My father and I have innumerable things in common – our alma mater, our sense of humor, our appreciation of ABC’s 1990s Friday night line-up, our uncanny ability to down a 32-ounce baseball steak in one sitting – but when it comes to our favorite past times, we start to diverge. While I see no better way to spend a Saturday morning than by racing a new PR or working out with friends or logging a long-run en route to the marathon, my dad’s interests lie elsewhere. Forget the Central Park bridle path – my papa would gladly trade his first- and third-born children to spend the rest of his life on a boat.
The truth is, boating and running aren’t really all that different. Sure, one requires permitting and proximity to water and access to a motorized vessel and a hefty chunk of disposable income and the other demands – uh, nothing? shoes? – but when it comes down to it, the two diversions have more in common than you’d think.
So without further ado, I bring you the never-before-seen series, ‘How Running is a Heck of a Lot Like Boating.’ Also known as ‘Huh. I haven’t had a dog photo on this blog for a solid week. Let’s remedy that.’
Boating and running are more fun when you’re going fast. You’ll hear it time and time again: to race faster, you have to train faster. My legs may love a slow morning jog the day after a hard workout, but nothing feels better than picking up speed, striding it out and cruising full tilt ahead to the finish line.
Boating and running require a lot of advanced planning. As Annie Van De Wiele once wrote, “The art of the sailor is to leave nothing to chance.” The same goes for training for a race. Unchartered waters are exciting when you’re talking about a new relationship or job, but when it comes to manning a watercraft or plotting your 16-week marathon training plan, you’re more likely to get out alive if you devise a strategy in advance and stick to it.
Boating and running do terrible things to your hair. Mine’s frayed and broken all along the elastic line; Keira’s is full of sea water and Baltimore Harbor hepatitis. I’d suggest you don’t touch either of us.
Boating and running are better with friends. Run 10 miles alone and have Duran Duran’s Rio cycling through your brain for a full 90 minutes. Run 10 miles with a buddy and watch the miles fly by. Boating, too, requires friends for tying the lines and mixing the cocktails and lounging on the front of the boat, which – surprise! – is my personal specialty.
Boating and running can tire out even their biggest fans. I love running so much I write a blog about it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get sick and tired of it from time to time. Boating, too, can cause even the most avid seafarer to grow weary. When that happens, take some time off, throw yourself into other pursuits, and you’ll feel the sea (or trail) calling you back again before you know it.
But while I’d argue that boating and running have an awful lot in common, there’s at least one key way they’re massively different, and that’s acknowledgement of other participants. If you’ve ever spent an afternoon on a boat, you know that the first rule of maritime law is to wave at every other seaman who crosses your path. (Second rule of boating: don’t call them seamen).
But the same apparently does not hold true in running. I don’t know if this is unique to New York City or what, but I find every single time I run by another athlete, she averts her eyes and presses forward. Now, I’m in no means demanding an enthusiastic high-five or a sweaty mile-6 embrace, but it seems to me a simple smile or nod of acknowledgement could work wonders in making our seemingly solitary sport seem more communal. Especially in late summer, when the odds are good that everyone running the Central Park loop with his own water bottle at 5 a.m. on Saturday morning is gearing up for the same exact Nov. 3 event, it seems we could silently but actively recognize our hard work with a smile or wave.
So that’s what I’m going to start to do. Who’s with me?