Sunday, April 21, 2013

In Solitude the Mind Gains Strength and Learns to Lean Upon Itself

The tragic events surrounding the 2013 Boston Marathon have given me reason to reflect on a lost love—running. But, doing so also brought me to reflect on what seems a lost ability in modern man—running without headphones.

From roughly the late-80s to the mid-90s I was a competitive runner, at distances 5K-marathon, and bicycle racer, combining the two disciplines in the running/cyclng biathlon (with some success). Even after retiring from competiton, I continued to run until halted by a chronic back condition in 2002, and continued to road cycle until being hit by a car in 2004. Now I am left with trail riding on my mountain bike.
Distance running and cycling require significant time investment, and are often solo pursuits. There are interval sessions on the track, paceline drills, long runs of 1-3 hours, long rides of 4-6 hours. I looked forward to and felt restored by the time spent, engaged in the surroundings and accompanied by nothing more than my inner dialogue—noodling over private troubles, working through design problems (for most of my competitive years, I was a practicing software hacker nerd at Bell Labs) or deconstucting glories real and imagined (can't tell you under how many different circmstances I won the Tour de France).
Now it bothers me to see virtually every runner on the street, every fellow gym-goer, locked into earbuds, entombed in a coccoon of sound. Olympic swimmers can't even walk the short distance from the locker room to the pool without shutting out the world. "The zone" seems quite lonely.
You encounter quite different sounds running along suburban roads, through Little Italy and Chinatown in Manhattan, on the snowy streets of pre-dawn Toronto, in rural Ireland, or cycling the backroads of New Jersey and northern Michigan. Why homogenize them? The experience of running the Boston Marathon, as I did in 1990 and 1991, is one of literally being applauded every step of the way until the deafening din of Boylston Street and the finish. Why shut it out?
Just because high-quality weightless digital packaging make it possible to take your music everywhere doesn't mean you have to. Re-engage with the simple act of being alone with your thoughts.
             Vinyl-to-Digital Restoration #56            

Title: Eagles
Artist: The Long Run
Genre: Rock
Year: 1979

Like many a marathoner, the Eagles had hit the wall before releasing their final studio album, The Long Run. There are a couple memorable cuts, new member Timothy B. Schmit's contractually-obligated songwriting and vocal contribution, and a lot of forgettable filler. But, like a wise marathoner, they should have known when to hang 'em up; otherwise that one-too-many effort is really painful.

© 2013 Thomas G. Dennehy. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I could never have expressed these very thoughts so eloquently as you have here despite my extreme agreement with them. Nothing ever came close to the serenity I felt with just me and the miles ahead (and behind) on the road.

    ...and you were never a nerd!