OK, OK, I can hear you! “Slow running, that’s a good one! Now there’s an excuse I haven’t heard before….”
But I mean it. Actually slow running is a great example to illustrate what slow living is all about. Its not about the speed! A friend of ours, Vajin Armstrong, is a slow runner. He also is the 3 times Kepler Challenge winner as well. He ran it the last time in under 5 hours. Normally the Kepler Track (on the South Island of New Zealand) is a 3 day tramp. So obviously I am not talking about the kilometers per hour or the metres of ascent per minute here. I am talking about the approach.
When Vajin runs, he runs. He does not listen to music, or wish he was back in his music shop, or consider what he will have for supper. He just runs. There is a Zen quote, “When walking, walk. When eating, eat” to which we can add “When running, run”. Vajin loves to run, you can see it in every line of his body, in every step he takes and above all in his face. Yes, he runs fast, he tries hard, and I assume he is often in pain, but when he is running, he runs.
Yesterday I was in the Port Hills, above Christchurch, NZ. It was a lovely day, enough breeze to feel cool and enough sun to feel warm, yet not too much of either. I could see right over the city to the Alps, still capped with snow, and above me the skylarks were singing their joy that spring was here at last.
There were other runners on the trail, 2 running together coming towards me along Bowendale Traverse; another over took me earlier, running up the Harry Ell track. The thing they all had in common (other than the fact they were faster than me) was that they all wore headphones. I asked a friend later why she wore headphones when she ran. The answer was something to the effect of “Heck, running is so boring, you just have to listen to music or you would go mad.”
If you feel like this about it, why run? It’s not for everyone, nothing is. There are other ways to keep fit. If you like company, try playing basketball or tennis or a fitness class. There is bound to be something you like out there. For me running is amazing. I love to feel my body changing. There are runs when you feel you could go forever, and runs that would be better described as…well…a walk! There are runs in the park, on the beach, on the trails. Runs through the streets on cold winter mornings when people are just waking up and the busy city is silent and still. There are runs through the same streets just a few hours later with children playing, and bikers biking and other runners to say ‘hello’ to. There are the sounds of birds, of streams, of the ocean, of workmen working, and dogs barking. I have seen a hawk dive feet in front of me to catch something small and wriggling from the marsh on the edge of the estuary, I have seen little blue penguins, fur seals, a leopard seal and even Hector’s dolphins when I have been running. Running is many things to me, and boring is not one of them.
But I do practice slow running. When I run, I run. Slow Living is about choosing what it is you want to do, and doing it. It is about saying “NO” to the things we do not want in our lives, and using the space we have created to do something we do want to do. I love running, and I move unnecessary things out of my life to fit in running time.
Slow Living is also about actually doing the thing you have chosen to do. Carl Honore, the author of In Praise of Slow tells a story about reading to his son at bedtime. He was always in a rush to get the story finished, even cutting it short, so he could get onto more important things, like catching up on the TV news….
When we have chosen to do something, like reading a bedtime story, or going out for a run, Slow Living teaches us to fully engage in it. Actually do it. Don’t try and do 6 other things at the same time. Yes, I know, I am a mum too….and very clever we all are, being able to talk on the phone whilst changing a nappy and keeping an eye on the 5 year old at the same time. But wouldn’t it be better if, just sometimes, we tried to do only one of those things. To fully engage in nappy changing. Or in the 5 year old. Isn’t it better to aim for this rather than to do yet more things, more multi-tasking, ever faster?
When running, run.