During my teenage years jogging was popular, perhaps due in part to the infectious influence of Kenneth Cooper's book Aerobics. It offered a linear point-count system of health and fitness. For instance, one could earn six points for doing an 8-minute mile, and more for going faster or farther. Cycling and swimming, the other members of Cooper's "Big Three" of exercise regimes, similarly translated into numeric values. At a lesser rate so did walking, playing tennis, etc. The worth of a given form of exertion was somehow based on oxygen consumption. At the end of a week, if you racked up at least 30 points you were deemed to have done enough physical activity to be "fit".

All well and good --- and certainly appealing in a quantitative way to a mathematical mind such as mine. For several years I ran along the roads in my neighborhood, calibrated my velocity on measured tracks, and logged my mileage. I suppose I enjoyed it well enough to keep doing it, though I can't find any specific pleasurable memories recorded in the old gray cells ... only vague recollections of trotting alongside various highways in northeast Austin, around the Rice University campus in Houston, and along the streets between Pasadena and Sierra Madre in the Los Angeles basin. But fun? Not really.

What a contrast to the running experiences of the past year! I now go an average of ~25% slower but ~400% farther every week. And happy observations come at what I would estimate at >100 times the pace of decades ago. Almost every mile reveals something worth remembering:

And then there are those momentary glimpses of beauty in its countless other dimensions, sublime and mundane, natural and human. Somehow they seem heightened, amplified perhaps by the mildly altered state that exertion evokes.

Maybe when I was younger I should have taken my time and focused more on seeing rather than on blasting along. And maybe I should have paid more attention to the stories, rather than the mere speed records, in the biographies I read of Jim Ryun, Emil Zatopek, and (my favorite because of his nickname) Paavo Nurmi, "The Flying Finn". At least (as long as my knees hold out) it's not too late for me to open my eyes ...

(see TopicRunning for links to records of some specific down-memory-lane imagery plus related ramblings ...)

TopicRunning - TopicPersonalHistory - TopicRecreation - 2003-05-18

(correlates: MyValentine2004, ToeTransplantProjectZeta, JogLogFog4, ...)