Off the Beaten Path

Run­ning for Your Life

Canadian Running - - CONTENTS - By An­thony Carnovale

Ifirst came across Tom Twyker’s Run Lola Run while study­ing in Aus­tralia in 1999. My two best mates, Scotty and Toby, and I were the only peo­ple in the the­atre. It was a trans­for­ma­tive ex­pe­ri­ence, one that changed the way I viewed films and, by ex­ten­sion, life as a whole. In the film, Lola’s boyfriend, Manni, a lowlevel courier for a crime boss, ac­ci­den­tally loses his cash de­liv­ery of 100,000 marks and needs to make up for it in 20 min­utes or he’s a dead man. Manni calls Lola and pleads with her to help. With no other means of trans­porta­tion (her moped has just been stolen) Lola has only one choice: Lola runs.

And runs. And runs. Lola is fe­ro­cious, vo­ra­cious and owns the streets, man. She gets hit by a car and runs through a pack of nuns. And runs. The en­su­ing chaos is ref lected in the struc­ture of the film. It’s a non-lin­ear film con­structed out of con­tra­dic­tions, frag­men­ta­tion and in­con­s­tency. When Lola reaches her des­ti­na­tion, the se­quence starts all over again (this hap­pens three times) with the tini­est in­ci­dent dra­mat­i­cally al­ter­ing the fu­ture of those with whom she comes in con­tact. Like Lola’s run­ning form, there is noth­ing con­ven­tional about this film. As much as the film is about choices, love, conf lict and chaos, the film, to me, is also about run­ning.

For many, run­ning is some­thing we do be­cause we can. We run be­cause we en­joy it. Some­times, it may even feel as if we can’t live with­out it. We make a choice to get out there and hit the streets (or track, trail or tread­mill). How­ever, there are peo­ple who run with­out it be­ing a choice, where run­ning is a ne­ces­sity, a mat­ter of life and death. While some of us run to cross a fin­ish line, oth­ers run be­cause there is, in fact, a hu­man life on the line.

A trench run­ner was a mil­i­tary dis­patcher, a foot soldier whose main task was to de­liver mes­sages. Dur­ing the First World War, a trench run­ner was ex­pected to be deft at

map read­ing and re­con­nais­sance, and also swift-footed and coura­geous. On bat­tle­fields rag­ing with au­to­matic weapon fire, run­ners faced one of the more per­ilous wartime tasks: to for­sake the safety of a trench and de­liver a mes­sage. The fate of an en­tire unit was, lit­er­ally, in their hands and their feet. In Every­man at War, edited by C.B. Pur­dom, Cor­po­ral Robert Wil­liam Iley of the 21st (Ser­vice) Bat­tal­ion Royal Rif le Corps writes about one par­tic­u­lar in­ci­dent be­fore be­ing dis­patched to de­liver a mes­sage: “Our com­mand­ing of­fi­cer gave each of us a re­volver and in­struc­tions that if nec­es­sary we had to shoot five Ger­mans and then our­selves. He gave us each a drink of whisky, and as we left our chaps shook hands with us and looked as if they thought us doomed.” Ma­jor ad­vance­ments in wire­less com­mu­ni­ca­tion would even­tu­ally di­min­ish the need for trench run­ners.

Most peo­ple in the run­ning world are fa­mil­iar with the story of the Tarahu­mara In­di­ans – from out­run­ning their Span­ish in­vaders to their in­sane abil­ity to run su­per­hu­man dis­tances in san­dals. The story that is not so well known, as told by Ryan Gold­berg in the July 2017 is­sue of the Texas Monthly, is that while com­pa­nies and cor­po­ra­tions ap­pro­pri­ated their story, the Tarahu­mara peo­ple con­tin­ued to live in ab­ject poverty. Peo­ple like Sil­vino Quimare, who ap­peared on the cover of var­i­ous run­ning mag­a­zines, was des­per­ate. As is too of­ten the case in Mex­ico these days, the drug car­tels, like the cor­po­ra­tions be­fore them, swooped in and lit­er­ally trans­formed some of the Tarahu­mara into drug run­ners. Quimare now runs from bor­der pa­trol agents and ri­val car­tel mem­bers. His speed, knowl­edge of the ter­rain and lev­els of en­durance make him, like the prod­uct he runs, a valu­able com­mod­ity. Run­ning drugs helps put food on his fam­ily’s table. He is no longer run­ning as part of a rich, his­tor­i­cal tra­di­tion – to­day Quimare is run­ning for his free­dom, his fam­ily and his life.

In the end, we’re all run­ning to­wards the same fin­ish line. Un­for­tu­nately, some peo­ple are forced to run quicker than most. OP­PO­SITE An Indige­nous Tarahu­mara man, from the fa­bled run­ning tribe de­scribed in the book Born­toRun

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