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Showing posts from December, 2010

2010 by the numbers

2:35:54, a new marathon PR.
15:49, tied my post-college 5k PR on the track.
3372 miles.
402 hours.
118 miles in my biggest week.
64 days off.
42 blog posts.
11 races.
4 wins.
1 DNF.

Wanting to Want to Run

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A guest contribution by Zach V, aspiring runner and one-time philosopher.One of the things I like most about running is that there are as many reasons to run as there are runners. For those who like to geek out, there’s gear that will track your every move via satellite and automatically update your cloud-based running log, while minimalists can run without even buying shoes. There’s a 5k at a place near you whenever you are feeling competitive. If you want to lose weight, six miles at a ten-minute pace will burn 680 calories. If you can't catch a ball, you can still enjoy the experience of a team sport. At the same time, running is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get away from it all.

I think running illuminates what Freud called the “polymorphous perversity” of desire. Maybe the word “perverse” is a little strong, but the idea is that people can get their jollies in lots of different ways. Forget your cartoon image of Freud—the uptight Austrian with a mother fixati…

Why Have Marathon Runners Gotten Slower?

A current hot topic of conversation on our local message boards as well as on letsrun is the decline of quality depth in local racing and in marathoning more generally. In the late 70s to mid 80s, there was a running boom, much like there is today. That boom had some different qualities, but in some ways I believe that it came from a similar source. In the late 70s to early 80s there was a sense of general unease. Economic conditions were uncertain, and the national mood was anxious. Perhaps these general social conditions put people on the move. They make us nomadic as a culture, looking for a better way of life.

Also, in running, the relationship between effort and results is clear. It is a good proxy for the American dream--you put work in and you get results out. When this dream is jeopardized by economic uncertainty and high unemployment, running offers, perhaps a way to remake the connection between effort and results.

Despite what I see as these general similarities in the moti…

What Is Philosophy?

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What is philosophy? Is it important?

I think it's pretty clear to all of us that our perception of reality is organized at least to some extent by the language we have inherited. This language structures and organizes the way we encounter the world. One thing that I appreciate about philosophy--which Deleuze defined as "the creation of concepts"--is that it takes as its task the critical reorganization of our habits of perceiving. When done well, this reorganization is in the service of better habits of living.

By this definition a guy like Einstein would be a natural philosopher. By rigorously describing the concept of relativity and introducing it into language, he opened up new orders of perception. We were able to understand the universe in a totally different way. This reorganization of our understanding of the universe literally gave us a new universe--new possibilities for technology, new avenues of control, new paths of exploration. It's importan…

On Friendship

"...to a friendship of good men all the qualities we have named belong in virtue of the nature of the friends themselves; for in the case of this kind of friendship the other qualities also are alike in both friends, and that which is good without qualification is also without qualification pleasant, and these are the most lovable qualities. Love and friendship therefore are found most and in their best form between such men." --Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
"And yet. Isn't the main reason we love this sport because it gives us an excuse to idle away an hour (or more) a day with the other skinny social rejects talking about who knows what and god knows why all the while fooling the rest of the world (and, admittedly, sometimes ourselves) into thinking that what we are really doing out there is suffering mercilessly and ascetically towards some impossible goal?"
--Some dude on a message board
In a world in which facebook is reconstructing the concept of friends…

Different Sorts of Seriousness

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"...it's inevitable that we look at our worthiest goals and hopes with a seriousness which is difficult to maintain, [but] ... Another ideal runs before us, a peculiar, seductive, dangerous ideal to which we wouldn't want to persuade anyone: ... the ideal of a spirit that plays naively, i.e. not deliberately but from overflowing abundance and power, with everything that was hitherto called holy, good, untouchable, divine, ... it is only with this spirit that the great seriousness really emerges."                                                --Nietzsche, The Gay Science
My buddy Mike wrote a nice piece on how he started running, and I've been meaning to link to it for a couple weeks now. His experience was much like mine. I think it pairs nicely with this Runner's World piece on the tenth anniversary of the 2000 Footlocker, when Ritz, Webb, and Hall--three of the greatest runners of my generation--duked it out for the first time as high schoolers.

These piec…

Running, Philosophy, and an Ethics of Faith

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In an April post on his blog Requiem for Certainty, friend and fellow traveler Colin Koopman writes about the need to find room for faith in the contemporary cultural scene. In the wake of the confrontation between science (which puts too little value in faith in unverifiable propositions) and religion (which puts too much faith in unverifiable propositions), we have become a culture bifurcated between camps that believe too much in faith and camps that believe too little in it.

In response to this situation, Koopman calls for a working faith that grows out of a realization of the contingency and fragility of the world. This faith is not traditionally religious; it is not founded on the idea of an ever-present and all-powerful creator, nor would it be backed by powerful institutions. Instead, it is the sort of faith that grows out of a strenuous confrontation with the facts of change and uncertainty--a faith that is a working hope that change and fragility, as frightening…

What Does It Mean to Run Naturally?

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Aristotle, in the Physics, opposes the natural to the artificial. He says that natural things have "their principle of motion or of standstill" in themselves, whereas the artificial is dependent on something else for its "principle." Understanding what he means takes a little unpacking, but I think doing so will shed light on some current movements that are motivated by the idea of running more naturally.

Aristotle describes the difference between the natural and the artificial using the example of a tree and a wooden bed frame. He notes that a tree's principle of growth is located within itself. It naturally follows the form of a tree, given the proper conditions, and it grows itself into a tree on its own. A wooden bedframe, notes Aristotle in one of the few moments of humor in his texts, will not grow into a bed when planted in the ground. In order that it take shape, the bed needs someone else to conceive of its idea. For this reason, we say that a bed is n…