Every day, the running blogosphere, of which I admittedly am an insignificant but nevertheless guilty part, adds motivational, reflective, entertaining, educational, journalistic, etc. etc., pieces to its already unfathomably large and seemingly diverse universe. I say ‘seemingly’ because ultimately the number of genres it contains and the thematic conventions ruling each genre are surprisingly limited.
To avoid any misunderstanding: this is in no way particular to what we runners produce, it’s the same for all fancies/obsessions/interests/hobbies/industries/subjects because the list of reasons why we’re involved in anything is surprisingly limited. You don’t have to trust me on my word. Just immerse yourself in something, and if you read this, that something is probably running, and you’ve probably already immersed yourself for a bit. Unless running is a totally new thing for you, I bet it didn’t take too long before you started noticing that less and less really surprising, unexpected, new material passed by. Sure, writers, vloggers, etc. find countless new ways to present you with same old same old, and that is both unavoidable and exactly as it should be. Most of us need to hear important things in many different ways before we come across a version that manages to get really through and actually affects us.
A couple of popular genres for running are health and wellness, sport/competition/racing, companionship, self-discipline and self-improvement, and freedom. The last one is more of a niche preoccupation, but quite distinctive because of its often strongly philosophical flavour. At the edges it blends with the more pragmatic wellness genre, but it deserves separate mention because it values freedom for its own sake. I’ll give you an example of the genre:
Now ask yourself, if this kinda approach to running appeals to you – if it does not, no worries, but then this post is not for you – do you actually run Singapore in its spirit? I doubt it. And I don’t mean this as criticism, it is just a statement of fact that here, like in most places, us runners, even when we associate running strongly with ‘freedom’, stick to ‘established’ routes. We don’t take all of our environment as our play ground. Why is that?
A thought: we aspire to freedom but have this hang-up with it needing the right kinda environment, some spectacular natural landscape, of which there isn’t that much to be found here. Jogging the cityscape just doesn’t evoke that same sense of limitless possibility. And spectacular landscapes indeed can do that to us. But the message of the video is that it goes both ways: entering an environment with a free spirit, not hampered by hang-ups about what is nice or appropriate for running, beautiful, fun, etc., will unveil the limitless possibilities – well maybe not limitless but certainly plentiful – of the ordinary.
There is so much more than the tried and trusted. All public space is ours! And yes, we runners shouldn’t be a pain for others so the guiding principle always needs to be that our running doesn’t inconvenience others. But when we don’t, why bother if our running somewhere seems oddball? Some suggestions:
- Underground Singapore (City Hall-Suntec-Esplanade, Raffles Place-Downtown, Orchard Rd) is very runnable before the shops open; and even when they are open, quieter days and times allow for quick run/walk traverses.
- Figuring out your way through malls to overpass connections (J-walk in Jurong East, Bugis Junction, Orchard Rd), why not?
- Explore, explore…every neighbourhood has ways through HDB compounds, tracks along canals, footpaths that only the locals know about.
- Why not enter markets and Singapore’s older shopping centres and discover the very distinctive microcosms they often are; and don’t just do one floor.
Use your running to get to know the city better. Freedom is to go out and not know exactly what you will encounter today.
Sometimes, your environment makes you free. If it does, be grateful and enjoy it as long as it lasts. But most of the time, freedom needs your help to emerge. You need to bring the right attitude to the table. When freedom then does emerge it tends to transform the environment.