Monthly Archives: February 2015

A Better Toothbrush

My soundbite critique of Capitalism has always been the following..

“Within Capitalism, one can never have a good enough toothbrush.”

What I mean by that is, Capitalism is inherently a “grow or die” economy, and so it follows that the products created can never be good enough, never sufficient for our needs, and must always be adapted, bettered, or in some way changed so the consumer always has something NEW to buy and the profits will continue to flow towards the producers and corporations. Sure, you’ve got a toothbrush, and it has seemingly worked just fine for the many months you’ve had it…but this NEW toothbrush has RAISED BRISTLES specifically designed to brush parts of your teeth that have been apparently decaying and dying without you even knowing it! Or so you’re told. So you buy that toothbrush and suddenly there’s ANOTHER NEW BREAKTHROUGH TOOTHBRUSH DESIGN! This time the bristles are in a DIFFERENT raised pattern to get those OTHER teeth you’ve been missing, or it has a motor, or it has some vague ion blasting energy component that is sure to get your teeth cleaner and whiter than they ever have been! I mean, goodness, just imagine how nasty your mouth was with that first generation toothbrush you had been using the majority of your life. It’s amazing you even have teeth to chew with. Well, fear not, you’ve now got the best toothbrush and don’t need to buy another one or worry about dental hygiene anymore…well, at least until the next toothbrush adaptation comes out.

Oh Capitalism. You’re so funny.

Of course, this critique isn’t confined simply to the dental industry. This is about the premise of a grow or die economy and not one specific product, but I can’t help but address how this plays out within our own subculture of running, namely in relation to running shoes. Oh yes, the premise is very much the same.

NO SHOE IS EVER GOOD ENOUGH. SO BUY ANOTHER PAIR!!

What I find amusing about this premise in relation to running shoes is that every informed runner knows they’ll probably NEED to buy new running shoes, relatively frequently. The suggested window of overuse lies somewhere between 250 and 500 miles, necessitating a new pair of running shoes every handful of months (almost every month if you’re a high-mileage elite), so that drive for shoe companies to CREATE a need for the consumer is less pressing, however, each shoe company still needs to outsell their competition, and so the same drive to create “newness” and “betterness” with each shoe still remains.

What this means for the consumer is that you’ll always be buying a different shoe, which can be quite annoying at best and form compromising at worse. Each year, shoe companies “update” last year’s model. They make tweaks with the foam, the overlays, materials, toe box, tread, etc. until three years down the line, the same model seems like an entirely different shoe. This isn’t even addressing when they completely discontinue a shoe, no matter how much the consumers enjoyed it.

Ultimately, this isn’t that big of a problem, because the tweaks made to the shoe are usually pretty benign, and sometimes even helpful. But really, I would LOVE to see a company say,

“This is our shoe. It works. Runners really enjoy it. So here it is…why would we ever change it?”

Every year. Year after year. Just LEAVE IT ALONE. I know other runners feel the same. Some even go so far as buying multiple pairs when they find a shoe that works because they know it will be “updated” and changed in some way the next season, potentially affecting how the shoe feels or works for them. I don’t blame them. In hindsight, if I had the money, I’d have bought 20 pairs of the 2009 / 2010 model of the Adidas Adios. Boost foam be damned…the shoe worked just perfect. I’d do the same for the first version of the Saucony Peregrine. I still love that shoe to death, but no change they have made in the following 5 models have altered how the shoe feels or performs. It’s just marketing. It’s upholding the exaggerated value of “newness” and “progression”, when it’s really just about dollars. Don’t overlook that.

Those considerations really aren’t so problematic, however, sometimes the drive for “progression” and “newness” gets out of hand. Sometimes a story comes out (or is created) that EXPLAINS the newness, that draws on something beyond the abstract of “performance” and tries to draw correlations to our biology, our humanity, our history. Sometimes a book, and movie and bad science comes along to justify that story and an entire shift in shoe industry approach is created…and you end up with “silly socks”. You end up with Vibram five fingers, minimalist shoes, and a desperate hope that running with next to nothing on your feet will cure your nagging injuries, make you olympic fast, stop your child from wetting the bed, fix your failing marriage, and achieve world peace. Right? I mean, that was the story wasn’t it? Eh, seemed like it anyways.

