Classic Chonicles - Archives
Each month as a new Classic Chronicle is posted to the main
page, the previous Chronicle will be moved here, to the Classic
OF THE SLOWEST
Steven Pinker, in The
Language Instinct, suggests that if language didn’t exist,
people would be so driven to communicate that they would create
a language. So strong is our instinct toward communication that
there are almost no recorded instances of groups of people who have
not developed a means of talking to one another.
Surely our ancestors had a running instinct as well. It’s
hard to imagine a community of humans that would not have included
runners. Some, though, then as now, were just a little slower than
The evidence of this instinct can be seen in children. Children
seem content to simply run. Often they aren’t running to or
from anything. They just run. For children, the act of running brings
such pleasure that they don’t, or won’t, stop.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a reason why some
adults have lost the joy in their instinctive running, look no further
than childhood. How many times are children told not to run? In
how many paces are they not allowed to run?
Worse yet, for some children running becomes a form of punishment,
as it did for me. In my high school, when you misbehaved in gym
class, you were sentenced to run laps. Is it any wonder that my
running instinct was buried?
When I am asked now why I started running after 40 years of sedentary
confinement, I answer that running is in my genes. Somewhere in
my genetic makeup is the DNA residue of great hunters and bold warriors
and fleet messengers. When I dig deep enough into my soul, I am
connected directly to those who ran for their lives.
I’m sure that great runners throughout history were revered
for their skill and speed. I’m not convinced, though, that
all of my running ancestors were gifted. I’m sure there were
penguins even then!
Had I been alive in prehistoric times, I suspect that the members
of my tribe would not have selected me to chase down dinner. Given
my ability to run, it’s far more likely that I would have
ended up as some other animal’s dinner.
But my limited talent doesn’t mean I can’t, or shouldn’t,
run. More importantly, it doesn’t mean that I’m not
a runner. My terminal velocity relative to that of others of my
age and gender is the result of the decisions I have made over the
course of my life.
What is often misunderstood about those of us struggling to reach
the front of the back of the pack is that we really are trying.
We really are, at whatever our pace, doing the best we can. Some
runners, and even well meaning non-runners, interpret our position
in the pack as a measure of our effort. Nothing could be further
from the truth.
We-the few, the proud, the plodding-very often train
as much as, or more than, faster runners. At a blistering 12-minute
pace, a 20-mile week represents a major time commitment. I do speed
work and tempo runs. I do long, slow runs. I just do them very slowly.
It’s not a matter of trying. It’s not a matter of motivation.
It’s just a matter of speed. A fast runner friend of mine
put it succinctly when I asked him what he thought was the limiting
factor in my running future. His answer was as insightful as it
was concise: "Maybe you’re just slow!"
And slow I may be. But I am the best athlete I know how to be. I
am the best runner I know how to be. Every day is an opportunity
to improve. Every time I run, I try to be better. I have given in
to my running instinct. I have given in to this passion to uncover
the primal joy in running. And I hope you will, too.
Waddle on, friends.
Thought of the Day
"You can't pretend to be a runner you actually have to run."
up for the new TEAM PENGUIN mailing list!
sponsorship opportunities available now. Contact us at JohnBingham.com!