Perspective

Hi!  I'm new! (duh, right?)  Anyway, I'm really glad to have fallen in with this crowd and I look forward to sharing the most inane moments of my running life with everyone else's audience!  Muahahaha!!

So to get to know each other I thought my first post would be the following article.  This was something I wrote over at BarefootRoot as my first shot at an "Introducing myself to the Smileys" article back on July 16th, where I took an extremely passive attempt at getting the Smileys' attention through gratuitous use of blog tags.  I'm here, so it must have paid off!   ...  or maybe it was that I had constantly pestered Kate until she finally just let me in to get me off her back! ;)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it!  -Troy "BarefootRoot"
It's a weird thing for me to identify with a lot of other runners, not only because I am in a distinct minority (being barefoot) but because since I am a mid to back of the pack runner I tend to hover near people who are running for a specific reason: to get in shape.  Well, that's the reason I think most of them run.  And to be honest, that was why I started running.

This is no longer the case for me though.  Once I read Born to Run, as many runners (shod and barefoot) have, I realized something: running isn't something I should be suffering through.  It isn't something I should be dreading, or feel I have to do to lose a couple pounds (although I admit it does help with the tonnage).  It's something we were made to do, that I did a lot as a kid, and for some reason I forgot about it.

It probably goes back to gym class, if I had to guess.  I have no idea if they still do this, but when I was a kid they had the Presidential Fitness program, and we had to go through this gauntlet of torture devices to prove we weren't a generation of couch potatoes.  Oddly enough my generation has been (probably) a big part of the fattening of the USA, so I get the impression these tests didn't achieve the goals it was designed for.  Anyway, we had this series of grueling trials like pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups and of course, running laps around the gym.  I found these things to be fairly difficult (I was more intellectually-inclined) and the fact we had no choice on participation made me actually hate/fear strenuous physical activity, and exercises in particular.

Sure, I could perform physical tasks and sometimes enjoy it, but when it came to hunkering down for a "workout" I just had no patience and little tolerance so in the end I simply avoided the whole hornet's nest.

Fast forward to high school and for some reason I decided to join the wresting team.  I still have no idea what possessed me to do it, and ultimately it introduced me to something that would sour me on running in particular for a long time: stair laps.

Yeah, you did hear the ominous "dun dun duuuunnnnn" music when you read that.  Or if you like to laugh at the misfortune of others maybe you heard the sad trombone or Nelson Muntz's "Haw Haw!"

Stair laps were these awful things that we had to do at the beginning (and sometimes the end) of every practice.  They involved running down the hall to the gym (we practiced in the cafeteria), then up two flights of stairs, the length of the gym, down  two flights of stairs, the width of the gym, wash, rinse, repeat.  For something like 20 minutes.  The dudes who were actually in shape, and most of them were either football players or cross country runners, handled it real well.  Coming from the world of Band and Architecture Classes I fared somewhat less well.  The laps were actually something that could have been extremely good for me (I realize now), but they were so torturous I decided to loathe them and running in general... for the next 18 years.

So then fast forward back to the beginning of this story where I mentioned reading Born to Run and it opened up an attitude that had been lost for decades: an actual desire to go out and run.  I slowed down and worked on making my running form less painful while taking the time to observe the world around me and suddenly running was actually no longer a workout (which is something I tell everybody: if it feels like work you're working too hard)!

Since then I find myself running races cheering for the crowds who are supposed to be there cheering for us, trying to help people who look like they are struggling (usually by distracting them with endless -and mindless- chatter), cheering for volunteers (and actually volunteering for things) and generally being a more positive force for good in the world as opposed to the cynical bastard I used to be.  Instead of running because I have to, I run because I want to and because I want to run in the coolest places I can get to.  If I meet piles of great people along the way, all the better. :)


  1. Great to know you better Troy. I think your re-entry into running follows mine very closely. I like your attitude to the races, that's what got me thinking about the whole "Run for Fun" thing. Glad to have you on board.

  2. and no, you didn't pester me that much.. honest! ;)

  3. Cool -- welcome aboard! If you ever wander over to my blog and read the "How I Became A Runner" series, you'll find it sounds a LOT like yours. If it wasn't for the Presidential Fitness Torture, I might have discovered I actually liked running over a decade ago. I wonder how many over-weight 30-somethings might have been fit if we hadn't had a love of physicality beaten out of us by intimidating gym teachers? Anyway, welcome to the family!

  4. Thanks for the warm welcome!

    I completely agree about the gym teacher and presidential fitness stuff UTR. Seems like competition was the focus of everything back then and nobody really said we should be doing these things in a way that was enjoyable. Hopefully that will change in the future, but I'm not betting on it.