Running Shoes : A brief (considerably speaking) parable of my journey through the world of photography.
Runners. You know the kind I’m referring to. They’re in the perfect shape. They wear the perfect clothes. They even make sweat look like something you ought to find at a cosmetic counter. They run no matter what, and they always look good doing it. Cold rainy days only make them look stronger. The blazing heat makes them appear invincible. There is something about these runners that makes you want exactly what they’ve got.
So you buy a pair of running shoes.
But really, it’s not quite that simple. You show up to your local sporting goods store with a vision of the perfect pair of running shoes. The kind that will make you soar. The kind that will take you to the same cloud nine you see the other runners floating through.
The running shoe selection is INFINITE. You’ve got one thing to help you narrow down your search for the perfect pair. Your budget; you can only buy what you can afford. Now your choices come down to brand and performance. The brand is a tough one because the best runners are wearing competing brands and are performing equally well. And that brings us to performance. You hadn’t even thought about the “type” of runner you wanted to be. You just want to run.
The all purpose running shoe. Perfect for the novice runner in any environment. SOLD.
You’re ready to start running.
You dig through your drawers and find an old pair of gym shorts and a t-shirt. You lace up your new joggers and you hit the trail. But not the popular trail, you want to give a whirl on your own first. In a quiet, secluded environment: a no pressure setting.
30 minutes later your heart rate is racing, your adrenaline is pumping, and you feel GOOD. You can hear your footsteps leaving a beat on the silence around you. You can feel the wind racing by your cheeks. There is freedom in the motion.
It’s obvious why people are runners. The feeling is almost incomparable. You are only one run in and you already want more.
You’re feeling better and stronger but not quite confident enough to allow others the opportunity to judge your performance. So you continue to play it safe for a little while, out on your own. You prefer to do a little self-training before you announce yourself as a runner.
Proud of all the training you’ve done, you’re ready to join the others who share your passion.
Clothed in the best you’ve got, your old gym shorts and tee, with your slightly used running shoes, and a new sweatband, you join the ranks. And almost before you’ve even begun, the butterflies in your stomach turn to knots. The excitement and freedom you felt before now feels a lot more like inadequacy and defeat. EVERYONE around you is faster, stronger, and much better equipped. Your new sweatband even looks like a joke in the grand scheme of it all. Even if they aren’t laughing, they might as well be.
So your first public run was a bust. But, whatever. You don’t give up that easily. Besides, you know they had to start somewhere too.
You read blogs, books, and magazines. You join local running groups. You hire a personal trainer. You attend one-day seminars. You learn about the “gear”; socks, shorts, shirts, sports bras, mp3 players, mp3 player straps, sweatbands, gym bags, water bottles, watches with built in GPS systems, heart monitors, shoe laces, and most importantly, Running Shoes.
Everything they say seems to be true. And it works. You’re getting faster and stronger and everyday you look more and more like a runner. You’re making running friends and fitting in. You even find yourself occasionally cheering on the newbie and helping them out along the way. It’s all starting to feel pretty good.
Everyday, you run.
You show up and stand confidently in the middle of the herd, and you run. Occasionally you see the “celebs” as the move to the front of the line and get ready to lead. You’ve even become acquaintances with a few of them. You start to see them less as icons and more as people. People who do in fact have a few bad days. And people who did indeed start at the back of the line. You’ve heard them speak at seminars and group meet-ups here and there. But you never actually see them while they run. You just celebrate their incredible performance, day after day. But when they’re running, you’re running too. And you’re always behind them.
Line of sight.
It’s funny how your line of sight changes over time. When you first saw ‘The Runners”, you only noticed the stars. The one’s who headed the trail proudly and with confidence. You never even noticed the crowd behind them. But now you’re standing in the crowd and your line of sight has changed.
Runners in front of you, and runners behind you. From where you’re standing you can’t even see the front of the line. And finally, you can’t see the back of the line either. All you can see is a sea of running shoes. And you just keep running.
But where are you running?
The thing is, you’re not sure. From the beginning you just wanted to run with the runners. It didn’t matter where they were running. You just wanted to run. And then you just wanted to run better. You wanted to inch your way up in the line and see what it would be like to run out in front. And you never asked, “Where? “.
Coming up for air.
The truth is, it starts to feel a little suffocating in the center of the crowd. You can’t even remember the last time you heard the beat of your own steps. Or felt the wind sweep across your cheeks.
So take a deep breath.
Go back to that quiet, secluded place. Take the things you’ve learned and run.
Run faster and harder than you did at the beginning.
But come back to that place.
That quiet place.
Let your footsteps make a new beat.
Your own beat.
Run where you can see the trail ahead of you.
Where you can choose your own direction.