Best foot forward

By: Elite Soccer

The loneliness of the long distance runner has been well documented, but the psychology behind the loneliness of the long distance runner, less so. Until now, that is…

What’s provoked a series of essays exploring the philosophical wisdom runners contemplate when out for a run is unclear, but the end result is an engaging book that looks at the psychological desire to break into a jog, the intention to achieve, and the wisdom imparted by a distance athlete on his sport of choice.

The book assesses an intriguing range of thought processes, from the expected, ‘how long must this go on for?’, ‘how do I feel?’, through to the strangely bizarre, ‘could a zombie run a marathon?’.

It creates an original selection of talking points in sports science and psychology, uniquely assessing athletes’ thoughts and emotions at times of high involvement sport, and prompts talking points as to how shaping thoughts and processes can affect performance.

True, you may need to delve deep into these essays, working a route past zombies, skeletons, motor vehicles and other James Joyce-esque mental forays, but the root of this book offers access to the efficiency of thought during exercise, and whether realigning that brain process can positively or negatively impact on performance.

Some of the chapters use sport as a loose theme and concentrate rather too much on philosophy. Others look at inspiration, motivation, sporting peer pressure and definitions of success, where the pursuit of running is merely just the vehicle to open a wider debate into what it is that drives us to exercise or participate in sporting activity.

Whether you view this as a book for philosophers interested in running, or a book for runners interested in philosophy possibly depends on your passion for both, but as an original glance into the sorts of philosophical ideologies that cross our minds whilst exercising (yet are quickly forgotten as soon as we finish) this book may yet prompt an interesting turn in what we can really find from the cerebral reality of sport.

Excerpt from foreword

“I expected the book to be intimidating and off-putting, like my college philosophy semesters. Instead, and dare I say this, it mirrored the thoughts and debates that have filtered through my own mind during more than 100,000 miles of running. Here, in one chapter, is a runner who needs a workout to let off steam after a fight with his spouse. Been there, done that (too often). Here’s another who wonders if running is a sort of religion, and another trying to unravel the nature of happiness.

“Others ask: Is pain unstructured? How should we serve our community? Is running an art like other aesthetic pursuits?

“Ohmigosh, I’ve wrestled with all these questions myself while running, sometimes in the company of training partners, more often by myself. Does that make me a philosopher? I’d certainly like to call myself one. But I don’t think it matters.”

Running & Philosophy: A Marathon For The Mind, Michael Austin.