philosopher + endurance athlete [ultra]
The day I went to the pub with my colleagues, I also ran 12 miles and did 8 hours of reading and writing. This is my life balance. And I think—for all the superficial conflict between the two activities—there is a deeper concord between them. Distance running and philosophy go together really well. I've learned discipline and confidence from athletics, and I bring that into the classroom. And I can say the same thing for philosophy’s impact on sport. Academics opened my eyes to the richness of living. I’m not sure I’d be myself without one or the other. Okay! So that’s my life. I have big dreams in two spheres, and I don’t want to specialize in either alone. Specialization is for insects. I want to be well-rounded—the all-purpose flour of life. Thanks for reading, and happy trails.
Girls Just Wanna Have Run
Posted 21st October 2017 by Sabrina Little
“Well, the world contains lots of things…perhaps.”
We sat silently and thought about it.
Tune-up race in Dallas! So fun. Two weeks ago, on a Friday, I sat at a table in the local pub with my colleagues from the Philosophy department. (I drank water, guys.) My classmate was explaining a paper he wrote a few years ago, and we sat and thought about it. We sat at a table we weren’t sure was actually a table, or maybe ontological simples arranged table-wise. My name is Sabrina, and I am a philosopher.
The funny thing is, I am also an endurance athlete. And when I’m running, I take these things for granted—the metaphysical character of the pavement I run on and the persistence conditions of my personal ontology. And while Plato wrote of the philosopher living in a state of timelessness (leisure), I know the weight of every second because I stretch them to move further. I regret their passing as I go, and I know how many I need to get around a track.
The day I went to the pub with my colleagues, I also ran 12 miles and did 8 hours of reading and writing. This is my life balance. And I think—for all the superficial conflict between the two activities—there is a deeper concord between them. Distance running and philosophy go together really well. I've learned discipline and confidence from athletics, and I bring that into the classroom. And I can say the same thing for philosophy’s impact on sport. Academics opened my eyes to the richness of living. I’m not sure I’d be myself without one or the other.
In recent days, I’ve seen quite a few “Day in the Life” posts from athletes. I love these posts, since they are both sociologically interesting and also a bit comforting, since I can see people don’t just train all day long (or, at least, most don’t). I’m adding my own to the mix, with commentary. I was going to frame this as a time management post, but…I started this post 4 weeks ago and have not had time.
Anyway, here are some fast facts for reference:
- I am a Philosophy PhD student at Baylor, and I live in Waco, Texas—elevation 34 meters.
- My favorite philosopher is Aristotle. This is funny because he is all about moderation, and one might say my activities are immoderate. (I DISAGREE.)
- I am training for the JFK 50-mile. It’s a fast, runnable 50-mile.
- I don’t do Philosophy of Sports. People always ask me that. But I like my spheres divided, and I don’t want to think about running all day. That sounds terrible. I actually have really decisive clothing shifts—shorts and tanks for running and dresses for school—so I can be fully present in each domain. Changing outfits signals the transition. I like Ethics, Political Philosophy, and Moral Psychology.
- I’m not a high mileage runner. (I realize context is everything here.) I aim for about 80 miles per week during a buildup, with an emphasis on high-intensity (faster) miles. People often ask me how I run so far on a weekly basis while living the grad school life, and the answer is I don’t. I find that my training has diminishing returns if I get above 90 miles per week, and my injury risk increases. That said, I will peak a bit higher soon with a couple of focused long runs. Like spaghetti, it is better to be undercooked.
- I read books while I brush my teeth and walk around. If you fill every crevice of your life with literature, things become more productive.
- My husband is an academic and distance runner, too. He and I coach a Cross Country team together. We pace the team in most workouts. (I send him with the front boy group, and I slingshot around to get face time with everybody.) These are good miles. Our team is super.
TWO DAYS OF MY LIFE:
I’m providing a Monday and Tuesday. Monday is my worst day for academic productivity, which means I have to use my weekends well. Tuesday is my worst day for athletic productivity, which means I take advantage of rest.
