A few days ago, my granddaughter found an old 8-track tape in a closet and promptly asked what it was.  After being told, she wanted to hear the tape.  Of course, we did not have an 8-track tape player.  So, it went unheard.

            Then, later in the week, I went to Phiddipides at Ansley Mall to buy a pair of running shoes.  As I sat there trying on the shoes and gazing at the wall covered with shoes, I thought back to the time I evolved from the Adidas Italias to the brand new Nike Cortez.  The difference was like that between night and day.

            I thought about this because the shoes I was buying now were closer to being like the old Italias than they were to the Nike Cortez that revolutionized the running shoe industry.  And, I was buying Nikes.  This reflected a change in the running shoe business.

            The way my mind works brought me to thoughts of technology in today’s world; the way we react to that technology; how we as runners fit into the world of advancing technology compared to the world of basic nature.  My shoe purchase reversed my direction from my recent running shoe trend in that I was going backwards compared to the obvious technology in most running shoes today and in the dominating philosophy of the major running shoe companies…including Nike.  It was like the running shoe companies were backtracking in their design and philosophy.

            This whole bubble of modernization and technology engulfs the runner of today just like it does everyone else.  Still, one of the major appeals of running for many people, including me, is the simplicity of the activity.  As they say, it is a sport that needs only good shoes and determination.  Even in our simplicity, we can see, use, or reject the oncoming technology.  An example is the GPS equipment that can tell the runner where, the distance, elevation, pace, and such of the run.  Just put it on your wrist and take off…it will do the rest. It is there to use.  Just take it or leave it.

            Another major appeal of running expressed by many people is the connection to nature.  This may partially explain why trail running is exploding in numbers.  There are those who run only on trails and race only on trails.  Then, there are those who will hit the trails just part of the time.  And, we have those who never run on trails.  We are speaking here of nature trails.  Those trails through the woods or in the open but are surfaced with earth and not pavement.  We are not talking of the multi-use trails that are paved to accommodate road bicycles, skates, and skis on wheels.  Such a trail is the very popular Silver Comet Trail from Smyrna, Georgia to the Alabama state line.

            One may think that a runner needs to be on nature trails running along with the sound of the wind rustling the leaves of the forest in order to be “in” nature.  Not so.  If you are “out there,” you are in nature.  As soon as the runner goes out the door, that runner is running in nature.  This fits one of Webster’s definitions of nature, the external world in its entirety.  That is nature for the runner.  This does not include running indoors or treadmill running, unless, maybe, the treadmill is outside.

            We, as runners, are active participants in nature.  The runner running in downtown Atlanta is running in nature just like the runner running the Appalachian Trail.  I run in nature when I run my familiar routes in my neighborhood…all on roads.

            One site of nature is no better than another site of nature.  It is just a different nature site.  The runner may prefer the sidewalk in the nature he or she runs through while another may prefer the local park with asphalt and grass trails; while another may choose the wooded trail with its roots and rocks and stream crossings.  All of it is nature.  The difference may be the intensity of the nature setting.

            The intensity of nature would be the degree of completeness of the environment that would reflect the lowest level of interference from man.  The Appalachian Trail would reflect less interference than the Silver Comet Trail.  So, one might think the A.T would be “more” nature.

            This might be true of the common pedestrian through such settings.  But, not for the runner.  A runner’s nature is where the runner happens to be running at the time as long as it is out there.  This is because the runner will be more aware of the setting being run through than anyone else passing through the same.  A runner is able to sense more because running will heighten the senses because of the body and mind’s reaction to the activity.  Any runner can tell of experiences in which their surroundings during the run seemed more intense with color, clarity, smells, sounds, and many other sensations that made the run memorable.  And, this is not uncommon.  In fact, it is so common that we hardly hear or read about the phenomenon as we did in the early running boom days.  It has become commonplace.  But, that doesn’t mean that it is not there and not important to enjoying the running.

            The runner is an athlete.  The runner is an athlete in nature.  The runner relates to nature in ways in which most other athletes can only read.  It happens to the runner in the cities, the forests, the deserts, the mountains, the parks, the beaches, on the sidewalks, the roads, the trails.  The sensations abound.  The senses are on high alert.  The mind is processing everything with more clarity than at other times.

            This makes the runner one with his or her nature.  That nature is anyplace and every place outside.  The runner becomes an animal in nature.  The more the runner feels like an “animal,” the more intense the running experience in nature becomes.  The runner may be unique in reaching this state of mind.

            The true runner has a calling to keep reliving the experience with nature.  This helps running become a way of life.  We runners need to keep our awareness of the experience alive.  We need to enhance our appreciation of the experience.

            On your next run, tap into the colors around you be it city or country.  Listen to the sounds be they city hubbub or forest rustlings.  Smell the odors from the pavement or the trail…see what you can detect wafting through the air.  Relate to the sounds of your breathing and your feet striking the surface.  Be aware of your body’s motion and position.  Let your mind absorb it all.  The mind will give you a high definition picture better than any modern product of technology.

            It will be your picture of your nature.  You will have it, enjoy it, and remember it.  You will repeat it.  Later runs will do that for you.  You will be an animal in nature.  You will be running and be a better person because of it.  If you are lucky, you will even be a better animal.

 Richard Westbrook

 

Next time you go out, solo or with your pack, run with your eyes wide open. Play I-Spy if you have to. Notice the beauty of the moments, the scenery, the company, and the rhythm.”

                                                                                   Kristin Armstrong,

                                                                                   Author and runner

Comments
  1. Lauren Swanson says:

    Great article! I don’t run anywhere near as far as you do. My compliments to you for that. I do go out for a little run as often as I can and prefer to be out on nature trails, but enjoy the time to run regardless. I am just NOT a treadmill person!

    • Richard Westbrook says:

      Thanks for the comment. Glad you enjoyed the article. And, you “enjoy the time to run regardless” is a key to being a “real” runner.

      Richard Westbrook

  2. Lex Morrow says:

    whats an 8- track tape?……

  3. Irving says:

    I simply couldn’t go away your site prior to suggesting that I actually loved the standard information a person supply in your visitors?

    Is goiung to be back steadily to inspect new posts

    • rlhwestbrook says:

      Irving…Glad you like the stuff. I would be glad to hear (or read) any thoughts you have on the subjects at hand.

      Thanks,
      Richard

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