The 25,000 Mile Love Story - Page 2
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” —Mark Twain
Is it any surprise that running feels so natural? More than a million people run marathons every year. They lace up their shoes, pin on their numbers, and trek out on onto the pavement to boil out the 26.2 miles because something in their mind, body, and soul just feels right when it’s striding and free. Even when it’s bleeding, cut, twinging in pain, or cramping, the body is free and it is trying. And inevitably—if you keep going—you will always catch your stride.
There are many animals that are excellent runners. They’re shaped individually for swiftness. But humans are built for endurance. Harvard anthropology professor Daniel Lieberman said, “Humans are terrible athletes in terms of power and speed, but we’re phenomenal at slow and steady. We’re the tortoises of the animal kingdom.”
I don’t mind being the tortoise, though—to take the whole experience in with persistence and might. To see something all the way through rather than to give out in a bright, mad burst. In a way, we humans are suited for the big picture rather than the little one. The rule is simple and unchanging: Always keep going.
By the time we hit Switzerland, I could feel it in every part of my legs. They knew the trek was coming to an end. One stride after another sprang forward, and I was aware of the pavement bouncing off my toes, if perhaps only with slightly less enthusiasm than they had nearly five years ago. Each of my legs had by now plunged me forward over 33 million strides on this journey. But I was still moving forward, the springy tendons in my legs functioning like large rubber bands, stockpiling energy and then releasing it so I could bite off portions of the road. I should have been tired of running by then; I should have hated it even. But 18 miles under the belt that last day and there was no heaving, no great exasperation. My arms moved backward and forward, compensating for each other with each swing.
No, I would not say I was tired. The only thing I felt that day was able.