Dear Descartes

Brutal Long Valley 2015 10k races @Brutalrun #Sussexsportphotography #racephoto 10:50:54

Reflections on water – not the artistic kind where the surface of the water acts as a mirror – living and changing the image as the wind ripples the surface.  Not those kind of reflections.  More, the philosophical reflections on water, and more particularly, reflections on a shared experience of water.  Why is it that the muddy, watery, cross-country running event was so much fun?

Ok, I love running.  The deer in the park run, so do the rabbits and so do the dogs – those out of sheer joy of having a body and running and running just because they can – unleashed, let off, pelting along, exhilarated!  Maybe for some of those reasons I love running: outdoors, in the fresh air, chilly or warm, come rain or come shine.  Running because I can – not for faster times or longer distances; just for the sake of running.  Unleashed, stepping out of the normal, just running. Trainers, leggings, t-shirt: so simple.  And often I run by myself and love the head-space where thoughts and concerns are replaced with the present moment, and breathing, and listening to the birds and the sounds of the outdoors.

Running in an event is a nice semi-communal activity – many people participating, each with their own goals, but everyone joined in this united enterprise.  

But the water added a whole new dimension.  I knew there would be a bit of water – I had seen the photos of last year’s event.  And in the first half of the course the extent of the water was what I had imagined – large puddles or bog, squelched through at the periphery if possible. But it was in the second half of the course that the true extent of the water became apparent.  We had to wade through lakes!  The first was knee high.  All the runners around me and I gasped and chuckled as we came over the brow of the hill to see what we had to get through!  We couldn’t help but laugh!  It was ridiculous!  And brilliant!  Who gets to do this kind of thing?

As adults we often have to be so conventional – I suppose our jobs require that of us.  But just a little, sometimes, we can be children again, carefree, just enjoying doing this.  And our bodies, which are so often constrained by etiquette and appropriateness and social codes, our bodies here could do what they do best – unself-consciously get us from where we are to where we want to be.  Our bodies have their own intelligence, a way of knowing, and belonging to the earth and the elements.  Our bodies are strong, so strong; and they are marvellous.  Dear Descartes, I know you were most certain of your thinking mind.  But I am most certain of being a united mind and body.  What is a little water to our bodies?  What is a little uphill and down dale to them?  What is the stinging cold air of a November morning?  Our bodies, they are strong and marvellous, tough and so powerful!

And while we might have been running in the event up to this point – slower up the hills, faster down – at this point there was no running.  There was only wading!  Wading through the chilly waters.  And as you stepped  into the water you couldn’t help but laugh and laugh.  The comedy of this outrageous exploit was exhilarating – not least because we shared it; such mirth and glee as one face shone at the glimpse of the next.  Body warm on the inside from the exertion and tingling cold on the outside from the muddy water.  And giggling as you tried to find your footing; legs pistoning up and down to keep the momentum.  And then it went deeper, and deeper – up to your hips – freezing, breathtaking; so alive. 











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