April’s backpack puts capitulation on the run


April’s attitude is cheeky, defiant and contagious. It is like an unruly hairstyle that won’t fit neatly under a hat. It’s surprisingly substantive, however, despite its love-at-first-sight optimistic brashness and its throw-caution-to-the-wind spirit. Its depth takes us off guard.

April is courage within imperfection. It is strength, stamina, practice and perseverance. So, when we sit on the rock overlooking the vista to open this month’s backpack, we shouldn’t be surprised to see a well-worn pair of running shoes inside the pack.

Clearly, these shoes have pounded a lot of pavement, sloshed through puddles, skidded in snow and burned in the heat. The rubber sole has separated slightly from the body, indicating an attempt to wash away the grime from off-road runs, but the scars are still there. Badges of honor, markers of miles.

Running is primal to the human condition. We run from things, we run to people and, so often, we run around in circles. We run through grief, we run in pain and we fall down. We run out-and-backs, we run like crazy, we run in war, we run for peace and we run with joy. We run to home base, we run outside and we run back in again. Some run because they want to and others run because they have to. Some run for safety and some run from safety. Some run to keep others from having to run for the wrong reasons.

When we run, we find genuineness. We can’t be anything but authentic when we are moving on our own, carrying our own weight. Bart Yasso states it well. Credited with saying, “I often hear someone say I’m not a real runner. We are all runners, some just run faster than others. I never met a fake runner,” Yasso reminds us that April’s philosophy is all about wicked strong runs and even wicked stronger runners.

Running teaches us to embrace our environment in a corporeal sense that few other activities can do. We learn to read the weather, the time of day and the surroundings of where our runs take place. We love, hate, leave and return to hills, mountains, streets, roads and paths. We endear ourselves to cities that produce patriots and rebels, the cities that revel in beards. We cheer for and run with people who audaciously refuse to accept that the run is over. We run with focus and we run on autopilot.

Running is far more than simply an allegory for life; it is an integral part of it.

As is only appropriate to remember with this month’s philosophy, the story of the first marathon embodies daring pluckiness. The story of the famed run tells the tale of a messenger, possibly a soldier according to legend, perhaps a trained runner, who was charged with the task to run from Marathon to Athens to announce the unbelievable news of the Athenian victory over the Persians. Upon delivering the message, so the story goes, he died of exhaustion. How could this tragic ending be the battle call for runners?

Because it speaks to what makes us human. Because inside each of us there is a warrior and a peacemaker, called upon to act, called upon to run. April reminds us every third Monday that we have the capacity to turn adversity into triumph, heartbreak into resilience. So we run. In our glorious humanness, we run. And we run strong.

Jennifer Lemma is a philosophy instructor at Walla Walla Community College. She can be reached at jennifer.baynelemma@wwcc.edu.


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