Being a philosopher, I pride myself on being rational. Being a runner, I pride myself on…well, doing things that might seem rather irrational.
Not surprisingly, people sometimes think that philosophy and running are an odd mix. Philosophers are generally pictured as inactive, unhealthy folks who smoke and drink wine while wondering whether they exist or not. Runners are generally pictured as annoyingly healthy people who know that they exist.
However, philosophy and running go great together, mostly.
First, it has been shown that running (and other, “lesser” aerobic sports) actually make a person smarter. It enhances the brain and its capabilities. Since philosophy requires thinking, being smarter is certainly a big plus. Of course, people do say to me: “If running makes you so smart, why are you out there running in the rain, Socrates?” An excellent question, to which I reply “why are you out here asking me questions in the rain?”
Second, aside from watching out for cars, broken glass and roots, the mind does not have a great deal to do while running. Hence, all that idle brain power (also enhanced by running) can be devoted to thinking about philosophical matters as well as other important things (like what to have for breakfast).
Of course, sometimes my philosophical nature is at odds with my running nature. From a rational standpoint, I should not run through injuries and I should rest more. Reason tells me this. But my running nature is to run and to do so even when it is clearly irrational. Or, to put it in the words of a friend “for a smart guy, you do some stupid stuff when it comes to running.”
I can say that I have gotten better about it over the years. For example, I ran after having my wisdom teeth pulled (I had no idea that it would be so hard to breath with my mouth packed with gauze), I ran when I had food poisoning (I found out that I could still run and throw up at the same time-a useful skill), I ran after some minor surgery (thus learning that blood loss makes it harder to run), and so on. Now, with years of wisdom, I would do things different. To be specific, I would run less distance under those conditions. Clearly my rational side has triumphed.
Hi- I came across this post because I recently edited a book with Blackwell by the same title “Running and Philosophy: A Marathon for the Mind”. If you’re interested, it’s on Amazon, etc.
doing my philosophy studies, I actually depended on running a lot. you need to get away from books and sitting around all the time, and hit the world. (even if you’re not a realist.)
i don’t understand what’s supposed to be irrational about running though.
Michael LaBossiere says
To me, running is the most rational activity of all.