What matters is less who I am, an unanswerable enigma anyway, than what biases I bring to this table.
I’ve been running off and on since my late twenties, so a good 30 years. Nearly all of my early running was off-road, non-competitive, and without specific goals. It has been and remains pretty erratic, with (longer) periods of little (or even no) running interspersed with quite regular runs, even some ‘training’. But when I didn’t run, I walked, still do so, and my sense of being a ‘pedestrian’ has evolved over decades of different kinds of ‘running’.
I prefer trails, but have learned to appreciate running urban pavements too. Big cities are habitats like any other, as we are animals like any other. Running ‘natural’ landscapes is one way of exploring them, becoming part of them, running ‘man-made’ landscapes is the same.
My running is more outward focused than that of strongly competitive runners, and those who try and figure out ‘what they are made of’ grit-focused runners. I don’t claim any focus being better, real, or whatever, and I certainly have some level of understanding of the attractions of competition and overcoming the demons lurking in one’s darker inner recesses. No beef with racing, and admiration for perseverance, but my primary personal driver is getting out and having a good time, enjoying my surroundings.
The biggest advantage of being part of a scene for a while is knowing that lots of what seems new is just old wine in new bottles, be it often on steroids, many more participants, lots more money, and the deafening roar of info-overload. The biggest disadvantage is that cynicism is a seemingly unavoidable response to that insight. If you catch me out on the latter: tell me off!
My running has been deeply shaped by the friends whom I shared my outings with, and by the habitats we explored together on foot. They include my Dutch childhood village, my Dutch home town Nijmegen, the Southasian cities Benares and Kathmandu, Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, Cairo, Shanghai and now Singapore.
My educational background is in psychology and social science. My jobs have been all over the place, with two stints in hospitality/tourism, various administrative and policy-research postions in academia, and various posts in the development aid industry. Those decades of professional engagements have resulted in some writing, most of it boring research and policy reports,and it got nothing much to do with this topical blog.
All of that history is embodied in my outlook, shapes my interests, directs my gaze. It hasn’t given me much by way of an answer to the question why I run? But that doesn’t matter because no one cares, myself included. What I care about, and I hope you do to, is what becomes visible and accessible when one explores and navigates on foot. And what collective good can come from it.
Over two stints of time me and my family have lived in the Kathmandu valley, Nepal, most recently 2009-2012. I regularly wrote something about running then and some may still be of interest. I have reposted these here and they are accessible through the categories of trailrunning Nepal and trailrunning trends.
My interest in urban running really started in Phnom Penh. As much by running its streets and alleys as by becoming interested in its spectacular post-independence arhitecture. Despite Kathmandu valley’s easy access to wonderful trails on and beyond its rim, and the valley’s bad air quality, its potential to link up an unprecendented number of UNESCO world heritage sites (each distinctly different from the others) made for quite some urban exploration, and the metropolitan cities I’ve lived in since have made that my primary focus. Not really by choice, but not begrudgingly either.
The more I ran cities, the more I became interested in cities as habitats, eco-systems, very particular kinda organisms, in their layers of history, in what is required to make them tick, and in what is right under our noses without us ever seeing it, let alone think about it much. The label I use for that fascination is urbanism.
I’ve blogged before and quit after starting to feel increasingly uncomfortable adding more of the same old.
We’ll see how long I’ll last this time. Notice the stop-motion Singapore video on the home page….