Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Moving over the earth

I lived most of my youth in a single town, without a car. Everywhere I went I walked or bicycled. I got to know every side street, every dead end, every shortcut. My world was as big or as small as I wanted to let it be.

As an adult, it's easy to forget what it's like to inhabit that world. We visit far-off places, but we do it by driving at 75 miles per hour in a car with the windows rolled up, or in a flying tin can with in-flight entertainment. There's no concept of distance, just inconvenience between points A and B.

This is one of the reasons I love bicycling, hiking, and running. You move over the earth, but you feel the distance as you do it. You slowly watch the scenery change. You notice the details and your other senses get involved: neighborhoods have odors, the air tastes different in the fall, your aching feet and tired muscles remind you how far you've gone.

I'll never forget the cross-country road trip I took with my wife in 2002. Day by day, avoiding the interstate as often as we could, we drove thousands of miles across the nation. We ate locally, stopped and smelled the roses, tried to get a sense of the places we passed through. Destinations became unimportant, and the journey rose to the top. It changed me, changed how I view the world, how I view myself, how I view my life.

We can't just ditch life every year (well, some people can, but that's not the life I've chosen), but we can replicate some of that experience in small ways. A big part of why I want to be fit is so that I can exert my physical will upon the earth, move over it in whatever way I choose, and truly experience it. I want to run further than the horizon, to hike a trail that takes me from the valley floor to the mountain top, to walk well beyond what most people consider "walking distance," to answer every trivial "where does this go?".

I want to take it all in and know that in my own small way, I own it all.

When the vanity appeal of losing weight isn't enough any more, this is the well I draw from for motivation.

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