On Tuesday I read the book Born to Run. To say that it’s a book about ultra-marathon runners, or an indigenous tribe of runners living in the desert canyons of north-west Mexico would be overly simplistic. I recommend it. The author, Chris McDougall, writes a compelling narrative, starting with the question “Why does it hurt when I run?”
As one would expect, after reading such a book, I thought to myself “Well shoot, I want to run too!” So, on Wednesday, I put on some shorts and a quick-dry t-shirt, laced up my shoes, and walked out the front door. I jogged for about 10 solid minutes. Then I bonked, and walked the rest of the way home. I didn’t consider it a failure, or beat myself up. Good on me for getting out the door.
Today I changed tactics. I decided to alternate two minutes of jogging with 30 seconds of walking. This isn’t anything revolutionary, any Couch-2-5k program outlines exactly this approach. This time I was able to go for a little over 30 minutes, the net result being that I more than doubled my total running time. After just one run, not much had changed in me physically, only my approach was different.
My big take away from reading Born to Run, was not that everyone should run ultra-marathons, or that runners should be wearing different kind of shoes. It was that the world’s best runners have remembered how to enjoy running. Little kids don’t care about split times, protein powders, or how many calories to eat how many hours before a race, with what ratio of macro-nutrients. They run because it’s fun. I have a Garmin watch with a heart-monitor, and a paid Strava account. And it can be fun to look at the little graphs and maps, and track performance over time. But that type of thing can become obsessive. It can become not fun. For now I’m just going to bring a stop-watch, to keep from getting over zealous, and track my runs on HabitBull – not how far how fast, just noting the days I put on my shoes and got out the door.
A lot of people say “I wish I could run, but I just don’t have the time,” or “I tried running, but I couldn’t stick with it,” or “it’s just not for me, I got hurt trying.”
A lot of people say “I wish I could read Latin regularly, but I just don’t have the time,” or “I tried reading Latin regularly, but I couldn’t stick with it,” or “it’s just not for me, I got really frustrated.”
In our discussions on Latin and proficiency, we frequently point to the best speakers and say “Those people speak Latin very well, and they read a lot. If we want to speak Latin well, we need to read a lot too.” But those people aren’t reading Latin as a means to an end. They’ve remembered what the best ultra-marathon runners have remembered: that we do this because it’s fun, it’s not work, if we do it right, we won’t get hurt, and when we finish doing it, we want to do it more. Most Latinists, I think, were the sorts of kids who would come to school tired, because we stayed up late because we had to read just one more chapter, because it wasn’t work, it was fun. If we want reading Latin to be a sustainable, life-long practice, we have to learn to read like we did when we were kids.
If you’re trying to get your reading habit started, don’t worry so much about “Am I doing this right?” “Am I reading the right thing?” “Am I reading long enough?” Just read. And then read the next day. And the day after that. Two days of running won’t turn me into an ultra-marathoner, but as I’ll discuss in my next post, it’s not the goal that gets you the results, it’s the little things you do over time.