I hope this blog will convey to you the joy of running, the wonder of science, and the marvel of the human body.Like many, I discovered running quite by accident. In 1969, while training for rowing, I started running regularly and entered my first road races. But during those years, I seldom ran more than twice a week and never for more than 25 minutes until one day in 1971 when, for no logical reason, I decided to run for an hour. That run was absolutely decisive, because during it I finally discovered the sport for which I had been searching.
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At school I had been taught that sport was cricket and rugby and that anything else was a trifle undignified for those of British ancestry. Of course, the pressure to conform to these sporting norms was extreme, and I was not then secure enough to question what was good for me. But personal doubts about the real attraction these games held for me first started at the age of 15 when I discovered surfing. For the first time, I discovered a sport that allowed me to be completely alone. I loved itno rules, no guidelines, no teams, no coaches, no spectators, and (in those days) few other participants. Just me, my surfboard, my thoughts, and an almost empty ocean. In surfing I discovered a sport in which the external human factor was almost totally removed and nothing could detract from my enjoyment.
Surfing also brought me for the first time into direct physical contact with nature and its naked, frequently stark, and always awesome beauty. And sometimes when the water was cold and the offshore wind was strong, so that each passing wave left an icy, stinging spray that bit at my wet suit and scratched at my eyes, this starkness was intensified. And I knew that it was good to be alive, independent, vigorous, and so close to nature’s embrace that with each wave I could hear nature’s heartbeat. I found the attraction to surfing alarmingly powerful.
After school and the army I attended a university and for 4 years learned to row. In rowing I found a team sport that demanded total individual dedication, physical perfection, and an acceptance of physical pain and discomfort. Rowing first introduced me to my need for self-inflicted painthe nauseating, deep-seated pain that accompanies repetitive interval training and racing. At first, I merely followed this need intuitively. Only later did I begin to suspect that continual exposure to and mastery of that discomfort are essential ingredients for personal growth. And in training for rowing, I was led to running. Now, 20 years down the road, this blog provides the opportunity to reflect on what running has meant to me.
Running has taught me who I am and, equally important, who I am not. I learned through running that I love privacy and solitude. At best I mix rather poorly and then only with people who are equally as restrained and secretive as I am. At worst, I am a latent “sociophobe” with a tendency to become ill when forced to socialize too frequently.