And that story was great for awhile, convincing everyone there was a HUGE CONSPIRACY with the shoe industry, that they were trying to ruin us by putting a pad of foam between our feet and the ground, for decades! We were duped! Now burn your shoes like the women of the 70’s burned their bras! Raise your fist and revolt! Run barefoot! Get on the treadmill and stomp out 3 miles sounding like a herd of Clydesdales! Take photos of your bare feet and tell everyone how your marriage has been saved and how your child stopped wetting the bed!

Then quietly put your thick socks in the back of the closet after visiting your podiatrist for repeated stress fractures and new run stopping injuries. That story didn’t turn out to be so convincing after all. But boy did someone make a lot of money selling those minimalist shoes. And the running shoe industry was ALL OVER IT. They subtly, quietly and then more loudly made the transition to entire lines of shoes based on minimalism. They talked about running “free”, “pure”, “natural” and a lot of other buzzwords. Suddenly, without actually saying it, they were admitting that all their old shoes were founded on bad science and years of damaging support…yet still kept them in their lineup, just in case anyone wasn’t convinced of the minimalist trend.

And then the minimalist trend started to fall apart, along with the race goals of so many injured runners. The final nail in the coffin was a lawsuit brought against Five Fingers and all those injured despite pretty convincing claims that the opposite would happen.

Then before everyone could take a deep breath and go back to what has been working pretty damn well for quite some time – a general range of support and comfort – Hoka stepped in the game and did a 180 on the minimalist trend. Now, I don’t know if the creators of Hokas thought,

“You know, people will run off a cliff like lemmings to buy shoes of the minimalist trend, so why wouldn’t they do the same going the other way? They crave newness, extremes, and the next cure to their problems…so let’s get ahead of the game.”

And out came pontoons for your feet, at just the right time, when everyone was running away from minimalist shoes and, unsurprisingly, into the waiting, cushioned, wide-open arms of Hoka, welcoming everyone in a loving, supportive embrace of absurdly marshmallowy soled shoes. Interestingly, Hoka didn’t have a story to go with their “newness”, their adaptation to the standard running shoe, but they didn’t need one. Runners seemed to want to get as far away from minimalist shoes as possible, and Hoka gave them that option. Smart enough not to make claims that would afford them a potential lawsuit as Five Fingers received, Hoka relied on a different approach…celebrity status. They threw shoes at Sage Canaday, Leo Monzano, Dave Mackey, Magda Boulet, Michael Wardian, and many others. You don’t need a story when you’ve got runners at the top of their field wearing your shoes (and maybe a little desperate for support through sponsorships – that statement is entirely assumed). Still, I look at runner endorsements more from the perspective of the runner and not the product.

And here’s the thing…it worked. Ultra runners considered the feel of running 50 to 100 miles on a waterbed instead of the dirt underneath their feet, and when Leo Manzano – a 1500 TRACK RUNNER! – got on board, that really threw everyone for a loop. If hugely cushioned shoes work for Leo, then how could they not be good for everyone else?

Now, I’m not saying they DON’T work. Personally, I don’t like them. I tried them (and reviewed them on this blog) to help alleviate my chemo side effects, and they did help with that, but otherwise I didn’t feel they were any better than the standard shoes I’ve been wearing for the past 8 years. Whether they “work” or not, is irrelevant. What they do is SELL. And nothing proves that they sell more than the other shoe companies all jumping on the swinging pendulum of consumerism and adding a whole new offering of excessively padded shoes to their lineup. Every shoe company is abandoning their statements of their shoes helping you run “naturally” and now promising that you’ll run “comfortably, further”, etc.

So yeah…what is it? Minimal or maximal? If you ask me…it’s bullshit. It’s marketing. It’s just…stupid.

We all know the game, but it’s still worth pointing out. For instance, did you know the former CEO, Tony Post, of Vibram Five Fingers created the market for minimalist shoes on the premise that they would let you run naturally, how you’re supposed to, but after everything started going south, he made a NEW line of shoes, TOPO Athletic, on the premise that they would create “innate amplification”, which is to say, HELP you run naturally and get the most out of your workout. People…it’s bullshit. It’s various degrees of foam or a barrier between your foot and the ground. It’s not going to make you better, it’s not going to stop your kid from wetting the bed. It’s just going to cover your foot. But they’ll tell you anything to convince you to buy new shoes, different shoes, anything to keep the dollars flowing from your wallet into their bank accounts.

