Monday, 7 October 2013

Confessions of a Bored Runner

Running can be boring.

OK I've said it. 

I feel I have broken the great taboo in admitting the bleeding obvious. I have some how broken the sacred code between runners that we can't actually say out loud and definitely can't say in front of non-runners!

Running is meant to be euphoric. A long run is meant to give you a runner's high. Running can do everything from relieve stress to cure obesity. I've even read articles posing the question whether running is better than sex, (it isn't by the way).

But I've never read an article that admits the fact we all know: Often running is boring. 

It is impossible to do any activity day after day, and often for hours at a time and not be bored.

But rather than run away from the boring truth I believe it is time we embrace it.

Western society seems to have a phobia when it comes to boredom. Boredom is something to be avoided at all costs and fought through an armoury of mobile phones, films, radio, video games, music, literature, tablets and of course television. We should never be bored and if we are we should remedy the situation immediately!

But more people are increasingly coming out in praise of boredom.

The state of boredom is now praised by some as a prerequisite for great creativity and insight. It is not until you stop bombarding your brain with stimuli that you can have that great "eureka" moment. 

Although I believe this to be true, and find running an incredibly useful time in experiencing creative breakthroughs as my bored mind wanders, I don't think this is really in praise of boredom any more than a racing driver likes to stop because it enables him to refuel his car and then go faster. This is not really praise for boredom, this is more an argument for the utility of boredom to make your life even more interesting in the long run.

As a runner I want us to really appreciate boredom. Nothing worthwhile can be achieved without us embracing boredom, whether that is reading turgid law books to one day become a judge or filing your accounts to grow your business into a multi-national corperation. Running teaches us how to embrace boredom, it's impossible to run a PB marathon time without experiencing boredom through some of your training runs. It's a life lesson for anything we want to achieve. Through great boredom comes great achievement.

But there is also a more philosophical aspect, dare I say spiritual side, of our lives that I believe running boredom connects us with. 

Poet and philosopher Joseph Brodsky had much to say on boredom but the one aspect that really strikes a chord with me is when he wrote: 

"boredom is your window on the properties of time that one tends to ignore to the likely peril of one's mental equilibrium. It is your window on time's infinity. Once the window opens, don't try and shut it; on the contrary, throw it wide open".

We invariably fill our lives with distractions so we can avoid facing the reality of time.

Running is one of the few occasions in our lives when we allow ourselves to be bored. One of the few occasions when we allow ourselves to become fully aware of time. In busy lives when every second is meant to be filled with activity. In an age when "work hard, play hard" has become less of a catch phrase and more of a commandment, running and boredom is the ultimate rebellious act. Through running and giving ourselves permission to be bored we connect with the one constant that modernity cannot control - time.

So next time you are on a long run and start to feel bored in the words of Brodsky throw that window wide open and allow yourself to connect with "time's infinity".

(The picture today is of me running a trail half marathon race just outside Brighton UK smiling as I saw the camera - pretending not to be bored) 

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