Recently I have been reading a book by the philosopher Roger Scruton: On Human Nature. While I find much to disagree with in Scruton’s political philosophy, when he writes about aspects of human experience and the centrality of the subject, intentionality and the I-you relationship in our morality, he weaves a compelling theory about the eliminability of the subjective. I think he is mistaken about some of the conclusions he draws from his arguments, which follow his oft repeated conservative narrative, but the core thesis is, I find, sound and deeply insightful. The humanities can never be replaced or find a substitute in objective scientific accounts of human nature.
Running is a real encounter with the raw experience of embodied animal nature mediated through our choice to run, to go beyond what basic physical feedback would tell us is possible or desirable. In doing so we both live within and recognise our fleshy objective nature, and explore the ways we can transcend that as a subject whose experience of running is more than as just an animal.
This is all particularly true in a marathon. There is a point where you are running beyond what is physically good for you and for longer than your body wants to; for me this around 20 miles / 30km / 3.5 hours. This means that, perhaps counterintuitively, from that point you are in full contact with the subjective nature of running even as your body is exhausted. I am beginning to wonder how this idea might be further explored and connected to my other thoughts on the Zen nature of running.