Friday, November 04, 2005

Why I did not run

Some months ago there was a Doonesbury cartoon where Mike asked his daughter what she thought of the appointment of John Bolton to the UN. She replied that he was just another right wing ideologue who never got over the left wing ideologues of his youth. You boomers are still refighting the 60s and since you are now running the show the rest of us have to suffer for it.

On the public level there might be a lot of truth in this observation but is it also true privately? I have therefore been spending some time sifting through my interest, beliefs and views to see what is hung over from the 60s and 70s - not only what I thought and did but also what I missed. One of the questions was: why did I ignore the first running boom?

The easy answer is that I never enjoyed running much at school. I was not a particularly competitive athlete (I suppose I just about attained mediocrity), but was fairly good at ball games. Running was thus something you did to get to the ball not something to be done for its own sake. Not only that, it was about bursts speed and uncomfortable if maintained for any length of time. But this is nowhere near the full answer.

At heart though I was not really serious about sport. I dropped organised team games by the age of 20 and what was left was a mixture of pick-up games or squash or tennis with friends. There were cultural reasons for this – there was a big divide between the social attitudes of a rugby club and the aesthetics of the counter culture. I was more interested in the latter.

Running should then have been the perfect sport, with none of the sports-jock, rugger-bugger ethos and being about self-actualisation. But I didn’t think of it that way – if I was not competitive, it was exercise and the idea of exercise for its own sake was alien. This is one of the great changes in social attitudes over the past 30 years. It is now generally acknowledged that exercise is a good thing in itself and running has helped bring this about. At the time however I was behind this curve, and exercise was just an unacknowledged by-product of activity. I was fit because I cycled 14 miles to work everyday but I never thought about it as sport - it was transport.

In this I showed a continuity of attitude with my parents (who were always active but in a purposeful way). So at a time when I had been questioning a lot of the social attitudes of my parents’ generation I actually shared some of their values.

Looking back I see even more of those continuities.

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