Racing in Circles

I haven’t done a running related blog in a long while, a long while. Running has always been one of my top three passions, and I am quite ashamed of myself for losing some of that passion in the past two months. Not because I found love in a “real” sport, actually because I have been directing all my energies into religious studies and questions. On top of this, I have had my left foot in a tall boot for what is soon to be six weeks. I drifted away from anything running for a very short period by all means, but a period too long nonetheless.

So here it goes.

I like how people always say running is not a “real” sport, or how it’s just not fun to watch for spectators. Well the former shows ignorance, and the latter is only half true. What people don’t realize is how popular running really is, and how more popular track is. It doesn’t have to do with the physical prowess of athletes, the difficulty of each individual sport, or even necessarily the nature of the sport. What makes a sport popular is bread and circuses. The most “unpopular” sports in the world from a spectators point of view are long distance races. If you ever attend a high school cross country meet, and want to support a person running you will find yourself darting across field and trees to different point on the course all in the attempt to see one person for no more than 5 seconds at a time. You have to move. Thus, while many younger runners will say cross country is their favorite over long distance track, more spectators prefer to go see track meets. The same can be said for why things like football, baseball, tennis, basketball, etc. are all fairly popular. Yes, they are fun to watch, but they are also compact and take little space to play. People can sit, eat, watch, and sometimes drink beer while enjoying the game. I mean think about it, when someone says “baseball” you think of the game naturally, but images of hotdogs, souvenirs, the 7th Inning Stretch, etc. all pop into the mind as well for things people enjoy about going to baseball games. Bread and circuses.

To many runners this is fine, more publicity is always wanted for any professional athlete, but life is more about winning the race in the moment. Also, people who tend to be fans of running are runners themselves, or the parents of a runner(s). Being able to see what is going through an athletes mind by their form, expression, effort is something people learn to see when watching an Olympic 5000 meter track race. It’s not just racing in a circle, it is fighting a battle. Not only do you have to compete against everyone else around you, but you also have to compete against yourself. The sport is so much about mental toughness as it is the thousands of miles of running, the thousands of hours of core and lifting, the thousands of hours of mental preparation. It really isn’t strange to realize that the people who like to watch men and women race around an oval are themselves runners. It is no surprise that people who don’t run, or don’t understand running, don’t find it enjoyable to watch. However, it truly is a magnificent sport that tests the human spirit and art of the race.