slavesincorporated

Marathons and the art of Outrunning Hubris

In Health, humor, SlavesInc, work life balance, Working on Weekends on January 31, 2018 at 17:45

There is nothing like a saleable product. Any product, service or idea that has margins can and will be exploited to its legal limits and beyond. And if it gathers enough steam it will itself become a part of law and eventually canon. That’s how most religions were born and how new social customs find footing.

One of the most saleable ideas of the past decade has been simply the act of running. Everyone can do it, almost everyone. It is very difficult to feel bad about or guilty after running, unless you have caused yourself an injury but more about that later. You can sell everything from space-age t-shirts to cattle tag watches to electrolytes that cost as much as scotch around the mere activity of sprinting. Marathons have become city-defining events to the extent that taxpayers see no absurdity in paying money to be allowed to run on their own calories in their own city on their own streets. In fact, they look forward to it.

Image result for forrest gump gif

It is every marketer’s waking wet dream. Our lives lack many things; direction, motive and target being the most common absentees. A marathon packs all these into one certified package, a space-age solution to an age-old problem.

In the classical world, Marathon runners were employed because the 4G bill hadn’t been passed yet, labour was cheap and capital punishment was indulged in like dessert. Marathon runners would run hundreds of kilometers without Nikes over dirt roads and such to deliver your message. Sometimes, they never made it. Other times, they did but later died of exhaustion. And if the recipient didn’t like said message, they were known to cull the messenger without even offering him Gatorade first. That is probably where the expression ‘don’t shoot the messenger’ comes from (Please do not try this with your Blue Dart guy). You could afford to this if you were royalty of course. If you were a commoner, you probably didn’t have any friends on the other side of the Alps to ping. But in the modern world, marathons have somehow come to stand for celebration of the triumph of the human spirit. Over what? Hamburgers?

At a time in history where most of our frail muscle power is redundant and the parts of our body we use the most are our eyeballs and fingertips, a feeble display of our collective sprinting abilities reeks of vanity. After you’ve worked yourself ragged over the week, the same companies now want you to transform into weekend warriors who will overcome a life time of stuffing your face with cheese with a couple of months of preparation leading up to one day of running. The effort to get a city of over 10 million people into festival mode is a gargantuan one. And they do a scary-good job of it. But with enough profit and political will, we could have been on Mars right now and had a Mars Marathon…sponsored by Mars bars with Bruno Mars as the opening act.

Then, of course, there are those running for a cause.
“I am running for __ (insert cause of choice from pandas to penguins to pygmies).”

If only it were that easy. It is a step ahead of push button activism but many steps short of any real difference. Fitness of the body is an everyday habit and fitness of the mind is a life-long struggle. It is not a public holiday based circus event. Marathon see as high as 50% of participants needing medical attention. Is this not enough for people to wake up from their ad-induced trance and for the health authorities to wake up from their general state of coma? Running for long periods on hard surfaces (few are harder than concrete) is terribly ill-advised. There are enough studies and general understanding of anatomy to prove it. But all the products that can be sold to inactive consumers at home have already been sold. Only your own pain receptors and sense of self-worth can save you now.

Sure some people feel elated after running, specially if it gets 100 likes on Insta. But the rest of us are just caught in a wave of mass paranoia and marketing afterburn. There are many blogs, videos and stories that have you convinced that few things will make you as happy as running. But that faint throbbing you feel in your head after a morning jog through industrial smog…is just peer pressure that under the anaesthetic of daily drudgery and hourly advertisements, it may vaguely feel like happiness. Just like bungee jumping, Zumba and MBAs.

Running is not even a complete body exercise. And anyone who has bored himself to death on a treadmill will tell you that the calories burnt can be undone a couple of glazed donuts or one chocolate eclair. The most dangerous aspect of this entire circus are the stress injuries and long-drawn joint niggles. Prolonged physical stress and exertion shoots up a lot of adrenaline and you feel the damage only next morning when you have only yourself left to blame. Boxers go through this in every match. But they don’t have to submit that sales report the next morning after wading through two hours of rush-hour traffic.

There is nothing like a saleable product. And anything that doesn’t kill you immediately will keep selling with Warning Labels.

– Punit Pania

  1. Well said! It is the idea whose time has come in Indian cities.

  2. Well, at least runners don’t (usually) wear cyclist lycra and Tour de France wannabe regalia, but that’s not saying much.

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