Peripatetic Parties

I like to run alone. But I also like to run races. Running alone gives me the spiritual basis for going on. Running races puts a bit of an edge on my running.

There’s a bit of a disconnect for me, though, when I do a race. I’m a solitary type, and so find the crowds, the noise, and the fuss of an organized race a little off-putting. Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand why we don’t just start at our front doors and do the distance, without all the fuss.

Christopher McDougall, the author of Born to Run, feels the same way – or did until recently. His mind was changed by Dr. Daniel Liberman, who’s a professor of evolutionary biology at Harvard University. A recent post from McDougall’s excellent blog explains what happened.

“If you want to run 26.2 miles, the door’s right there. Go. Why do you need corporate hoopla and 45,000 strangers along for the ride?

“I think mega-marathons pretty much epitomize everything that’s wrong with recreational running,” I recently e-mailed Dr. Lieberman, letting him know I’d decided to turn down an invitation to run this year’s New York City marathon with him.

His response was gentle and friendly, but boiled down to this: Get over yourself. What makes you so special that you can’t be part of “the world’s biggest peripatetic party,” as he put it. “Yeah, there is lots of commercialism, sponsors, hype — but to me these marathons are really more like festivals.”

And parties, essentially, are the centerpiece of Dr. Lieberman’s entire theory of human evolution. A big old running party, he believes, is what made our existence possible in the first place.”

That makes sense to me. It also nudges me to “get over myself” and enjoy the party. So I’ll continue to do my much-loved and very necessary solitary runs, but also allow myself to get into party mode when the opportunity arises. That’ll be soon – the Tannenbaum 10K is only three weeks away.


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