Disenfranchised Running

Running’s a culture, like so many other sports. Is running a sport? I don’t know. You can do it alone so probably not, or people wouldn’t say ‘good sport’ because they’d be talking to themselves. My sister Helen Marie ran a half marathon on Saturday, which doesn’t really register in my brain. It’s beyond my comprehension. It might as well be fifty miles on the moon, I’m so impressed.

I used to run, actually, and one semester in high school I even did cross country. I can’t say ‘ran cross country’ because my friend Michelle and I would stroll for hours and chat and only lope back onto the track at the end of the hour. In cross country the races are five kilometers, which means, since we’re in America, 3.1 miles. (It’s weird to me that we use the metric for an event where it doesn’t matter, unlike spaceship construction.) I was terrible at meets. The only person worse than me was Michelle. It didn’t matter. I only did it.. well.. I was going to say why I only did it, but really I have no idea.

At any rate, I’ve begun running again, and this time I’m actually doing it. It’s exhilarating. They talk about runner’s high, which is really real. It’s endorphins flooding your brain. And I can run further than I even knew I could walk. I can run six miles but I really don’t think I could walk six miles. It would take too long. Since starting, I consume a tremendous amount of food. Easily three times what I used to eat. It costs money to run, it really does– I figure at least 10 a week extra in food.

I like to watch my legs go, it feels like they’re eating the earth, I think of the mandible of my legs, they’re jaws that eat the earth and never stop until I think stop, legs. Sometimes I want that feeling so badly that I think I could run around North Carolina, I could run to the ocean, straight into the surf and turn without stopping and run all the way back.

After a couple of miles I start to think about food. In Chapel Hill, I run up Airport and you feel so hungry your belly is too close to your spine and then just past Rosemary, you can smell the restaurants, the fried things and meat cooking and running past Goldie’s I picture their sweet potato fries with confectioner’s sugar. I could eat it all, when I’m running. I could eat everything in Chapel Hill and then run to the ocean and eat lobster with butter and crab legs with hush puppies and cornbread and honey.

The culture of running is a strange one– to me, at least. I guess it’s a culture because anything that our enterprising Americans can claim, they will– because if you claim something then you can pretend that the thing cannot be performed without your special equipment that has your special name on it. It makes me think of Huxley’s Brave New World where the childrens’ toys are so complicated that no one can play any games without a company to provide the equipment. There are these shoes that I have, I don’t know what brand they are but they’re from Fleet Feet in Carrboro. An ex bought them for me because he was rich and he was shocked that I ran in Keds. It is shocking, in retrospect, because these shoes feel like a million dollars. They about cost it too. But the culture– it’s hard to get behind. I don’t think I need wicky materials to run in or those energy thingies. I tasted the one Helen Marie brought along last week, and it tasted gross, like liquid Poptart. Ugh. I’d rather imagine buttery crab than actually slurp liquid Poptart.

All in all, this running is going much better than it has in the past. One year in college I had it all worked out. You figure, who are the fastest runners in the world? (Kenyans.) Why? Because they train at those high altitudes, 7-8,000 mi above sea level, and when they come to America, our oxygen-heavy air is like balm to Gilead. They just kill everyone, they run so fast. So I guessed, back then when I thought a lot of strange things, I guessed that since I smoked cigarettes, if I got real good at running then when I quit, I’d be just like those Kenyans. Me and my oxygen-rich lungs. It was hard. Maybe it could’ve worked, if I’d kept at it longer. (I no longer smoke.) I’ve also considered putting the baby in the baby backpack and running with her, and I’ll be like Marines who run with rocks in backpacks, or so I’ve heard.   But I think that 1) she wouldn’t enjoy the bouncing for an hour and 2) it sounds scatterbrained.

So– this running culture. I feel different because I have no agenda. I don’t feel the need to pay someone to run a race. A race is two or more people trying to get somewhere the fastest. I just don’t understand giving money to a person to do something that I could do barefoot and naked. That’s not to say I look down on people who do pay the money. It’s just not for me. I may run a half marathon. It may happen. But it will be because I want to go somewhere that is 13.1 miles away. I like to run. I run until I’m tired and then I run some more. It feels good. I feel like a dog must feel, with beautiful strong muscles that go and go. I do, I feel like a dog! There was this gorgeous grass along the road yesterday and it was new and young and thin-bladed and I swooped down and picked a piece to eat, and it was good!

Sofya and Ashley suggested, rightly I think, to be more in depth with the things I write about. So here are some deep facts.

1. Twelve of the world’s top twenty distance runners are Kenyan. (bbc.co.uk)

2. My friend Zach says that running a certain distance burns the same amount of calories as walking that distance (it just takes less time) and I believe him because he’s a chemist.

3. This fact is one that I made up, but I believe that it may be true because I thought of a convincing analogy which sounds compelling. I think that running long distances gives you lean muscles because I’m normal now but back when I played soccer and pole-vaulted and sprinted, my thighs were much bigger. And listen to this: we eat birds and the white meat is the breast meat and the dark meat is the thighs and legs. The white meat are muscles that are used continuously, consistently, in flight, while the dark meat are muscles that are sprinty and used in short distances. White meat is leaner. I am currently leaner than when I played soccer. This may all be false.

4. Running is a luxury because you don’t have to take care of a baby when you’re doing it and in the olden days (when everything was cheaper and harder and better, paradoxically) no one could afford it, calorically speaking. You’d have had to save those calories for rounding up cattle and other useful things. We’re totally lucky.


  • I am glad to hear you talk about running like you are NOT in cult. And the only reason to pay $ to someone to do something you could do barefoot and naked is to guarantee that others will be there when you are doing it…community, which may or may not be a good thing :)Especially if they are still barefoot and naked.
    Love your writings, Belle.

    (Me, I only run like a dog or a little kid; as far and as fast is fun, and then I stop and walk and sing to myself like usual.)

  • Yes, Ali! Thank you, I forgot about that! To be sure, paying to run if it’s for a charity or a cause– that’s awesome. I meant in those cases where so often there’s no cause. And you sound like a lovely runner. 😉
    I was just reading your prisoner yoga link actually, and I need to go back and comment where you’ll see it.

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