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Convention

23 January, 2010

Training this week finds me trawling the depths of the runner’s psyche. Today, for example, I’m trying to answer the question: why anti-clockwise? Symmetry, of one kind or another, is satisfying, and running is a symmetrical activity. Why then, must we always run in the same direction around the track? Wouldn’t it be better to go the other way sometimes? Do people run in the opposite direction in the southern hemisphere, or is this just why running is said to add years to your life?

So, the lines are painted a certain way on a 400 metre track which means that racing in the opposite direction isn’t going to work. But when it comes to other tracks…I ran for 25 minutes today clockwise on the China Creek track. There are no lines, and no obvious reason to go in one direction, but everyone else was running the other way. So here’s what happens. You happen to pass a runner once maybe on the seawall, and maybe you nod, wave or even say hi. You pass that same runner every two and a half minutes, and what are you supposed to do? Probably you’re supposed to say hi once and ignore them each lap thereafter. But this is kind of awkward, averting your eyes on purpose, pretending that person isn’t right there. The alternative, though, is some kind of excruciating small-talk/getting-to-know-you conversation broken up into 2 second segments. Ten kilometres in and you’re on to that evil-looking rain cloud that’s already been and gone. This must be why we all run in the same direction.

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