Speed is the form of ecstasy the technical revolution has bestowed on man. As opposed to a motorcyclist, the runner is always present in his body, forever required to think about his blisters, his exhaustion; when he runs he feels his weight, his age, more conscious than ever of himself and of his time of life. This all changes when man delegates the faculty of speed to a machine: from then on, his own body is outside the process, and he gives over to a speed that is noncorporeal, nonmaterial, pure speed, speed itself, ecstasy speed. A curious alliance: the cold impersonality of technology with all the flames of ecstasy.Milan Kundera, Slowness
Running is not a part of the political economy, or the revolution of technology. I was admonished by my professor and classmates in a class last summer after making this statement. Yes, most wear (somewhat) expensive sneakers, special clothing, etc. to participate in the sport (granted, they are adornments that over time have been technologically refined; see nike), but truly those aspects of consumption are not necessary to receive what is given back from the activity. Running only requires movement, a slight change in pace from the everyday. It can be done anywhere, at anytime. I've run up and down hotel floors, across hills on the coast of Britian, in subway stations, along train tracks, and even on the top of a wall separating a canal from a roadway. In only one of those environments was I "properly" attired for the activity. The return-on-investment from this body movement is less tied to any perceived cultural "status" benefits than my classmates and professor claimed [slimmer body=increased attractiveness per Western cultural desires=improved cultural capital, leading to improved financial capital]. Though a seemingly decent, fiercely Marxist position on the benefits of the activity of running, I maintain that these factors are not the driving force getting people off the couch and out the door. True, the desire to possess a body desired through aesthetic improvement with exercise may be the initial motivator of some. However, over time I have known these people to begin listening to the Other effects, as their muscle fibers take over the brain and lead the body at a fast pace for less tangibly visible benefits.
The act of running does not produce a product; its labor is unproductive. Yes, some may run races and win cash prizes, but those elites are not a majority enough to empower an entirely Marxist theory of running. The masses that pound pavement, dirt, sand, and water, achieve distinction that is inward-focused; the competition is the self today versus the self yesterday. The desire to improve is not necessarily for progress (in a capitalist sense), but merely the body is reconfigured as a space through which to act out self-discipline directed for the pleasure of the self, a container to allow contests of emotions and thoughts room to battle without social consequence.