I’ve come to notice that people are pretty impressed when you let slip that you run really far, that you do it for fun and that you largely go solitary in the woods for hours. That kind of exercise, they’ll call it “exercise” eventually, seems formal. It’s something you “train” for and they’ll see it completely distinct from the other parts of your life. While being impressed, they’ll see it, albeit on a nuttier scale, much like their own 30 minutes on the elliptical at lunch. You go out, exercise, and then go back to your adult responsibilities forgetting what you did until it’s time to do it again. You go back to work (work time), go wash the car (car time), pay the cable bill (bills time). There’s an understanding, even an encouragement, I’d say, that buckets exist for each part of our lives, and that those buckets never intersect. Run a 50 mile mountain race? Wow! You must train hard and spend lots of distinct time doing it! It seems crazy to them, but they’ll understand it, kinda.
Where I’ve noticed folks get confused is when you blend seemingly distinct parts of your life into a complimentary and useful form. For example, on occasion, I run to and from work. It’s a breezy 12 mile round trip on road surfaces. I pack a small bag with my lunch and some clothes. I leave about a half hour earlier in the morning than I normally would and I’m there on time. Really not that hard. But with this foreign combination of utility and joy, the reactions from co-workers are far different than if I’m discussing a 100 mile trail attempt. The 100 miler is, supposedly, regimented, organized, and intentional. You’ll do it with other like-minded people making it, well, socially acceptable somewhere. The run commute to work is just weird.
As I trotted to the job the other morning, past bus stops and workers with $8 worth of prepared breakfast foods in their arms, I considered why this is the case. Why the confusion? I think some of it has to do with commitment, ease and convenience. I have a family and running aspirations. I don’t want to neglect either so the fusion of using running as a form of transportation is rational. If I’m committed to both, then it won’t always be easy or convenient to give myself fully to each all the time. I’ll have to integrate some sort of scheme to make myself a decent runner and a committed dad. In other words, I’ll have to make it a lifestyle.
Though, there might be more to it than that. Something fuzzier and probably more truthful than what I just wrote. Here’s something I can say for myself; and it’s a bit of a confession. As I work away from bucketing my life, the run commute is also emblematic. A move to living the solution even if only in my mind. A bit dramatic, right? It’s evidence that I can break away, slightly, from the status quo, even while on my way to an office gig. That I can start my day not by mentioning the crappy parking situation at work (and how far I had to walk to the building), or boring people with a description of the long line at the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru. That in the face of other disorganized life elements, I still have my shit together enough to plan a run to work and enough energy at the end of the day to run home. Most people don’t do that.
Maybe that’s why it’s hard for others wrap their mind around it. Maybe, it’s my own fault because I don’t explain it well enough and the real reason is some intersection of vanity, obsession and repressed revolt. Reasons taboo to express in certain company. And maybe reasons too lame to express to myself.