So let’s step back and take a deep breath, look at the wider image and retain some grounding here, pun intended. Although I appreciate the extremes in life, find value in trying alternatives, enjoy pushing for “betterness”, and like experimenting, sometimes it’s ok to just sit back and say, “This works. This is good enough.” These trends towards minimalist shoes and maximalist shoes will run their course. Hokas and Vibrams will both stick around, because for various reasons, people will stay with them, and that’s fine…but my guess is that the majority of us will all fall somewhere within the grey areas between them and be content with doing so. I can look at the spectrum of marketing with running shoes and say, “Yeah, I’ll just keep my middle ground trainers, simplified racing flats, and 4mm drop trail shoes”. They’ve all worked just fine for me for years and there is no reason to think we haven’t figured out the basics of running shoes over the decades. Anything new and updated to come is going to rely primarily on nothing but figuring out new ways to bring consumers to their brand, to convince consumers of their marketing strategy, to find new ways to sell bullshit.

I know this won’t change, but I also know that if everyone stops and things about it for a second, we’ll all admit that these drastic changes are just ways to get us to buy, to consume something new again and again, to keep demanding new product, new material, new resources. I only wish so many runners would stop buying into the hype and stop helping them promote and continue these fabricated stories and absurd premises. I just want us to all admit,

“They’re just shoes. They’re just a damn pair of shoes.”

For the record, in my runner consumer utopia, if anyone starts a company that makes a few models of shoes that fall within that basic grey area and says, “We made a shoe. It works. We’re not changing it.” I’ll sign on as a brand ambassador and drag all the running masses to your side.

Now let’s get back to focusing on what matters with running…running. Let’s run. Let’s train. Let’s enjoy the experience and stop pretending that our gear is what makes us better, makes us happier, makes our kids stop wetting the bed.

And manufacturers…stop messing with the shoes! That goes for toothbrushes too!

The Future of Everything

Without considering too deeply what it meant, I typed out the phrase, “Upcoming race season” in a social media post, and I couldn’t help feel an electric twinge of excitement course through my body. The three words all state one significant definition, but each one means something important in their own respect. There is the recognition of a future, an effort that signifies considerable physical improvement, and a block of time relatively unhindered by the obstacles of cancer (surgery, chemotherapy, side effects, the unknowns) that have risen in my path quite recently. I wasn’t even sure I was ever going to acknowledge an upcoming race season anymore, despite the hope I tried to maintain and the physical progression I tried to create towards such a thing. Still, everything is always so tenuous and fragile, so unwritten, so elusive of definitive statements. But now, I can firmly say that there will be an “upcoming race season”. If there wasn’t, I wouldn’t be training for one. But I am.

The specific, relatively short term, goal race is the Mini-Marathon on May 2nd, where I hope to set some personal “fastest cancer patient” PR, but in the interim there is also the Polar Bear 5-miler, the beginning of the DINO series trail runs, and maybe another effort here or there. Compile all those together and we definitively have a race season that drives me forward through all my training and keeps me excited, anticipating the changes I will continue to feel in my body and the experiences I’ll be able to immerse myself in yet again, which remained so elusive for the past 2 years. Admittedly, it’s not the same anymore, and I’m resolved in the reality that it will never be what it once was…but I’m close enough. And that’s exciting.

I’ve always been excited about the future. Even during the darkest days of cancer treatment (admitting there are still more to come) I could retain a sense of anticipation for the future, if not because I recognized that “nothing is forever” and whatever physical and emotional burdens were dragging me down would eventually diminish, then at least because I’ve always looked to become a better person and unavoidable obstacles are just opportunities to overcome. I knew that the experiences I had to endure would only serve as new perspectives, moments of difficulty, but also exciting newness, that most never get the chance to understand. I knew that the obstacle of cancer, no matter what the ultimate outcome may be, would offer an exciting, unknown, deeply felt future. I don’t mean to sound morbid about it, as if I sought out the darkness, but to simply recognize the value I pulled from the adversity, which I knew would make me a better person, by my standards.

The future has always been exciting because it offers us an opportunity to evolve, to transcend our past, to leave behind our mistakes, and to simply become better. I’ve always wanted to look back two years and say, “I’m not that person anymore. I’m better.” Or even, “Oh my goodness, that was me? How embarrassing.” And I’ve never been able to understand or relate to “adults” that didn’t navigate life with this perspective, that didn’t seek to better themselves through self-education, new experiences, continued consideration of our ever changing social context, or the myriad ways to become an emotionally and experientially deeper individual. What is individual existence if not to absorb the complexity around us and to strive for a sense of progression at every opportunity? It’s boring, at best, if you ask me. It’s tragic and suicidal, at worst. It’s also an existence blind to the future. It’s an existence that sees the moment and says, “Eh, this is enough.”

