The Beauty of Uncertainty

I have touched upon this concept in prior articles, but as humans, we seem to have a strong tendency to gravitate toward all things familiar. I don't know whether this urge is biological in basis or if it stems from our upbringing and culture (i.e. Is it nature or is it nurture?). But the truth remains - we tend to favor predictable outcomes. We prefer the comfort of knowing over the anxiety of not knowing. We revel in the expected.

This philosophy carries into virtually all the aspects of our every day life. We stay in a job that we're essentially unhappy in because a new job would be full of so many unknowns. When we grocery shop, we put the same items into our cart week after week because we trust in them. When given the option of going somewhere by one of two different routes, we almost always take the road most traveled. This last statement could launch me into a whole narrative about fear, love and the human psyche (as spoken about so eloquently by author M. Scott Peck), but I will spare you all the long-haired oration and simply say that sometimes we have to opt for the unknown in order to experience life in its fullest capacity.

As you've probably come to discover at this point, in the sport of running, there are not a great many certainties. Most of the things that happen out there on the roads are determinable, but not necessarily iron clad. Variables abound as we prepare for and ultimately undertake our daily constitutional – the weather, our state of rest, our injury status, the digestion of our breakfast, whether our running partner will show up or not, and so much more. And so it is that the certainties that we do have, we cling to. We sleep well knowing that our 10K race course is 10,000 kilometers, and not a step more. We also delight in that when our race is timed and the result is posted to the internet for all to see, that its accuracy is a given (especially when we have PRed!). Further, we garner enormous comfort from the fact that our morning 5-mile run route will hold virtually no surprises for us. The road signs and driveways we pass will always look and be the same, indicating how far we've run, and how much is left to go. And we know that if we go out for our run at 3:00pm, that same teenager at {insert applicable street address here} will be outside shooting hoops after school, and will give you a smile as you pass by.

Yes, there is almost a madness in our need for certainties in life. But I will put it to you that it is the uncertainties that give each day its spice. You wake up not really knowing what the day will bring, and there is an excitement and joy in that. No, not even a joy really, but rather, a beauty.

The Orange Runners Club recently put on an event that had some of the uncertainty that I speak of here. The event was our 1st Annual Summer Hash, held on July 28th, and directed by our friends Dave Madden and Ed O'Connell. It was part of our ongoing 30th anniversary celebration. The premise of a hash – for those who don't know – is that it is of a distance and route that is not known to the participants. As a runner in this kind of event, you are merely told that you're going to run, and that at the end of it all there will be some adult beverages to enjoy. In order to get to the finish, there are clues to help you, but it is essentially up to you to find your way home in the best way you can, hopefully enjoying the beauty of the ride as you do so. For those of you who came out to enjoy what turned out to be a sweltering evening on the streets of Middletown, I hope that the uncertainty in all of it was as beautiful as it was enjoying a cold drink and some great laughs with your friends at the finish line.

Thanks to all, enjoy your Fall, and keep running!

Todd Jennings
ORC President (2008-2010)