mundane adventures in running
The woman pivots, yelps and clutches her chest as I pass. I hadn’t meant to frighten her, I hadn’t even seen her until I passed her on the corner. It’s ten in the evening on a Tuesday in central London. It’s October. I’m running home after a day of work. No one else is running, just me. I’ve a back pack. It’s been a long day. I’m listening to music. I’m scared I’ll fall asleep on my feet without the iPod to focus me and distract me.
At the end of history, labour has been turned into a bourgeoise hobby. Running is the epitome of this silliness. We’ve turned the labour of running, in history reserved for hunting, for war, for escaping, into something we do to relax, to unwind from that which we do classify as labour.
To run, the runner has to deny the futility of what she’s doing. She has to transcend the contradiction of activity as the antithesis of activity, of labour to relax, of work as non work. She must construct a conceit to make sense of this weirdness: a brave lie to make sense of this thing.
Of course, there are reasons to run. Justify the labour as the means to an end. Run to get fit, to stave off heart disease, to lose weight. Run for fun, for the pleasure. But the peculiarities persist. Labour for health, when you could just change the day job. Pleasure, but the pleasure in work.
Running is mainstream. Jogging round the park is an act of conformity. Buying £100 trainers is an act of conformity. Polite sweating and gentle weight loss both are conformity. The London marathon, Nike running clubs, hi vis tabards are all acts of conformity.
Running at night, smothered in sweat, hacking through the city covered in the mud from suburban paths. Jumping iron spiked fences for nighttime parks. Screaming through crowds. Dying, puffing, falling over with exhaustion on a 5k tempo run from Waterloo to Camberwell. Smiling, singing, shoelessly ambling through a grassy park. By running you can become the other. You can run too much, in a silly, anarchic, expressive or extreme way. Step out of the race and be a freak. Run as a tiny act of dissent.