But it’s not enough for me. It never is. My process of running is an acknowledgement of the future and the chance to better oneself, both emotionally and physically. Training allows me to look two weeks ahead, then a month ahead, then three months ahead and be filled with excitement and anticipation, to say, “Who will I be then? What will I have experienced? How fast and far will will I be able to go? How much better can I get?” And at some point, when I’ve finally resolved to hitting the ceiling of my abilities, I’ll then be able to say, “What experiences can I create with my running? Where can I go? What else can I do with my body? What new levels of physical strength can I create?” In short, I’ll always have a future to anticipate.

The value of that future is more exciting than it ever has been. Trust me, that is not lost on me. I had no idea what future lay ahead in the midst of treatments, scheduled surgery and the unknowns that lay after I woke in the ICU. I also know there is the strong likelihood that I will have another surgery in the coming year, but having surgery itself is an acknowledgement of a future.

I typed out “Upcoming race season” and felt an intense, nervous excitement. I complete tempo runs and intervals and hill repeats and long runs. I schedule races and trips months ahead. I think about where I’ll be in a year. I plant a garden for the summer. I take self-defense classes. I consider what new stories my son will have to tell me. Because every so often my mind replays that conversation with my oncologist, where he said, “Your cancer index was too high. Most surgeons wouldn’t have operated on you.”

According to protocol, I was a goner. I wasn’t worth saving. I should be dead right now.

I repeat that to myself often. “I should be dead right now.”

I may not always act like that phrase informs my daily life, but it’s there all the time. When I say, “I should be dead right now”, I instantly start thinking of everything that has occurred since April 2013, from the friends I’ve made, to the projects I’ve started, to the people who have come into my life and made me a better person, to every single thing I would have not had the opportunity to experience. I think about how all that was my future, my potential, beginning April 2013, and I might have missed it. And then how everything from here on out is my future, my potential, until chance or cancer recycles me back into this physical existence.

But none of that is special. We all have that future and I had that future before cancer, which is why I always remained excited about living, about the potential adversity and successes to come, about everything available to everyone. I was excited about becoming a better person before cancer and I was excited about becoming a better person after cancer, because it’s that future of everything that lies before us. It’s the stagnant, uninspired individual that squanders the moments, that fails to see opportunities to enjoy themselves, that repeats their life over and over again, that says, “Eh, this is good enough.” It is that individual that has no future aside from just existing until they exist no more. They have made their deathbed and already laid down.

But as the future is unwritten, we then have the opportunity to write it. We have the opportunity to make training plans to become physically better. We have the opportunity to schedule trips and become experienced. We have the opportunity to plan events and gather friends, to be kind to all creatures (even the humans), to throw off the weights and excesses of our civilized life, to educate ourselves, to eschew dead moralities and create new ones, to build and destroy, and to always look ahead with anticipation and excitement.

I should be dead by now. YOU should be dead by now. Surely, you have escaped death in your past, possibly without even knowing it. Which means, you are reading this, and a continuous river of consciousness stretches out before you, a future of everything exists for you to create. Are you going to settle for passivity, frustration, submission, disappointment, stagnation…or are you going to create a life that acknowledges the future you can envision, against the naysaying of dominant culture, against the police in your head (and the ones in the street), and towards a life that throws off “ration” and “reason” for the sake of passion and fulfillment, no matter the struggles, no matter the adversity, no matter the learning curve that awaits?

I have an upcoming race season. I have a garden in process. I have a child’s accomplishments. I have a deepening relationship. I have a plan for surgery. I have physical progression. I have experiences waiting to be created. I have struggles and obstacles and adversity that lies ahead…and it all excites me. I have a future of everything, because although I should be dead right now…I’m not.

See you at the start line.

