All trail runners are Liberal Lefties. Yes you are and I’m going to tell you why you are and you’ll be amazed to discover that after all these years of voting Tory, you are in fact a tree-hugging Liberal Leftie of the most heinous kind. Shame on you.
Let’s start with tree-hugging shall we? As an off road runner, you are someone who appreciates the beauty of the world around us. You shun the noise and pollution of the crowded towns and cities in favour of the quiet beauty of a forest trail or the awesome spectre of a coastal path. When you run you are at one with nature. The birdsong, the wind in the trees, the gentle sound of river water or the majesty of crashing waves on the cliffs. You breathe the fresh air and you feel alive. You wouldn’t dream of chucking litter on the floor, not just because the Race Director told you not to at the race briefing, but because you recognise your responsibility in keeping these places beautiful. You understand our shared responsibility to preserve the natural environment for ourselves and others, now and in the future. You, my friend, by your own description of yourself as a trail runner are, by default, a bona-fide tree-hugger.
What’s one of the best things about trail running and trail races? The people. Running just wouldn’t be the same without other people. The shared experience is one of the reasons trail running gives us such a warm glow. Other runners can help us get through the tough times in a race and they can make an amazing experience, truly memorable. Your fellow runner is there for you when you fall and is the first to give you a high five when you cross the finish line in triumph. You know that. You recognise how important the community of runners is. You know how, by sticking together, others around you can help you and you can help others to achieve their goals, fulfil their dreams and realise their ambitions. Margaret Thatcher famously said, “there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families”. She was wrong, wasn’t she? You believe in community. You believe in society. You understand that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Inclusivity and Diversity
Running is a great leveller. When you pull on that ridiculous coloured lycra, you are a member of the running community. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. It doesn’t matter how big your house is or whether you have an Audi or an Escort. No one cares if you’re gay or black, an ex-con or a rogue trader. Ironically, it doesn’t matter who you vote for or where you stand on Brexit. What matters is that you’re a runner. You are welcome whether you run fast or slow, whether you normally run on roads or the track and you are even welcome if you’re a triathlete. As an off road runner, you want others to experience how awesome it is. You want to share your love of trail running with your partner, your kids, everyone! The running community is never full, there’s room for everyone because the paths are wide and long and you can see for miles.
Hard Work and Suffering
As much as we like to enjoy ourselves on our long runs through the countryside, they are hard work. Running a marathon is not easy, although I did read an article by some idiot who said it was. Running an ultra is even harder. Why do we do it? Why do we put ourselves through this hardship? Well, as trail runners we understand the importance of challenging ourselves, pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone and trying different and difficult things. These challenges push us to our physical and mental limits. They build our character and personality. Life is not easy, nor should it be. Sometimes we need to suffer to appreciate the good times. Traditionally the left has stood up for the suffering, the poor, the oppressed and the proletariat, in opposition to the rich, the privileged and the bourjeoisie. However, let’s get real here. You will of course argue, and I will agree, that running is NOT suffering. Real suffering is hard to define and has to be seen in relative terms. So a trail runner in pain is not suffering like a single parent on the breadline in Hackney and she’s probably not suffering in the same way as a starving family in East Africa. And maybe they aren’t suffering as much as the children being bombed in Syria. But in some small way, as runners, we volunteer to experience the highs and the lows of human existence. It doesn’t make you a Liberal Leftie, but it makes you a better person.
Everyone gets a medal
“Weak or strong, clever or simple, we are all brothers” and everyone gets a medal. Right wing politics are all about winning at all costs. Only the strongest survive. The winner takes it all (ABBA were a well known propaganda front for the fascist right). You win you get the prize, you lose and you’re in the gutter and no one is going to help you climb out. But in running, everyone gets a prize. Everyone is a winner. We celebrate the achievement of finishing, of taking part, of trying. We cheer as much for the person coming in last as the person finishing first, more sometimes! Trail runners hang around after they have finished to applaud other runners coming in. Trail runners cross the line together, arm in arm. In what other sport do you get joint winners? That’s socialism with a small ’s’ right there.
You may think that the only person responsible for getting you to the end of that 50 mile ultra is you. It’s your legs that carried you to the end. It was your mental strength that pushed through the hard times out there. It is you and you alone who is the arbiter of your success. Not true. You can take some of the responsibility for your success, but not all. What about how the Race Director’s clear signage made sure you didn’t take the wrong route? What about all that lovely food at the aid stations that made sure you were well fuelled and hydrated? What about that volunteer who took care of your feet at 30 miles and the ones who refilled your bottles? How about the guy you ran with for 5 miles when you were in that dark place, who offered words of encouragement and support? Then there was that family at the side of the trail having a picnic, who clapped and cheered you on in the final miles. Oh and the volunteer who stopped you crossing that busy road just as you were about to step in front of a cyclist, in your fatigued daze. Your success or failure in running, or in life, is a shared responsibility. That doesn’t mean you can blame everyone else if things go wrong, but it does mean you’re not alone. We’re back to community and society again. We are not a bunch of individuals trampling over everyone else to get to the top of the mountain. We are friends and family, neighbours and strangers helping each other to be the best we can be. That’s not the philosophy of the Right. That’s the Humanist in you.
See. You can’t escape it. As a trail runner, you are, whether you like it or not, a tree-hugging, morally responsible, socially aware, caring, empathetic, Liberal Leftie. So, tough shit huh. What are you gonna do about that then?