We Think Locally And So We Don't Act Globaly.

I had another fun run today, with RadioLab as my guide.

Earlier this month I mentioned that I had fallen across some stats about traffic fatalities. My hope in using that discovery is to make a (brief) case for public transit as a public health remedy.  The question is, how many of the (not quite) 40,000 people who die in the US each year could be saved if we had a vibrant public transit system.

Underlying that question (but unexpressed at the time) is the problem of why we can rally as a nation and go off to war after 3,000 people die in the attacks of Sept. 11, but can't muster the same resolve to attack problems that claim a much larger number of casualties.

We know the answer intuitively. The world stops for Baby Jessica. There seems to be something about how we're wired that leads us to follow more dramatic peril.

And that's where RadioLab comes in, with an episode unfortunately titled "Killing Babies, Saving the World." You should listen to it, but the intro paragraph explains the title. And the premise is that global concerns are a relatively recent phenomena in human evolution. We just aren't wired to care about the big picture.

The other episode I listened to is called "New Normal".  One of the interesting points (which was really a side point) was that Stalin wasn't a fan of evolution.  So, Stalin and the 44% of Americans who think we are today as God created us however many years ago are on the same side. I kinda like that. I wonder if Stalin got a flu shot. But as always, I digress. The main point of the New Normal is that we can change and sometimes for the better. But they use primates as one example (and foxes as another), so you'd have to believe in evolution to have hope.

Marathon Man - The last week starts with the gods mocking me.

This episode starts with me stepping out of the comfort zone. The squeamish (or those with proper social sensibilities) should just quit reading now.

Still with me? Ok, here's some background.

I've written before about how surprised I am at the mental aspects of training. I've never been an athlete - I'd never been coached. I really wasn't ready for the idea of keeping my head in the game. Especially as the runs got longer, my mind really started getting in the way. With the real long runs, the narrative in my head is how badly I really need to use a restroom. Running as laxative.

This has been the reason that I've made the last three longer runs on my own terms and not with the team. I can't expect the team coaches to be concerned about my mental fixation with always being within 5 minutes of a flush toilet. Once my mind decides I need a bathroom, that clanging stays front-most until I'm able to resolve the issue. After that, all is good.

Well, on the bike trail, or on new routes, I just don't know. And not knowing is worse. Even if there isn't a present need, my anxiety about not knowing how far I was from the FT became really loud in my head.

So, I've built these runs in my neighborhood that allow me to maintain, if not a five minute radius, a reasonable proximity to indoor plumbing. Plus, I know where I am and where I'm going. All is good. Now I'm just back to having my feet hurt and normal running concerns.

I remain interested in the mind over matter aspect of this, however. I mean, I want to conquer this problem. I have friends who enjoy trail running and it sounds like fun and there aren't flush toilets on the trails. I need to figure out a way to distract myself. I think.

This morning I thought I'd try something different. I'd run with headphones (which I normally don't do - the teams and most managed races don't allow it.)  Specifically, I'd listen to the Radiolab podcast. Radiolab is  a great show that talks about all things "science, philosophy and human experience".  Great. My mind would be taken over by the sounds of science. 

The first episode I hear is great; it's a little vignette on how a baby's brain develops and how she might understand the world and what it means exactly when she stares at you adoringly at about 2 months.

But then, we get to parasites. And after a brief introduction where we learn about wasps and cockroaches and other fairly distant entities, the conversations turn to parasites that live in humans. Specifically the hookworm. And the invention of the outhouse. And the story of a fellow who went to Africa specifically to become infected with hookworms to fight allergies and asthma! By wading around in toilet pits. AND NOW HE'S MINING HIS OWN FECES TO SELL HOOKWORMS! That's right, I was listening to a 24 minute story on the history of poop in America.

The next time I write you will be after the Marathon. The Cowtown is next Sunday. Ready, or not - here I come.

If you're just joining us, this is all about me running the Cowtown Marathon this October as a fund raiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Details can be found here.  You can make donations here.