To Run (truly) Free

I have a vision for the existence I would like to live within, a utopia of sorts. I won’t bother with the details as that is a conversation for another time, but suffice to say, it looks very little like the social structure which surrounds us and dictates our behaviors and relationships today. To be honest, I don’t even know if the vision I have for this imagined social structure is even sustainable, but because I can envision it, I think it’s worth pursuing despite the obstacles, whether those are systematic difficulties between human relationships or the efforts of the current social order to prevent this new vision from taking it’s place. This vision draws upon proven relationships and social mechanisms of traditional societies which have comprised human existence for the majority of our known history along with adaptations from modern living. It is a reimagined existence founded, above all else, upon the dictates of our inherent, instinctual human behaviors of which are directed by the most basic needs for survival. This vague outline sounds a little fantastic, I know, but you’ll just have to trust me that there is considerable more thought and rational thinking behind it.

Imagining a new social structure(s) and creating one, however, is an even more fantastic endeavor. We can hypothesize about new ways of living that will be better than our current predicament, but that doesn’t mean their implementation can instantly be established. Ridding the world of old institutions and social behaviors can be quite upsetting, wreaking havoc on our precariously established safety and order, and fighting against systems that seek to preserve themselves. Some would argue chaos and destruction are imperatives for creating new relationships based on egalitarianism and sustainability…and I won’t say I’m not among them, but I also think that consideration is irrelevant to the discussion of the potential for a massive societal shift. If the current social order is going to rapidly disintegrate for one reason or another, it will come unseen by most and will be mostly unavoidable, whether it is an economic collapse or environmental backlash.

Let’s imagine, for the time being anyways, that a massive social change can take place without a complete collapse and unavoidable die-off by a significant number of human animals, non-human animals and flora. Absurd, I know…right? Still, a significant shift away from the current social order and towards a new way of existing among each other is going to involve a number of “transitions”, towards a more fundamental transition. What new ways of relating to each other will create are transitional societies, which are smaller measures of new social relationships that gently undermine the foundational structures of the current social order. This is an important distinction to understand.

Our society undergoes many social transitions over time, some temporary and some long-lasting. These are relations that become codified by law (read: threat of punishment) and compel us to act in specific ways, with little adherence to an agreed upon morality. The liberation of african americans from slavery is an act of social transition. Marriage rights granted to homosexuals is a more modern transition. The legalization of marijuana is another current social transition. But these social transitions aren’t inherently “liberal” or “progressive” (whatever those mean) as evidenced by the illegalization of marijuana in the past and the current push towards denying immigrant privileges. What is more important to recognize is that these social transitions are isolated, precarious, and do very little to undermine foundational structures of the current social order.

Foundational structures are the social dictates that inform all others, such as our economic paradigm (Capitalism), decision making paradigm (Representative Democracy), and behavioral modification paradigm (Hierarchical Authoritarianism). These are the ways in which all other social relations are confined, manipulated, and adhered to. It is these foundational structures (among select others) that dictate the ways we establish the previously mentioned social transitions. All “rights”, “freedoms”, and dictates will only be acknowledged and supported if they follow and fall within the parameters of these foundations. Slavery was abolished because it was shown that it could maintain and strengthen the capitalist structure. The current battle over immigration rights is following the same consideration. Actually MOST EVERY transitional issue is defined primarily by economic dictates. Issues that erode capitalist expansion (the environment over oil drilling or pipeline building) are vigorously fought and it’s usually only through establishing profits through environmental protection (tax breaks for carbon emission reduction, etc.) that certain battles for the natural world are won. And of course, the only legitimate and recognized manner of appealing to the capitalist paradigm is first recognizing that everyone lower on the pyramid must appeal to those higher on the pyramid (authoritarianism) and must do so in safe (for them), ordered (for them), and sustainable (for them) ways via Representational Democracy. Adhering to these structures is non-negotiable. You either do so or you are dismissed, imprisoned, or worse…depending upon how low you are on the pyramid (nationally and globally).

There are, however, other ways to relate to each other that don’t fall within the paradigms of Capitalism, Authoritarianism (read: not communism, fascism, natural capitalism, etc. either) and Representative Democracy. These manners of existing have been proven among traditional societies for the majority of our human existence and the possibilities for new forms of relations dictated by our current exploded population, habitation proximity, overlapping neo-tribes, etc. are essentially limitless. To carve a path to these new ways of existing is going to take an equally limitless number of transitions though, and these transitions will not be confined by the foundational structures of our current social order, lest they become assimilated, rendered mute, confined, or outright destroyed. Social rights are important for creating personal breathing space in a system of suffocation, but if they remain just social rights within a social system, the potential for suffocation will always remain.

