30 Oct 2013

I see a lot of self-hate. The body is weak and must be punished. Smash yourself, train until you throw up, push through pain, never give in to demands from your enemy.

I'm sure this mindset works, albeit with some risks, but it just doesn't seem like fun. Why would you want to live with an enemy?

Maybe the best way is the opposite extreme: to not even acknowledge a split between mind and body, to look down and just see you. But that's not so easy, when some of it is susceptible to reason, and to direct command, and some isn't.

There's a middle ground, the body not as an enemy, not as you, but as a vehicle. The wiring's not great. Some of the dials don't work, or don't work reliably. There are known failure modes; thirst masquerades as hunger, performance degrades fast without sleep, knees can't handle repeated shocks, 'low fuel' alarm can stick on under some circumstances. It's possible to figure these out and work around them, and limitations are nothing to get angry, or frustrated, about - it's just hardware, not some adversary living in your skin.

From there it doesn't take much imagination to visualise a heads-up display of energy left, fuel alarms, limb status. It's neutral, devoid of demands or emotional content, just FYI.

For me this is just a stylised version of what I was advised by another runner, a stuntwoman I met at the Surrey Badger half marathon: "Listen to your body". And she knows what she's talking about; she runs half-marathons like they're nothing, and gets hit by cars for a living.

So that's what I'm doing. I'm piloting a giant robot. And I've only got one, so I intend to look after it.