False Idols: Passion for the Sport
Each month I read the most recent issue of Runner’s World, and there always seems to be one or two articles that provide me with a new perspective on my own running. More often than not, this perspective is the result of an unbelievable story or a description of a outrageous race. This month, it was the story of Robert Garside, who, after 2 previous attempts, became the first man to run around the world. Let me repeat that- HE RAN AROUND THE WORLD. In all, his run took 2, 062 days, covered 29 countries and 6 continents. He ran around 35,000 miles and went through 50 pairs of shoes. By all accounts, this feat is absolutely amazing. However, there has been no shortage of controversy surrounding the legitimacy of his run, which has in many ways tainted his accomplishment. What I enjoy most about this is not even the significance of the accomplishment, but the fact that it was done with so little fanfare, no multi-million dollar shoe and athletic clothing contracts, no TV commercials, and no agents. In an age where society so easily worships the most flamboyant athletic in the largest market, Robert Garside just ran.
Over and over, I am struct by the amazing accomplishments of so many different runners. At every level of experience, from Ryan Hall down to the first-time marathoner, you have someone going out there to push themselves and test their bodies because of what it gives back to them in motivation, satisfaction, and health. Aside from a very small percentage of athletes that can make a career out of running, the people toeing the line aren’t professional athletes with salary bonuses, agents, and shoes with their name on them. In fact, they paid their own way to get to the race, paid their own entry fee, and probably purchased everything they are wearing when that gun goes off. They are taking time away from their families, their jobs, and the multitude of other responsibilities they have because they are called to push themselves and accomplish something that very few people do in their lifetime.
There is no question that as a country, we are reaching an obesity epidemic of enormous proportions. Millions of children do not eat a healthy diet on a regular basis, nor do they get the exercise they require. Those same children follow their favorite basketball, football, and baseball players religiously and lust after the next great shoe or jersey to be released by the capitalist machine. The irony, of course, is that they are dressing themselves in apparel meant for activity, and they simply sit in front of the TV and watch other overpaid athletes be active instead.
Perhaps if we, as a country, spent less time worshipping the athletic ability of others, and engaged in those same activities ourselves, we wouldn’t be facing many of the health-related concerns we see today. Perhaps if, as parents, we taught our children to respect and look up to the father of four down the street who gets up every morning at 4:30AM to get his run in before work instead of the flashiest athlete with the biggest endorsements and the most bling, we would be a more active culture. Perhaps if we worried more about what we fed our kids in school lunches instead of worrying about whether or not we should be feeding them a version of the Bible, we’d actually be teaching them something relevant to their well-being as adults.
Aside from the joy that comes with accomplishment, running isn’t about glamour or prestige for most people, and it’s not seeing a professional runner sell his own shoes that makes someone want to run…it’s about internal motivation to strive for something just within reach, to test your limits, to possess true passion for something bigger than you. Remember this reality when you see your neighbor running as you walk outside to get the morning paper, or when you question whether or not to muster the courage to start running. Look around- the real idols are all around us and their passion is as clear as a sunrise over an empty country road during an early-morning run.