The number of times I’ve been out running trails and seen people taking dogs for walks is ridiculous. I don’t mean on the ends of leads. I mean in push buggies, wheelchairs, wheelbarrows and pull-carts.
But it gets much worse. I’ve actually seen some people take dogs for walks in those front pouch things. You know, those tie-dyed slings favoured by some people who don’t want to have offspring with dirty feet.
Other people reverse the species roles. They truss their tots into things that look like climbing harnesses and then attach dog leads to the back. Like under socialised canines they pull at the leash and drag Mummy around the shops. Sometimes it’s Daddy.
Has the world gone completely mad? People are putting dogs in kid-slings and tethering kids to dog-leads!
Remember the book, “Born to Run”? Well, it applies to dogs and children as well as the Tarahumara. Let them run. Please.
Now I realise that I’m preaching to the trail running choir. Like me, you carried your children on your shoulders. But perhaps, unlike me, your firstborn didn’t poo down the back of your shirt in Woolies. It made my favourite white T-shirt look tie-dyed.
There wasn’t a kid in my school of 1,300 souls who had a nut allergy. The dentist tells me some children are born without canine teeth because they aren’t needed anymore. What are we doing to ourselves? I blame the over processed food.
Come to think of it, I blame over-processing for many of the errors of the 21st century’s adolescent intolerance for anything not served fast and at eating temperature.
Too many experiences are designed to avoid struggle and make absorption easy.
Whatever happened to chewing on food, and life, for that matter?
The silver-lining of hardship is resilience. That’s why we do fartlek and hill training.
I think we should save ourselves from the decline into bubble-wrap by making some things harder.
I’m glad that so many of our special trail runs have very limited fields. You have to think about whether you really want to do it. And then you have to wait and plan. Eventually, you get a turn and you feel grateful.It isn’t just an itch that you scratch. It has to be a longing that fuels your spirit for months, and becomes part of you before you jog one step. When you line up, you feel grateful.
Now that’s a life worth living.
While I’m writing this, a teacher friend of mine who is a teacher tells me how a 10 year old opened his homework book in class today and exclaimed, “Oh, good! My Mom did my homework for me again.” She had actually copied his handwriting so that it would look like he’d done it. Again!
I suppose that she wanted to save him the struggle. Perhaps she thinks that’s loving him. I wonder when she stopped carrying him close to her, and exposed him to the terrible work of walking?
Imagine when he has to face the ordeal of an exam! Maybe his Daddy could get elected to the school council and have tests banned. They cause stress, you know. Then, when he starts work, Daddy could get onto the board and remove annual performance appraisals. Let’s give everyone the same bonus at the start of the year. That will be more comfortable.
A man told me the other day, his chest all puffed out, how he’d done a 10 km “mini-marathon” over the weekend. Apparently, part of it was off-road.
That’s like giving a Free Stater a slider (a baby burger) and calling it a mini-Mega Burger.
“Do you also run marathons, like me?” he asked.
I wanted to suggest that he google the word marathon.
But perhaps they’ll edit the word ‘marathon’ down over time too and redefine it as “any running event” That will be nice for people who don’t have much time, but still want to be marathoners.
Instead I shook my head and smiled sweetly.
Then I walked firmly in the opposite direction.
I walked until I got to the edge of the cookie-cutter village. I kept walking until I could see no more men wearing sunglasses on the top of their heads and saying, “Howziiiit!” while giving themselves mini-whiplash, just like they did 20 years ago at school.
The temptation to fit in for safety’s sake never leaves us. We always have to be jumping from out of that tie-dyed sling thing.
I walked and I walked and I walked.
Then I ran.
Not away, towards. I ran towards the mistakes and struggles from which I’ve learned I can’t run. Toward the shadows and blind spots. And toward the loneliness.
It got late in the day.
Does it really take 50 years to become an Adult? If you work at it. Sometimes it takes longer.
Sweat. Struggle. Suffer. Recover. Refocus. Repeat.
There’s no app for that.
Download yourself.

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