Running as in Life

It’s about the trail, not the destination

Few times it happened to me to be seeing run-races here in Brazil, to the extent to which they seem to be a popular thingy. Although it might be something cultural here, I was keen enough to go running for the pleasure of running, instead of racing, and so I did. Just a bit of pre-running organization, including the decision of the most natural and walkable trail and soon I found myself at the beginning of an 8 kilometers trail next to the ocean, immersed into mountains and forests. A trail of unlimited beauty, in a country host of majestic nature.

No previous practice or “aquecimento”. 9 am. Two sips of water. 1 banana on the stomach.

Three people, three continents, three mindsets, one purpose: reaching the end.

The full trail involved 5 main parts: an initial part next to the ocean on a nice beach, a sloppy steep stuffy sticky “subida”, a trail on “Morros” (hills), a little complex of waterfalls, a forestry path (I was very scared of Cobras, have to be honest!), and the final round through a central beach which lead to downtown Garopaba, the little hippie, surfy town which I started calling home. Basically, an alternative way of getting into the center!

Despite the steepness and sloppiness of some points, the surrounding beauty and tranquillity of the place definitely compensated the effort it took. We were sweaty and tired at times, but by alternating the leaders, enjoying the surrounding environment, staying focused and being together we overcame tiredness, laziness, and fear. Reaching the waterfall felt regenerating and reassuring. We dipped ourselves in fresh waters breath deeply, admired the cascade of water, and appreciated and smelled the nature. We took a pause. A pause from our busy lives. A pause from our constant fear of time, urge to get things done, the necessity of being on top of our things. We stepped out from our daily and quite monotonous routines and allowed ourselves to connect with nature.

This is something I learned during my gap year: I have to make the most out of my time and have to allow myself to enjoy and rediscover the pleasure of otium, which is— the pleasure of free time.

Karim, a GCY supervisor and a super nice person, shared with us that she used to compete in national run-races in the past. However, while getting older, she realized she wasn’t performing up to her full potential, due to her decreased physical performance. She passed a period of hard stress, trying to overcome physical and mental barriers which prevented her to “be the best version of herself”. Until she decided to quit racing, understanding she had never appreciated running so much until then. She chose to enjoy the process leading to the purpose, rather than purpose itself. She switched from purpose-oriented learning, to process learning, and she embraced the truest value of it. A fellow and I, thinking over the matter, applied this to our lives and our educational systems. Most of us have been learning in competitive or goal-orienting schools which have always forced us to define our future. The final grades, the university decision letter, and having clear career perspectives was what defined us as persons. Everything which concerned our passions, values, ideals, and interests was often put into a sub-level, always behind the socio-normative, constructed and imposed orientations and expectations that we, as students, had to hold. Despite the unilateral approach to study that most of us were forced to embrace, we are now taking the time to appreciate the value of experience, making the most out of it. As Karin does, we are enjoying the experiential learning, rather than being merely focused on our life goals.

It is hard, however important, to redefine what a purpose is, and embracing it day by day with a new perspective.

We then delved into the forest, quite covered and very humid. The path wasn’t easy to spot, and Karim soon warned us that Curupira might have gotten us lost if we had not been careful in our approach to our surrounding environment. Long before the arrival of the colonizers, the aboriginal communities in Brazil used to tell stories about the fantastic beings that lived in the forest and protect it from any harm. The one Karim was talking about was Curupira, which means “child’s body” in Tupi Guarani, a form of a boy with flame-colored hair and feet turned to face backward. Curupira is a guardian of the fauna and flora that does not tolerate those who threaten to harm the environment, but he helps those who are lost or in need. Full of tricks, he misleads the wrongdoers making them get lost in the woods. He, for instance, uses whistles and imitates sounds of both nature and the human voice to confuse his targets. He is a supernatural force that defends plants and animals from harmful hunting, fishing and resource extraction made by men. It’s an unforgettable mark in the Brazilian culture, especially useful to enhance environmental awareness on children and grown-ups alike. Fortunately, we were careful enough not to be misled or tricked by Curiupira, all of us (graças a Deus!) reaching the destination!

I learned that running is very applicable to our own lives. Many times the best runs are rarely measured by racing successes, rather by how much you stretch yourself and enjoy the trail. The trail, with its ups and downs, offers you obstacles which might be difficult to overcome. It is our inner strength and grit which allows us to go over them.

Running has never been more applicable and relatable to my gap year experience.