Sunday, February 5, 2012

Running and Blogging: What's Keith Richards Got To Do With It?

This running blog was inspired by Keith Richards. No, not some guy named Keith Richards at some local running club or 5k race, like you might expect. THE Keith Richards, guitar player for and founding member of the Rolling Stones, who besides being one of the world's greatest guitarists and songwriters, is also now an award winning author. I just read his memoir Life, which as you can probably guess from the apt title, chronicles his life, as well as the life of the Stones. What does that have to do with running you might wonder? Well, directly nothing, but indirectly quite a bit actually.

As I made my way through the book, across the decades of Richard's life and through the type of escapades you would expect from one of the early "bad boys" of rock and roll, one thing was absolutely stunningly clear: Richard's life is possessed by his love for and obsession with music. At one point he says that no matter what he is doing, the music is always there working away in the back of his mind, creating that next riff  or fussing over how to get a new sound. Where music is concerned, he exudes passion and intensity. Whatever is happening around him passes through the music lens -- everything in his life is part of his music, and music is part of everything in his life. It is not just what he does; it is who he is.

Before I picked up the book  I had always thought him to be a rather interesting "character," but I could not imagine that there would be a single thing in his life to which  I could personally relate. Although I know nothing about guitars and even less about writing music, I understood and empathized with what he was saying about his relationship to music perfectly because that is the relationship I have with running.  

Unfortunately I am not world-class or even lucky enough to make my living with my obsession. I am just a slightly above average master's runner. However that does not change even a little the way that the passion for running invades my mind and my life.

For me, running is ever-present.  Besides the obvious and physical daily questions, ("When will I run today?" "How far will I go?" "Is that a pain in my knee?" "Should I run trail or road?"), there are also the races in the back of my head, those I've run and those I hope to run. The training questions that need to be pondered. The gear that needs to be perused. There are the times, the splits, the comparisons to other performances that need to be analyzed. There are the runners, past and present, whose stories need to be read and reflected on. There are my steadily growing groups of running friends and my thoughts about how they are doing and what they have done. There are questions about when to eat and what to eat and why. Running has become my passion, and it is also a lens through which I process my world.  

Many runners may not recognize (or desire) this level of passion. I am sure many musicians do not share Keith Richard's level of obsession either. Many non-runners, and probably some runners as well, may not approve of being so "obsessed" (although I never really understood why people need to pass judgment on that). That is as it should be.

People come to various activities with different levels of interest and engagement. I do a lot of activities that I enjoy immensely but which I am not passionate about. However, I think that every person should search until they do find the activity that inspires a level of passion that transcends mere enjoyment. I think that those are the things that help make people thrive.

I did not find that running was my passion until I was in my late 30s. I remember on  a run one day when I was 40 when I just was flooded with joy at the idea of having found something so wonderful at a time in my life when I thought I pretty much knew who I was and what I was about.

Have you found your passion yet? Maybe it will be running? Maybe it will be raising orchids? It doesn't matter. What does matter is that you find it  and embrace it. It will give a level of meaning and pleasure to your life that will enrich everything else that you do. 

So why start a blog? Well, because one of the things about a passion is that it clamors to be shared. Richards was fortunate that there were literally millions of people with whom he could share his passion. I don't expect to share my passion with millions, but if I can share it with a few and perhaps ignite that passion in someone else, then I will be immensely satisfied.

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