Chronicles of a writer abroad

Turtling towards utopia

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Yes, I do mean turtling.

My new totem animal is the turtle (and not just the super-giant, golden tortoise variety pictured here).

This great sculpture was located near our hotel in Amsterdam. After I ran a particularly slow race on Sunday, I felt a kinship with it, and read its accompanying plaque. In this way, I learned that the artist, Jan Fabre, was inspired by a 16th century text by humanist Thomas More which described a political utopia, and he sculpted this piece to show himself on a quest to reach said destination. The plaque explained that “by choosing a tortoise as his steed, [Fabre] is saying that the desired destination should be reached at a leisurely pace rather than in a rush.”

Hmm, I thought. Utopia. Leisurely pace. Maybe I wasn’t racing after all…maybe I, too, had been searching for utopia during those few hours of running?

In all seriousness, though, I feel that there is something powerful in this metaphor that I have only scraped the surface of. I love running — even when I’m slow, even when it really hurts, even when afterwards I have to confront this graphical representation of my poor performance:

Even despite this, there is a feeling that when I’m running, I’m moving towards utopia — however slowly. I’m moving towards not only cardiovascular fitness and peace of mind but a feeling of connectedness to the world I live in and a different relationship with the people, animals and things in it. It’s a feeling that I can’t quite describe, and I also can’t get enough of, so even though I’m still a bit stiff and sore, I’m impatiently waiting to lace up my shoes again.

Okay, I’m going to stop talking about running and the race now. But just before I do, can we please take a moment to laugh at this picture of me and two other runners looking absolutely wretched as we finish the final few hundred meters of the race inside of the Olympic Stadium?

Hilarious and priceless. At least I know that if none of my other plans work out, I can probably get a job playing Zombie #3 in any number of movies. I’ll admit that the other two are upstaging me, though. I’ll work on it.

Oh, and kudos to Stelian, who ran a great 8km race on Sunday! Here he is waiting for his race to begin:

It was pretty cold that morning, but not for them once they started going. And the fun part for me, since my race was not until the afternoon, was watching the winner of the 8km come into the stadium, followed a minute or two later by a couple more runners, and a couple of minutes after that, hundreds were streaming in, excited and celebrating as they crossed the finish line. It’s hard not to get caught up in that kind of energy.

Stay tuned for pictures of Amsterdam and a recap of our non-racing time there in my next entry!


One thought on “Turtling towards utopia

  1. I love your approach to the race, both the running race and its relationship to your journey through life. The people who whizzed through probably missed much of your theories about where you finish. In fact, I would think the more thoughtful people got a whole lot more out of Sunday afternoon – it’s the journey that counts; not the finish. xo

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