The other day I ran.
I needed to be somewhere, it was cold, it was dark. Running seemed like a good idea.
With increasingly deepening breaths and a heart thumping away in my chest, as if to keep me company in the leering darkness, strange paradoxical feelings crept over me. When I run, when anyone runs, it feels like an act of strength, of fitness,of power, even. Here is the human body at its finest, defying daily lethargy and ordinary movement. It returns us to our primitive instincts.
At the same time, however, I felt scared. I hadn't felt fearful before I began running, but the sheer act alone of running made me feel that this was an escape. I was running away from something. There was a certain vulnerability which sat uncomfortably next to my (non- existent, but let's pretend here for the sake of this prate) athleticism.
I recently saw the film Shame and within it there is a long scene in which the protagonist simply runs. Although an incredibly physical character ( if you know anything about this film you will know what I mean), the act of running was his means of escape, showed his own isolation and loneliness. In another film I love, Truffaut's Les Quatre-Cent Coups there is very famous closing scene in which the main character, a young boy, runs along the beach (also recently echoed, deliberately, in 'Submarine'),again signalling loss and hopelessness, yet at the same time, his ultimate freedom.
There are endless similar examples in culture in which the act of running can symbolise so much. It seems to represent an amalgam of strength, vulnerability, fear, ambition, victory, failure, escape, arrival, <insert contrastings words here.>... I could go on.
Usain Bolt will no doubt be the man everyone watches at the Olympics. Yes, because he is a fun guy and does great arm gestures, but perhaps, also, because he and what he does speaks universally to us, beyond the surface value of just a simple race. Similarly, marathons draw thousands of people, not only to take part, but to support on the streets, because of this strange allure of running.
Reading this back, I'm not sure I've said anything of use or interest there at all, but it was just a single thought that struck me the other day. And you know how thoughts can run on.