Running Free: focusing on the great outdoors instead of the fancy footwear

Rose George in The Guardian:

Jogger-009Today I went for a run. I put on my £20 Nike wicking-fabric T-shirt and my £25 Nike wicking-fabric leggings, then my £25 compression socks and my £110 Brooks Ghost 6 shoes. I strapped on my £100 Garmin Forerunner 210 GPS watch, and zipped up my £40 Saucony high-vis orange windproof jacket. I inserted my iPhone into my armband, plugged in the headphones, then opened the door of my house in north Leeds and headed up Harrogate Road. I checked my watch every so often to see if I was keeping to my marathon pace; I stuck to the roads; and by doing what I was doing and wearing what I was wearing, I symbolised something that Richard Askwith doesn't much like. He calls it “Big Running”, and he means the industrialisation of an activity that should be free and natural. “How can running be an industry at all?” he wonders early on. “There's no more need for a running industry than there is for a tree-climbing industry or a hide-and-seek industry.”

…I've read a few, from Murakami to the recent Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley. They all have the same problem: they run their course before the end. I began to wonder whether it is possible to write interestingly about something that is, after all, just putting one foot in front of the other, at a speed of your choice. What is compelling about running is what goes on along with it: inside or outside your head. The best writers about it are writing about something else: about being alive, in Askwith's case, in predawn darkness in a Northamptonshire field; about being at peace with freezing rain and puddles and mud and bogs, rather than scared of them, and rather than putting up a barrier of weatherproof, waterproof health and safety against them. This is the Fifth Age of Running, though by now I've lost track. It's also what he calls Slow Running, although it's nothing to do with pace and everything to do with quality, as Slow Food is about valuing ingredients. In Slow Running, the ingredients are the outside world, and the runner's focus turns from digital numbers and Big Running kit to muntjacs and mice; to the ghosts of night-time animals; to exactly how the wind is blowing.

More here.