Last weekend I was laying in the park in the hot and beautiful Luxembourg sun. All around me were families and couples enjoying a relaxing afternoon: reading, picnicking, wandering, eating ice-creams.
Well, the adults were. During my people watching, I noticed that the park’s population fell into two categories. The Lazies and The Actives. I, for one, was in The Lazies. If I had had a four-year-old with me, they would certainly have been part of The Actives.
To my right was a family with three boys and a baby girl. The three boys spent all afternoon chasing each other with water pistols. Near them was another family, of three girls and Mum. The two older girls were playing a game with sticky plate-sized discs and throwing a ball to each other, trying to catch it on them. At first, they weren’t very good. The younger girl, about four years old, would run after the ball each time they dropped it. Je cherche! I’ll look for it! And she ran and ran picking up wayward balls. This was her game – the part she was able to play.
Another group of boys passed every now and then. They all had bikes and simple peddled around the outer path of park: never veering off track, never changing direction. Just peddling as fast their legs would let them.
It made me think. At what point do we stop running as children? These kids were running the whole afternoon, stopping only for bites of sandwiches. Ice-creams in hand, water pistols in the other, they kept running. It was a beautiful thing to see. No time trials, no routes mapped: just space and running for joy.
When did running stop being a game for us adults? Why did it get so serious? I’m not a runner who takes their running that seriously; I need to enjoy it otherwise I won’t go. But I do think about pace and routes and the physical and mental benefits running gives me.
When we are young we are pure and untainted by the knowledge we have when we are older. I hope those children from the park keep running free as long as they can; that running all afternoon is a worthy game; that they continue to run without the need for the perfect trainers, a GPS watch and Nike dri fit clothes.
It’s a lesson all of us could take to our running and beyond.
“Did you know that childhood is the only time in our lives when insanity is not only permitted to us, but expected?”
Louis de Bernières