A feet-up mini manifesto deploring the modern (and very public) obsession with the sport of running. I'll walk, thank you...
GENEVA — Saint Nadine, Saint Sonia, Saint Ignace, Saint Alexander, you who have winged feet, pray for me, poor sinner who hates running. I know, it's wrong. And I'm ashamed.
Ashamed of not liking this sport that is touted by Nobel Prize winners, dynamic politicians, cool scientists and renowned writers who have raised running to the rank of living art.
Ashamed of preferring to sleep on Sunday mornings instead of slipping into a pair of Asics (which comes from the Latin phrase anima sana in corpore sano) and combing the countryside or hitting the asphalt to engage in a glorious struggle against myself.
Ashamed of only doing my stretches on the Pilates mat while you, at the end of an endorphin-fueled race, reached past the pain and experienced an ecstasy that turns human bodies into celestial frames. Too bad for me: I'll never find running's G spot.
Five years ago, I never would have needed such a public confession. Back then, running was a pastime like any other. Today, it has become a model of virtue, hedonistic asceticism, one of the most commonly shared human activities. In fact, 35% of Europeans aged 15 to 65 indulge in the so-called pleasures of running.
On Facebook, there are countless running groups, and marathon runners post their impressions in search of encouraging "likes." Some runners even take before and after selfies and share everything from their training rituals to buying new shoes. We know your dream destinations, runners: Tokyo, Berlin, Paris and, most of all, New York, your Mecca, for which you prepare several years in advance. The blisters on your feet become a conversation topic, just like your weakening knees. Each one of your pains is a necessary station of the cross for your passion. You're even irreproachable aesthetically, as pretty as a Giacometti or a Greco. No one has ever seen a Botero or a Rubens arrive safe and sound after 42.195 kilometers.
I sometimes post a "Congrats," "Well done," or an "Unbelievable," but in reality I envy you runners. I'm jealous. You make me feel guilty, and that annoys me.
Luckily, I've discovered that I'm not alone. A 21-year-old reader, who happens to be an accomplisehd athlete and running enthusiast, told me during a visit to Le Temps that he "can't stand this childish exposure of performance" shared on social media. "My Facebook feed is full of selfies of runners in search of recognition," he said.
I've heard some quip: "It's become a new religion ..." Someone else called it "a ridiculous addiction. I'm waiting for the moment the World Health Organization declares that running is as dangerous as red meat." And this comment on a whole other level: "It's the concrete presage of transhumanism, that obsession of the always-improvable body, of the indefinitely perfectible human being."
In the 1980s, many of today's runners were engaging in extreme sports (treks, bungee jumping, skysurfing). Now marathons have replaced these pursuits. "It is the most completed expression of the sportivization of customs and bodies," says sports philosopher Isabelle Queval.
Whatever. Perhaps the good news is that it may have finally reached its peak in popularity. For the first time, I stumbled upon an article online — not about the 10 reasons to start running, but about the 12 reasons why people should give it up.
The race is on.