I have recently read a book by Yi-Fu Tuan for my Cultural Geography class titled Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Our class discussion had me thinking a lot about how I define, explore, and experience space through my running. The book covered the relationship of space and place in many ways, such as how space becomes place through experience, how the body interacts with space, how architecture defines both, how spatial knowledge affects place, how place is created, and how spaciousness is seen as freedom.
I find that I discover new spaces by running, and the experience of running a familiar route can transform a space into a relatable place for me. When I am in a new city, or country, running is not only a way of exploring this new space but of understanding it. I feel every change in the ground I land on and I see every new landscape as I forge ahead into it. Even when I am running a variation of the same route through the monuments in DC, something is different every time, redefining the space in that moment. When a place is familiar, what defines the space is ever changing, but when I am getting lost in a new space, I am searching for what can define it as a place to me.
Running also levels the playing field; one space is not more heightened or superior to me. Each space has a use worthy to me, whether to help me train or to attain a sense of peacefulness. In a way, this goes against the traditional hierarchy of space. I do see hiking up mountaintops as something sacred in its own right, but no more than running in a valley or perusing a new neighborhood. Each space and place have their own value, and I don’t think it’s fair to compare the value of one environment to another.
While I do enjoy being a hermit in the comfort (and warmth) of my bed, there is so much to be said about how spaciousness can release or mend the mind, body, and soul. There is a reason I can no longer bring myself to exercise in a gym: because I refuse to take for granted the opportunity to get outdoors and wander the infinite amount of space the planet has to offer. I truly believe spaciousness can bring a strong sense of freedom, a comfort in its own right, as long as we are open to what the world has to offer. This rings no truer than when running, because even when I am weaving through tourists or dodging cars on a small road, there is always a place to go. I don’t remember when I have ever felt crowded during a run. It’s an added joy of running, and I hope to continue benefiting from my exploration into running.