I own a little book by John Jerome called The Elements of Effort. Not only is it my favorite book about running, it has a whole lot to say about life in general. Sub-titled “reflections on the art and science of running,” Jerome has organized it by the seasons as he reflects on his favorite sport.
Of it he says in the introduction: “Running is the most elemental sport there is. We are genetically programmed to do it. One might even say that we are the free-ranging, curious, restless creatures that we are because of running. Surely our instinct for freedom is a legacy of this essential mobility.
“I think freedom itself is the source of running’s great appeal. Slip on a pair of shoes, slip out the door, and you’re there: free…..Try though the gimmick-sellers have to complicate the sport, nothing has compromised running’s essential simplicity.”
Jerome dedicates his book to the memory of Jim Fixx, the author of the Complete Book of Running, who he credits with getting so many runners started.
I’d like to share with you a few of Jerome’s words of wisdom:
“Running—or any other effortful gross-motor activity, extended over time—is a powerful tool for keeping ourselves in the present tense, and the present tense is always a vacation.”
I’ve noticed that when a run gets tough I say to myself: “Just be in the present moment and place, right here and now. Don’t look ahead. Don’t anticipate being finished. Just keep running.
“I’m happy using running for purposes other than longevity. I use it to set my body whirling, and thereby still my head.”
Seems to me, longevity is not the issue, maintaining a life that is satisfying useful is the whole point. And who is not interested in stilling their incessant thinking machine and setting their body whirling—slow as it might be?
“In masters athletics what most people master first is the art of ignoring the obvious: how old they are. (We’re not going to let that stop us.) We become masters at carrying on, at persevering, at getting in our mileage and getting through our races, come hell or high water. To do so, we’ve had to build up a fairly heavy coating on our pain sensors. It’s not easy to catch your body’s subtle signals when you are essentially a callus from head to foot.”
Amen to this one. After a few weeks of walking instead of running because my body was complaining, this morning I told it to shut up. I was going to run—at least down to that blue car. And when I got there, I kept going until I had circled the cemetery a mile from my house and run back home. Yep. It hurt. Yep. It felt wonderful!
“Aging is a disease of hypokinesis, literally not enough movement.”
I believe it. It doesn’t matter much what you do, as long as you get up and do it. And with consistency. The older we get, the harder it is to get back to working out if you lay off for more than a couple of days.
“Breathing is life’s single most sustainable activity. And it is breath itself that is so enhanced by running.”
Breathe deep. Stay in the moment. Walk or run or bike or swim every day that you can manage it.