Why I Run: Curiosity

Are you someone who gets bored easily? I am. There are endless skills to learn, games to play, and projects to pursue. Yet, I have this strange habit of enjoying the planning and daydreaming of some complex thing and then feeling bored with it once the proof-of-concept passes. To stick with something, I need more than the passing interests. I need a driven curiosity to explore the limitations.


I’ve often pondered the difficulties of having no reliable vision. To rely on the sense of touch to evaluate the size of a thing and guess at it’s shape. If you are handed a small ball, you instantly recognize the sphere. But it you place your hand out and feel a large surface, it takes more consideration. Is it at an angle or have a curvature? Where are the edges? What texture is it and can that help estimate the other features?

A large surface vaguely perpendicular to the ground could curve on an axis side to side, like a cylinder, and have a rough uneven surface, and you may think that is a tree. But what of a particularly large tree? I have seen trees whose trunks larger than some houses. It may then seem to be as a wall as the curvatures is so subtle. Yet, if you follow the wall, inevitably you would get the sense of turning in your movement. But until you went all the way around and found some element that you recognized, you might not be sure that the edge wasn’t just a bit beyond. That edge is the clue to be sure it is a wall, and that certain returning curvature the best support that it is a tree.

I often talk to my work colleagues and some of our customers about ‘feeling out the edges’ of this or that concept. It may be the rules of a game, or the conceptual space of a program. Sometimes I try to ‘feel out the edge’ of a community. And the above thought experiment is what has created that part of my language. I consider it very natural to look for the edges on unfamiliar shapes so I can plot them out. That is my curiosity.

I Want to Know it All

Perhaps it is a funny way in which my mind works. Or it may be a common ailment that most people keep put away from polite society. Endlessly and ruthlessly curious, I love to think on the complex. Even when it is of such complexity as to overwhelm or evoke pain at the handling. I love to run little simulation in my mind and test concepts in a system. Sometimes it is orderly, but most often it is a flight of fancy. But, once I find an edge, or I tire of looking, boredom sets in.

Not always a deep sense of boredom, but boredom with the shape of the thing. If I have found the edge, I am eager to move on. There are so many things in this world to experience and know. Some, I do wish not to experience for one gruesome reason or another, such as falling into a wood-chipper. But so much else is offered by this strange world, that I can’t help but want to get the basics and then fly to the next related, or unrelated, thought and explore it.

What About The Running?

It is a fair question as to what I am getting at here. At the root it is simple: What can be done? I once could not run beyond some basic attempt at flight from mortal peril. Today, I am pursuing ambitious running goals. Last year, I felt along the shape of running and my goals and thought that the half-marathon may be the edge. I got through it and felt certain for a moment that I must have found that edge as I trundled across the finish line all fury and desperation to be done. But, with a little rest and thought, I decided that that clearly wasn’t the edge of this thing.

There are people who have done amazing feats with their feets. Boston Qualifiers, sub-4-minute miles, 3100 mile races around a single city block, crossing the continent in a race, and so much more. And here when I first started this I thought I might be getting a little silly at wanting to run over 2000 miles in a single year. Still, I am pushing my own envelope, of flesh and air, and I am still curious as to what the end shape will be. I have a curiosity as to what this bio-mechanical apparatus can experience and do when asked ever more of it.

Digression into Story-time

I’m also curious about others. I was running yesterday on a mid-week long run, taking advantage of these spotty warm days, when in the middle of mile 9 a gentleman with at least 10 years on me came barreling past wearing a green race shirt. I’ve been out enough to recognize the signs of experience, and he was clearly a running veteran. So, I fell in behind him as best I could maintain to try and match his footfalls and watch his form. I wanted to learn all I could. I wondered, as he steadily pulled ahead of me despite my efforts, how long had he be running and what keeps him going?

The path I run crosses a couple roads and as we approached one such intersection, he was happily ahead of me enough that when the light shifted to allow our passage, I never broke stride to slow down. Coincidentally, four gentlemen, in formations of two, between green’s age and mine where coming up the road to turn onto the path. Green pulled right on ahead easily and as the formation turned onto the path, I slotted in right between the two pairs by blind happenstance. I can tell from my Strava that one of them was Tim and another Roger after the fact, but on the run I just settled in to this position and tried to maintain it.

Keep Up!

There is an interesting subtle pressure present when running around the same pace as others without planning it. With a pair only five feet ahead and behind me, I had to maintain pace discipline. And they were faster than me, if for no other reason than I already had 9 miles under my feet and they were relatively fresh in their runs. For around a mile, they unwittingly pushed me closer to an edge I was looking for. It was great.

I could hear them chatting to each other just over the sound of my earphones, which I admittedly always have too loud. I thought hard about dropping one or both earphones out to say hello. Reflecting on it I should have, but I had a real fear that any attempt to speak would kill my ability to keep pace with them, defeating the purpose. There also was a bit of a socially anxious sense that I had just inserted myself, literally, into their formation, happenstance or not, and felt perhaps best to keep quiet anyhow.

I think I can send them a message on Strava, so now that I am reflecting on it, I’ll say hi. Let them know I am talking about them with the world, ha! After about a solid 8-minute mile, I peeled off for some much needed water. I also had to head back towards my starting point as my running time was about up for the day. I’m now curious about them. How long have they been at it, why, and have they found their edges?

What About You?

Do you have curiosity driving you to explore something? Is there some other force that has you pushing to the edges or looking for the next thing?  Or should I be just reading about all those who have found the edges of what is possible for the human form and just cheer them on? I’d love to know what you think.

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