Monday: 5:15 a.m. wakeup
I met two athletes at the track and paced one in her track workout, supervising the other in her return from injury. It was fun! They are wonderful. And it is nice to remember there are people in the world other than philosophers. Afterwards, I ran a quick double for an additional 6 miles. If I don’t hit a good amount on Monday, I’m in the hole for the week.
8:30 a.m. breakfast while catching up on news 9:00 a.m. books out and go!
I had until noon to submit critical questions for Metaphysics, so I finished that, then worked on Philosophy of Art. We are reading Kant’s Critique of Judgment this week.
11:30 a.m. lunch
12 p.m. Kant….Kant…
2:00 p.m. emails and pragmatic things, like the mail
2:50 p.m. I met the XC team for drills and practice, as seen below. We did an out-and-back on a familiar stretch of ground alongside the river. (We switch between three destinations on Monday afternoons.) They had a great run. Training is clicking at the right time. The State meet is next Monday!
4:00 p.m. Drive a runner to her dad’s office. Go home and clean up for dinner!
5:00 p.m. David and I cook together, usually 2-3 times per week and make enough for us to last on leftovers the rest of the week. On Monday, we had leftovers (thankfully, since David teaches 4 lectures on MWF).
6:00 p.m. We talked for a bit and then went back to our reading. I realize this lifestyle wouldn’t work for everyone, but David works non-stop, too. And we love it.
8:30 p.m. Sleep. Or, more realistically, leisure read until 9 p.m. Then sleep.
5:40 a.m. wakeup (for me)—David makes coffee and breakfast, and he reads before practice. I sleep in my running clothes then fall into the car with my sneakers still in my hands. It takes 5 minutes, tops.
6:15 a.m. The team arrives at the stadium. We debrief, then run. I assigned them a base run with their pace groups, with 4x1-minute pickups at near race pace. I want them to practice recovering while running, and having these surges in the mix helps.
7:30 a.m. Drive the XC kids to school. Drive home.
7:45 a.m. Get ready for school. Pack my lunch. Go!
8:30 a.m. Arrive at Baylor. I work in the Philosophy building all day—sometimes upstairs in the common area, sometimes in the cubicles. (I guess you could say I’m…unpredictable.) On Tuesday, I worked on term paper topics—specifically for my MacIntyre class. 11:30 a.m. lunch while reading
12:00 p.m. I talked to a colleague about conferences for a while-ish (probably 10 minutes). I continued to work on MacIntyre, then reviewed Metaphysics for class.
1:45 p.m. Head to class.
4:45 p.m. Class ended. I went home.
5:30 p.m. Dinner with David. We caught up, and then I foam rolled and stretched. We baked fresh bread for the morning.
7:00 p.m. Read!
Sometimes I throw in an evening double (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday), but not on Tuesdays. I have two classes on Wednesday, so I spend the night prepping.
8:30 p.m. Sleep. Or, more realistically, leisure read until 9 p.m. Then sleep.
Note: Sometimes I dawdle. Ah, and I hate that! Running doesn't take up much time, but I could improve the quality of my study sessions. I guess that's true for most people.
There is an image attributed to Pythagoras in Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of the Eminent Philosophers used to illustrate soul types: At a game, there are athletes, vendors, and spectators. The vendors desire money, and this is base. The athletes desire fame, and this is base. But the spectators stand apart and see all. They have the philosophical soul. Anyway, I used to read this and be annoyed with my status as student-athlete because it’s like I’m straddling the fence or something, and I thought it meant that I was divided in some fundamental way. Now I just don’t care—since I think there is a noble way of being an athlete (character formation), and I think the philosopher is a practitioner as well. Being at Baylor is neat because my professors garden, bike, and rock climb. Having a life of the mind and taking embodiment seriously…There isn’t any incoherence in that. Okay! So that’s my life. I have big dreams in two spheres, and I don’t want to specialize in either alone. Specialization is for insects. I want to be well-rounded—the all-purpose flour of life. Thanks for reading, and happy trails.
Photo Credit Thomas Wensil, Waco Running Company