What we need are transitions that can’t be co-opted. We need transitions that break us from the dominant social order, that work outside the decision making paradigm of Representational Democracy, outside the economic dictates of Capitalism, and outside the behavior compulsions of Authoritarianism. Marriage rights for homosexuals is important breathing space for the individuals, but it is also a path carved only through Representative Democracy, appealing to Authoritarianism, and straight into the economic river of Capitalist expansion via “the gay marriage market”. The same goes for veganism, creating important breathing space for the animals confined by the dictates of speceisim, but digging the claws of capitalism into our lives via the new market for faux meats, alternative everything, and all things capital V. Every social issue we address today carries the same critique and we should never exempt one from this larger consideration.

The question then is…are there ways to engage in these social issues or create other transitions that bring us toward those new ways of relating to each other (the countless numbers there are), that work outside these paradigms, that are not co-opted, that are true alternatives to the dominant social order? I think so.

But I know what you’re probably thinking…WHAT IN THE HELL DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH RUNNING?

First off…this is my blog…deal with it. Kidding! To be honest though, I am a self-identified runner, but I’m also a lot more than that too..so I’d like to believe…and all these thoughts are a part of me, my identity and legitimately overlap and inform my running too. So…

I’ve established a daily routine, that has broken from the tightrope I used to walk where I struggled to fit in run training, full-time employment, and social relations, and now consists of running easily, working via self-employment as a designer, coach, and writer, and navigating an incredibly flexible schedule. To address the obvious, I’m quite privileged and, in part, enabled to live this life through the sacrifices of others. I NEVER forget this or take it for granted, but no matter how this has come about, it is my existence and I’m so fortunate to have carved this out for myself at this point. And it’s the enjoyment of this relatively low-stress schedule that brought me to the considerations (again) for this post.

I was running through the city during this morning’s 8 miler and I had the casual pace and headspace to take in the views, relax, and both appreciate and enjoy the moments. I was, however, doing this by myself while the majority of society scrambled through traffic, clocked in, and sat down for a long day’s work, not because this was their utmost desire, but because they have little other options to make ends meet. I know this, because for quite some time this was my life, and down the line may become it again. For now, however, I’m running casually and relaxing into my work day…and this is what I desire for the rest of society as well, in one way or another. Not EXACTLY my existence, but just the idea of a relaxed life, free to pursue our desires, to become self-sufficient within our communities, and to create life on our terms instead of the dictates of those previously mentioned foundational structures of dominant culture. I want to pull all the bricks from the top of the pyramid and lay them out next to each other, not on top of each other.

During that run I began thinking about the “What If’s”. WHAT IF instead of everyone getting up and rushing to work in the morning, we all decided that the first 2 hours of the day would be spent on physical activity? WHAT IF we made that mandatory and placed importance upon that over everything else. WHAT IF we said, “economic progression isn’t that important”? WHAT IF we decided that we got the weekends to ourselves and carved out another day in the week for ourselves as well, whether Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, ANY DAY!? WHAT IF we stopped believing that lining the pockets of corporations and bosses and all businesses just wasn’t that important, just wasn’t all that conducive to finding happiness for ourselves? WHAT IF we decided that we could find other ways to live that provided for our basic needs of food, shelter, and warmth…and let those dictate our behaviors, our relationships and our daily schedules…instead of succumbing to the idea that there is NO WAY OUT or NO BETTER WAY TO LIVE than what we’ve got right now?

WHAT IF?

Personally, I consider the “what if’s” often, but also try to incorporate them into my life at every opportunity, and I can tell you my life is significantly better for the attempts. Running, in a way, is one of these What If incorporations, as I’ve made it something of a default to my daily routine. But there is more to this, beyond just enjoying this part of my day, because looked at through this perspective of “transitioning to utopia”, running can be seen as anti-capitalist. I admit, this is somewhat romanticized, but I’ve chosen to view running in this way because I’ve accepted that it takes me out of the 40 hour work week routine. It has, in effect, “stolen” time away from capitalism. I have currently found a way to carve time out of my day away from the capitalist demand of 40+ hours of work a week to…basically do whatever I want. It’s not necessarily the running itself that is anti-capitalist, but rather the free time I’ve demanded of my schedule. Again, I know this is romanticized, as I can make up the 2 hours in the morning with 2 hours in the evening, and although I’ve carved time away from the standard work week, I’m still making the amount of money necessary to make ends meet. I’m still paying the bills, paying the mortgage, paying the corporations for their services, etc. etc. I’m not an island…I know this.

