Yesterday was Labor Day. It’s a day that celebrates the advances of organized labor as well as the hard paid labor that people of this country perform every day. America is one of the hardest working developed nations on Earth, so it’s right and just that we take a day not just for shopping, but also for remembering those who fought and died for workplace rights.
But there are other forms of labor that aren’t monetarily compensated, and forms of labor that don’t come with OSHA regulations or overtime protections. Often time these forms of labor are valuable and laudable. Parenthood is probably the most obvious form of this kind of labor, as is being caretaker for an older or sick relative. Another form is volunteerism. But what about running? Is running a form of uncompensated labor?
To me, it seems like running is a form of uncompensated labor. There’s a kind of discipline to getting up early (for those of y’all that do) or late in the evening to go out and get your miles in. I know when I’m in a heavy training cycle, it becomes a slog to pass on spending time with non-runner friends, or passing up on that extra hour or two of sleep to get your shoes on and go out the door. To me, it’s almost a monastic practice, a repetitive and meditative motion as we put one foot in front of the other for miles at a time. The kind of mental discipline that requires, especially for those of y’all that go on running streaks, is considerable.
This kind of running is certainly a form of labor. It improves our heart, our bodies, and our mental capacities. But running is, frankly, a rather solitary labor, and an inwardly focused one, at least for me. We may have running buddies, but the work is our own, the benefits are our own, and the times and races are our own as well. There’s nothing wrong with this fact; self-care and the ability to improve our health allows us to better care for our fellow human beings, and there’s something inherently virtuous in caring for one’s body.
But lately I’ve been looking for ways to turn my relatively cloistered pastime into something more outwardly focused, a way to turn my labor of love into a labor that shows more love to others as well. I’ve considered running for charity, as well as increasing my hours volunteering both at races and in trail building. While I’m technically paid for it, I’ve poured my heart into the Dirt Runners and consider it one of the joys of my job. But frankly, as an extroverted person with a sense of responsibility to my community, I’m a little at a loss for ideas to make my running passion connect more effectively with the community at large. Do y’all have any ideas? I look forward to your comments and suggestions.