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Walking: A Higher Resolution Experience


cc licensed flickr photo shared by h.koppdelaney

“There is this to be said for walking: It’s the one mode of human locomotion by which a man proceeds on his own two feet, upright, erect, as a man should be, not squatting on his rear haunches like a frog.”
— Edward Abbey

Zooming down the road at 60 miles per hour, squatting on your rear haunches like an Abbey frog, you may get where you are going fast, but you are pretty much separated from the environment you are passing through. You are breathing rarified processed air, the temperature is artificially maintained, the sounds of the world are drowned out by the motor and music.

Slow it down. Get out of the car.

Ride a bike, you are moving slower, but you are not adding carbon to the atmosphere. You are getting some health gains, you see more detail, a house you never noticed, a pair of horses munching in a pen, you feel the wind, hear it flying by.

Slow it down, got off the machine and run.

Now you are moving on your own power, not relying on any machine. At a slower pace, more is revealed, the details of the road, you realize just how much noise vehicles make, you see the real interface of man made materials and the natural world. There are even more sounds available, but maybe its still the plodding of your shoes or hammering of your heart, or an ipod stuck in your ear between you and the world.

Now walk. The amount of resolution of detail in the experience is 100 fold of being inside a fast machine. Maybe more. You will talk to neighbors you never saw before, you hear the clinking of a bell and notice a cow munching in an orchard you never saw before. There are details like a carved bear art piece in a front yard, a lost piece of homework flopping in the ditch, some shiny rocks sitting idly in a culvert, heck, even road apples stand out.


cc licensed flickr photo shared by Simon Pais

I’d honestly forgotten the sense of “being there” if you have a chance and the time to walk a distance. You might find the world bigger or more wonderous or more colorful or more vibrant in sound.

This is the longest philosophical pre-amble fluff I could dream of to describe why I am hanging up my running shoes. It’s no secret, it’s in the URL http://dommy.com/ihaterunning. I took running up as a challenge to myself in 2006, because I never ran more than 3 miles, and never saw a reason to, but wanted to see if I could rise above my pre-conception, and also raise some funds for a personal cause, Diabetes.. I did a first half marathon in January 2007, a few more, and wobbled through a full marathon on 2008. I returned to do a half in 2010, and got in mind to do another 13.1 miles in 2011.

But I have never gotten rarely more than a distant odor of runner’s high, I just do not like anything about the experience except being done. I like the health gains, but doing it… well, I just don’t have it in my heart to be out there clocking miles. And then I feel guilty for shirking the training. I lost three weeks in October with bronchitis, and had a mild cold this week. I think my body is transmitting a message.

I know many people that actually enjoy it. The run un freezing cold, smile as they do 8 minute miles, and smell like soap afterwards. That’s great, but it ain’t me.

Yet, I have sponsors for this year’s effort, so I cannot just walk away, but I can…. walk. I decided I wanted a new challenge, so instead of grinding myself through another 13.1 mile run, I am going to walk the full marathon.

You see I do like walking, especially the kind that I used to call “hiking”, being outdoors, taking time to takle in the full resolution experience.

Now despite the snickering, walking a marathon is not something you simply get off the couch and do. They limit the time you can be out there (the one I am doing is 7/5 hours from the first gun) so I estimate I ought to be doing 15-16 minute miles. The farthest I can remember hiking in a day was 22 miles, make in the 1980s when a friend and I did the Mt Whitney summit hike and back in a day.

So I got out today, and di 8 miles at that pace, and felt great. Not only was it the opposite to the drill of running, I enjoyed it, and saw even more detail than I did while running the same route.

Who knows where I’ll go next?


cc licensed flickr photo shared by jrodmanjr

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

Comments

  1. Ok, I have to admit I came to this blog in a really roundabout way. You see Jim Groom had tweeted about the blog of the year awards and I clicked on the link to yours. And well this title asked me to read more, and I did. I have to say that I am an addicted runner, however I think I enjoy running for the same reason you enjoy walking. I never did it for fitness, I ran because it was a mind dump. My personal escape. I think it is great that you found yours through walking. I am looking forward to reading more of your post and maybe it will help provide some inspiration for my blogging attempts.

    1. HI Jenn- My efforts at running were on several fronts; one was for the personal challenge of doing something my pre-conceived conclusions were I could not do (finish a half marathon) but also for my own health reasons (being diabetic means exercise is good for me). I had some times of feeling good running, but not quite the addiction. 20 some years ago, I was pretty addicted to doing long bike rides.

      I guess they key thing is like Curly’s Law, find that one thing that matters for you, be it running, photography, baking strudel, and if what you are trying ios not giving back that to your soul, try something else.

  2. Welcome to the walk, Cog Dog! I admit to reading your past commentaries about running (“did I mention that I hate running?”) with deep sympathy and a hoooo-boy shiver. I hung up my running shoes a few years ago and have not looked back. It sure takes longer to walk the walk that achieves the same level of exercise, but boy howdy, do you see a lot along the way. I look forward to reading about your adventures.

  3. The temporality of walking is so liberating! As Walt Whitman declared in his manifesto of “slow” learning: “I loafe and invite my soul/I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.”

    Could walking also be a mode of knowledge production? There is a phrase the Zapatistas coined: “Preguntando caminamos.” (tr. “asking we walk”) For the Zapatistas and others, that phrase signifies a new model of social change and popular education: we walk forward without a map, but engaged in the process of creating a plan; we walk forward without answers, only with questions; we walk forward without telling, but by asking and listening. I.e. walking encourages (supplies the platform for?) new kinds of solidarities and ways of thinking – – models of social relations marked by collaboration and dialogue. Sounds trippy, maybe – – but “preguntando caminamos” became a popular refrain in the 2001 Argentinian popular actions against capital’s implosion and a central part of the ethics guiding all kinds of versions of “horizontalism” (http://www.akpress.org/2006/items/horizontalism)

    Keep on walking!

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