But proving the possibility, living the examples in small ways, and creating the life you want to live in the blindspots of capitalism is immeasurably important, if not because it is an example of that life, but because it is a small moment of EXPERIENCING what that feels like. It lets you know just how much more rewarding it is to be self-directed, to pursue your desires without the stresses of Capitalist dictates, and to then drive you towards creating more and more open spaces of self-liberation, of relating to your friends and family in new ways, of building lives together that transition us away from the current social order.

It is this time outside of capitalism, created without necessitating Representative Democracy, and without reproducing Authority or succumbing to Authority that makes it so powerful. It is, again, not the running so much as the time enabled to run. It just so happens that running is what compelled me to seek this time, this carving away from capitalism, to experience the rewards and seek ways to extend this time and self-reliant experience to other areas of my life…sometimes on my own, but more preferentially, with others. This can take so many forms.

It is extending this liberated space to and with others that becomes the greatest effort towards establishing truly transitional societies, that aren’t momentary, that aren’t reproducing the dominant social order’s established foundations, and that aren’t just creating temporary spaces to breathe easier, but rather allow us to take the deepest breaths without fear of suffocation.

I will continue to admit my romanticization, but I can’t help but shake how amazing it would be to at least know that we, as a mass of individuals, can take time away from capitalism for our own self-interests. I can’t help but shake the WHAT IF, of a whole society of individuals collectively saying, “Ok, this is really absurd. Today, I just want to sit and read for a couple hours before I go into work. Or maybe I’ll workout. Or maybe I’ll create some art. And maybe everything will just be fine and I can still find ways to make ends meet.” It’s, in my mind, a legitimate step towards transitioning to a life where we can make this realistic, where stepping away from capitalism isn’t a risk, isn’t worrisome, but is actually liberating and exciting and fulfills our needs even MORE than capitalism pretends too.

Here’s the obvious problem though…it would take a collective agreement to make this happen. Sure, with such a mass of individuals in society, some of us can carve out opportunities at the privilege of others to create a liberated existence, in the shadows of capitalism’s panopticon, hidden in the loopholes, feeding off the excess of a system inherently structured to grow out of control…but completely transitional societies, or even JUST creating transitional ways of relating to each other and the dominant social order will not be carried out by romantics, dreamers, idealists, radicals, and anarchists…no, it’s still going to take some level of collective agreement, for a significant number of us to say, “I’m done with this shit. I’m tired. I’m stressed. And I see another way out. I see another way to exist that is significantly more rewarding.” And we all have to act on that, whether at first slowly and building momentum, or quickly, as in taking advantage of a social rupture. I don’t know, but those of us who are reaping the rewards of privilege, of riding on the excess of a First World economy, can’t create this on our own. We may be enjoying the experience, but it’s currently selfish and always tenuous. Without the support and defense and collective agreement with everyone else, we’re always at risk of losing this privilege and having the dream of new societies suffocated to death.

Is running an act of anti-capitalist resistance? I’d love to think so…but it’s really not. It’s an EXPRESSION of anti-capitalist resistance. It’s a REWARD of anti-capitalist resistance, of anti-authoritarianism, but for me, that’s what is important, that we all find ways to experience the rewards of self-reliance, of carving time away from our dominant social order that leaves us stressed, stepping on each other to climb higher on a pyramid of ever-decreasing opportunities, to live a small piece of the utopias we all have the abilities to create and share with each other.

Short of a completely chaotic, frightening social collapse, it may seem naive or childish to seek out completely transitional societies, but I disagree, and in the meantime, we can find ways to experience small transitions, whether through running, reading, baking, gardening, resource sharing (etc. etc. etc.), then share those rewarding experiences with each other, continuously work to keep those experiences from being integrated into the dominant social order, and see how far we can get to agree, collectively, that stopping this runaway train of absurdity (global warfare, environmental destruction, emotional tragedy, etc.) is in our individual and collective best interests.

For as long as I find the loopholes and the privileges to exploit the excess of the dominant social order, I will do so in order to run as free as I can, but always with the hope that I can extend these privileges and create the alternatives so that we may all do so, that we may all run free, that we may all live free. My friends and I can’t do this alone, and all it takes is an agreement that we’ll relate with each other, not against each other. I’m down if you are.

I’ve got 10 miles tomorrow…feel free to join me.