running

The Nature and Technology of Running

running

One of the great things about running is that it’s part of our nature.

Human beings are made to be, maybe even evolved as, runners. (If you’d rather just walk, not a problem. Driving is not our natural state of being, though.) When a baby makes its first steps, we notice that it’s a rather special form of motion, but quickly manage to forget about it. It becomes easy – and you need almost nothing to go running. Just your own two feet.

Or not. Looking at all the special equipment offered, it could appear like one needed a whole lot of things. Even if you are into running, let alone if not, it might surprise you just how much stuff has been developed for that simple activity: Running shoes, of course – in great diversity. Running clothing. Heart rate monitors, speed & distance monitors, training computers, GPS systems.

It’s become the perfect example of the difficult balance we need for better lives, to come to be truly at home in this world…

Going all natural is a possibility, of course.

You just run, barefoot, in whatever clothes you have. It could be called freedom, and a part of the pleasure of running, indeed, is that you can run virtually anywhere. Given different surfaces, different climatic and weather conditions, and the properties of different kinds of clothing, it would be pretty stupid though. (I’ve had enough people laugh about my running tights, but they make a difference – not to mention the world of advantages they have over jeans…) You’d be missing out on the insights that technology offers, too.

Not so few people fall into the opposite trap, though. With all the possibility, they forget the simple truth of practice. As we say in German, “es gibt nichts Gutes, ausser man tut es” – there is nothing good, unless you do it. Especially when you think that you need to have a certain piece of gear before you can even start to go running, that you will run much better when you have this-or-that new thing, you are probably fooling yourself.

Always wanting the newest equipment is a shallower trap. Of course its promise is going to appeal, and it may be good for what you do, indeed – or it could end up just another piece of stuff lying around, not getting used quite so much, and having put another dent into your finances…

That’s just the thing, though. Measuring and tracking how you are doing is a good idea. As they said in the ads for the Suunto t6 (you’ll notice, I personally am into Suunto’s “wristop computers”), “No pain, no gain – but how much pain is enough? How much is too much?

The monitoring and its insights, the sharing in online communities and the motivation it may provide, aren’t all that bad.

You need to know what you really need and want, see what you really use, and not forget what you can afford and get the greatest value from, though – and you really need to start by doing, not by buying. That it’s a challenge in something as natural as running is a strange sign of our times (or should that be, a sign of our strange times?)…

And what's your take?