Letters of Life

A Day At The Race

No matter how great the attraction of the solitary hours spent on the road, home is the centrifugal epicentre of safety and belonging where each run begins and ends. — Robin Harvie, Why We Run: A Story of Obsession

Everything is relative. Never more so when it comes to a sport like running.

To seasoned runners who rack up kilometres by the tens and twenties on any given week, a 10-kilometre run is a walk in the park. But for a recreational runner who runs twice on a good week, covering 10 kilometres at one go is huge. A feat accomplished on two feet.

This morning, I ran a 10-kilometre race. So did 15,999 other people it seems, aged 14 to 74. For most of us, it wasn’t about beating the girl or guy next to you, it was about personal bests, finishing what we started.

At the end of it all, I met up with friends who’d run the same course. Unless the other person has experienced the same levels of pain, fatigue, exhaustion, the feeling of almost giving up, no one can ever understand what really takes place in that 60 minutes and more of intense running.

In fact, the best way to run a race is with friends. They are the only ones who understand exactly how you feel, minute by aching minute, kilometre by painful kilometre.You might have crossed the Finish line, but the story doesn’t end there.

And so, the rest of the day was filled with sharing war stories, our battles with our bodies, the challenge in the middle, and over it all, that sense of quiet achievement that we gave of our best.

Maybe that’s what some of us are addicted to when it comes to running–this purposeful pursuit of something we can’t quite grasp until the race is done.

This excerpt from W.H. Auden’s poem Runner describes it best:

The camera’s eye

Does not lie,

But it cannot show

The life within,

The life of a runner,

Of yours or mine,

That race which is neither

Fast nor slow,

For nothing can ever

Happen twice,

That story which moves

Like music when

Begotten notes

New notes beget,

Making the flowing

Of Time a growing,

Till what it could be

At last it is,

Where Fate is Freedom,

Grace and Surprise.

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