Just started following a new blog, Endurance and Sustainability written by Ed Ayers, the founding editor of Running Times and at 70 an active competitor in ultras. From the name of the blog: Endurance and Sustainability one can see that Mr. Ayers is taking a deeper look at the importance of endurance, patience, and connection to our natural world and the relevance of "endurance" to the larger problems facing society.
Some excerpts from his latest post Distance Running and ...National Defense
"What we runners and other endurance athletes (bicyclists, hikers, cross-country skiers, mountain climbers, et al.) have going for us is a knowledge of physical and mental discipline that, if shared with more of our underexercised fellow citizens of the world, can do more for our longevity, health, quality of life and, yes -- security -- than a pumped-up military budget ever could or will. "
"I don't mean that we all need to be endurance athletes to have that kind of security. But humans, by nature, need regular aerobic exercise. By nature, we need lean diets, not loaded up with sugar, salt, fat, and chemicals. And, by nature, we need to have closer connection, from our feet to our lungs, hearts, and brains, to the natural world with which we co-evolved and on which we are entirely dependent for life."
"There's a strong connection between the endurance and patience of individuals (what we learn as long-distance runners) and the long-run sustainability of our society. For instance, consider the national debt. We know that if we sprint, without pacing ourselves, we build up oxygen debt and hit the wall in 2 to 3 minutes max. If we learn the secrets of efficiency, we can run for hours. Those facts aren't the policies of a government or the rules of a sport. They are the laws of nature. After 3 million years of human evolution, we are suddenly in peril, not from terrorism, but from disconnection with what really keeps us alive. It's late in the day, but maybe there's still time to re-learn what our ancient, far-wandering hunter-gatherer ancestors long understood."
I have always believed that the connection to the natural world and our neighbors, one foot step at a time, as we run our routes and trails is key to balance in life and understanding of place and environment. Nothing more exhilarating and grounding than landing in a new place and discovering it on the run.
The general disconnect of many in our society with our motorized, air conditioned, indoor, and internet connected lives from endurance and the outdoors is leading to rampant over consumption, debt, obesity, national insecurity, impulsive behavior and greed. According to Ayer these trends are not good for our security and our health: physical, fiscal. I agree.
While I am some times forced inside to the dreadmill and the noise and clutter of the fitness club it is just not the same as being outside. Rarely do I interact with anyone despite the crowds. Neither is running the same loop over and over mechanically looking at pace, heart, and stride rate on gadgets.
We all need to vary, explore, discover, consider what we see, hear and feel on the run. And not just experienced runners.. Take a stressed out "program following" newbie runner out for a new route on a trail they might never have tried on their own. Go without the iPod earbuds. You'll hear what is around you, including the oncoming cell phone yakking SUV drivers. If more lost the ear bud bubble you could even hail and join a runner on your route and find a new training buddy and friend. Stop and talk to a neighbor even if it interrupts your workout for a few. Observe what is around you not just the time on the watch and pavement ahead.