Run­ning – the sport of kings, queens and the peo­ple

Waikato Times - - Well & Good - Eu­gene Bing­ham eu­gene.bing­[email protected] Eu­gene Bing­ham and Matt Ray­ment are hosts of a trail run­ning pod­cast Dirt Church Ra­dio. Learn more at dirtchurchra­dio.com or get in touch via email dirtchurchra­[email protected]

There’s an egal­i­tar­i­an­ism about run­ning that’s hard to find in other sports. Not every­one is go­ing to be able to ex­pe­ri­ence what it’s like to throw a buzzer-beat­ing three pointer in a cham­pi­onship bas­ket­ball game.

Few of us will be able to feel what it’s like to sweep past the che­quered flag in a Su­per­bike World Cham­pi­onship race.

Hardly any­one is go­ing to know the feel­ing of throw­ing the touch­down-win­ning pass in a Su­per­bowl.

But get­ting out the door and go­ing for a run is a sport­ing chal­lenge bil­lions of peo­ple can tackle. You don’t need any­one else to do it (though it’s fun to run with friends), you don’t need any spe­cial­ist equip­ment (a pair of shoes gen­er­ally helps, but even they’re not es­sen­tial), and you can do it any­where.

Sure, we might not all be ca­pa­ble of strid­ing as fast as Eliud Kip­choge or Paula Rad­cliffe (the fastest man and woman marathon­ers), but we all know what that smile at the fin­ish line feels like.

On my bed­room wall when I was a kid there was a Nike poster of a bunch of ath­letes float­ing along a dusty African trail, their faces ut­terly re­laxed, their arms ef­fi­ciently sway­ing at their side, their legs in syn­chronic­ity. Writ­ten on the poster was: ‘‘In my mind, I am a Kenyan’’.

And it’s a feel­ing I’ve of­ten had. Sure, some­times run­ning is a chore – the act of get­ting up the mer­est of hills can be a slog. But other times, in my mind, I feel like any num­ber of the cham­pi­ons who glide smoothly along the paths and hills of the Rift Val­ley in Kenya, home of so many Olympians.

(Al­though, I re­cently saw ev­i­dence that fan­tasy and re­al­ity are far re­moved. Run­ning to­wards the end of the Ke­pler Chal­lenge race, I felt smooth and metro­nomic – in my mind I was Kip­choge. Then a friend who was run­ning with me posted a video of us, and I re­alised my run­ning style at that stage of the race was more akin to Quasi­modo, the Hunch­back of Notre Dame.)

That egal­i­tar­i­an­ism ap­plies no mat­ter what dis­tance you’re run­ning, though, lately, there’s been a bit of a trend de­vel­op­ing which I don’t like.

It hap­pens when there are

race events that have dif­fer­ent dis­tances – a marathon, half marathon, and a 5km, for ex­am­ple. Or like at the Tarawera race next month which fea­tures a 100 miler, a 100km, a 50km, and a 20km.

You’ll hear peo­ple say­ing, ‘‘Oh, I’m only do­ing the half marathon.’’ Or, ‘‘I’m just do­ing the 50km.’’ There is noth­ing ‘‘only’’ or ‘‘just’’ about do­ing a half marathon or a 50km (or a 5km or a 20km).

They are all huge achieve­ments, and peo­ple should be proud of them, not di­min­ish­ing them – and nor should those do­ing the longer dis­tances be smug, ei­ther.

On the Dirt Church Ra­dio pod­cast this week, we talk to Court­ney Dauwal­ter, who is a global trail-run­ning su­per­star, an Amer­i­can who runs races far in ex­cess of 100 miles, even.

If any­one is qual­i­fied to look down their noses at shorter dis­tance races, it’s her.

But when co-host Matt Ray­ment and I talked to her about this trend, she was quick to re­spond.

‘‘Oh, man. When peo­ple do say they’re only go­ing 60k or 30k or what­ever it is, I’m like, ‘no, that’s so awe­some’,’’ Dauwal­ter tells us.

‘‘I’m just ex­cited for peo­ple to get out and ex­pe­ri­ence the trails at all. So many peo­ple don’t know the net­works in their own area, there are great trails all around the world, so I just get ex­cited when peo­ple are out en­joy­ing that and the free­dom that you can feel out on those trails.’’

So, there you go: that sen­sa­tion of free­dom and en­joy­ment that some­one as tal­ented as Court­ney Dauwal­ter feels on the trails? You can ex­pe­ri­ence it, too.

Get­ting out the door and go­ing for a run is a sport­ing chal­lenge bil­lions of peo­ple can tackle.

MELISSA RUSE

Global trail-run­ning su­per­star Court­ney Dauwal­ter as she crosses the line first in the Western States En­durance Run, a 100-mile race.

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