I need to run (and get somewhere)

“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

Two days ago I was finishing a class with a student. The rain had passed and blue sky was poking out, shining on the slightly damp gardens below.

“What are you doing now?” I asked.

“I am going to the gym,” my student replied. “I need to run.”

I looked quizzical. “The sun is out. Why don’t you run outside in the park?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know.”

It got me thinking. I do not understand why people go to the gym to run. There are less car fumes than running through city streets. I’d rather outrun rush hour traffic than breathe in the recycled, sweaty air of a gym. I can pace myself on the treadmill. You can also use mapped routes and a watch to do the same. And go somewhere different each time.

With all the running about we do in our busy lives; homes to offices to meetings to shopping centres to theatres to friends’ houses to airports to restaurants to stations to schools to doctors to supermarkets to hairdressers to hotels and back again – I cannot see why when people want to actually run for the benefit of their sanity and physical health they then hit something which takes them absolutely nowhere.

There’s a difference between hitting the gym and running. I comprehend the fact that at gyms you have different machines which get you up stairs and mountains and along rivers and cycling tracks while remaining on the spot. Not everyone has a bike at home, a boat to row on the river or a mountain on their doorstep.

But everyone does have somewhere to run. Personally, I am terrible at running on treadmills. I get so bored I end up trying to run at 5-minute mile pace and nearly fly off the back of the machine. Thus, I end up finishing quite quickly. It completely desensitises my running. I don’t pay attention to what I’m doing or how I feel. I just want to get somewhere and, of course, I’m not.

On the other hand, when I am running streets, parks, country lanes or beaches I am in tune to everything. From the roots of the trees poking through the pavement to the panting of a dog as it passes; from clocking a new hill to put into the next route to my shadow in front of me (am I upright, shoulders back, pumping my arms?)

Last night, after spending most of the day at the computer, my boyfriend said, “I need to run.” I looked up and smiled. Of course he did. And off he went to run in the woods after the afternoon’s showers. He came back totally muddy and red-faced, but with a glow from being outside in the fresh air which you do not get from a gym.

If someone needs to run, they go and do it the way they know how. This I do applaud. I just wish those treadmill athletes would realise the potential of fulfilling their need right outside their windows. When I run in my hometown in Norfolk, I do a route which goes along the prom. It’s always great to be running by the beach and sea. Also along the prom is our local gym with treadmills lined up at the window. It makes me laugh. They may get the view, but none of the benefits of running in it.

It’s been a busy week for me and a quiet running week so I am looking forward to a couple of runs this weekend. Need to get out there, in the real world with dangers and distractions and all the possibilities of a new journey every time.

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About Laura Alonso

We run. We travel. And to combine both is a beautiful thing. "Runners just do it. They go for the finish line even though someone else has reached it first."

Posted on May 12, 2012, in Running and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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