Stop Bullying Nature

Blog entry posted by steveschroederart, Jan 31, 2016.

* Below is a prose piece I wrote on my website

Stop Bullying Nature

When did running become a stupid endeavor?
When did runners (or other natural trail users) decide that “natural trails” need to be modified in such a way that they are perfectly cleaned, perfectly marked and perfectly fucking boring!

Personally I have nothing against those who seek the smooth and organized streets, sidewalks or paved-trails. They are fine, they are useful and they fit the daily needs of many. Society has dictated for generation upon generation now that obstacles (nature) needs to be overcome, trampled and made “civilized.” Destroying natural resources has been the goal in our society for such a long time, that to think otherwise is almost Un-American.
Yes, I use streets, sidewalks and you will even find me jogging on paved trails from time to time. Yes, I appreciate the varied simplicity that aspects of modern society can bestow upon us and NO I’m not an advocate, nor am I preaching a return to life (living) into the “wilds.”

Yet – back to my statement: When did running become a stupid endeavor?
What I’m about to write may piss-off a certain segment of runners. Its NOT intended to condemn however, rather, I’d like to simply cause one to think, to ponder and to inquire of themselves just what they are running for.

Running has simply become a means to track TIME and DISTANCE!
Running requires very little imagination anymore as tracks, sidewalks and paved running areas for the most part eliminate any true obstacles. Seriously . . . if you can run with earbuds pounding music, while your wrist dictates heartbeat, miles and location, I’d have to ask: Are you truly running and does your run require any mental thought?
Shoes, clothes, technology- most runners are obsessed with these. Then add to that, the mass-propagandizes importance of TIME and DISTANCE as the measurement of one’s success (or failure) as a runner. So many runners have become convinced that the perfect stride and the perfect form is essential to a run, that they have simply become robots who simply repeat the same motion all while rarely looking down, rarely aware of where they are as shoes and technology have removed all aspects of actually appreciating nature.
And it’s in this propagandized mentality that runners have begun to destroy nature.

Where I live there are limited areas that are not polluted by the constant assault on nature. So, I’m grateful for the off-trails (soft trails they are often referred as) that are available. Most these trails in my area are narrow surfaces which mostly originated from deer trails.
Bikers, hikers, walkers and various outdoor enthusiasts utilize these trails. Yet- recently as soft-trail running has gained a greater and greater acceptance, runners have begun their unintended quest to bully nature into their obsession of TIME and DISTANCE.
How is this done? Locally where I live there are more and more “races” in the soft trail areas. The very term “race” implies, time and distance. Once a race course has been established, then that course begins to become marked. Hell, one day last fall I was running soft trails just to notice that suddenly tree roots, holes, rocks and anything else that NATURAL trails SHOULD HAVE on them, had suddenly become painted red. What the fuck I thought as I jogged along, unaware as I discovered later that a sponsored race had occurred the weekend prior.

Why the need to paint nature? Why the need to highlight natural obstacles?
Its so runners can aimlessly run, so runners can mindlessly pursue their quest of time and distance.

Runners as a whole ARE great people who DO care greatly about nature. I’ve never yet in my lifetime met a runner who purposefully set out to destroy nature.
Its just the “modern” runner is losing contact with reality as they have fallen into the same trap that society continues to preach.
Seriously- don’t you ever get tired of racing? Your whole life is this big damn race: Run here, run there, race to your job, race to the deadline. Time and distance has been sold to you as the ultimate goal in your life.
Then- you try and escape all the pressures of your daily life, all the time and distance that is constantly pushed upon you . . . just to go out for a run AND record and monitor your steps, heartbeat and how fucking fast you ran or how far you went in such and such a time??

Why not JUST enjoy the run! When do you just step off the treadmill of life and enjoy?

Running is an emotion. There is a limit in your life as to how far you can run and how fast you can run at any given time. ALL runners will hit that limit at some time. Then what. Then what do you do?

However an emotion is never-ending. Every run I’ve ever run has a different feel, a different thought and a different emotion as I try to connect to the earth and nature through the run. Yes, barefoot is awesome because you FEEL the run, however throughout the winter and on truly wild growth trails I use ultra-minimalist shoes for saftey: Yet, I never lose touch with why I’m there . . . its for the emotion, for the beauty of the run.

If you want to run a race for time and distance- fine. I truly have no issue if its your thing. Its not mine. Yet, if you are going to run that race through nature on un-paved trails, then STOP bullying nature.
Nature asks of you, this simple request: Slow the fuck down, enjoy what you see and simply appreciate the moment.

Honestly- I’ve tripped on tree roots, I’ve slipped on mud and stepped on walnuts shells that felt like knifes . . . yet, I never mark with paint or otherwise alter nature. Instead I remind myself to slow down, to take my time AND think about where I am. I use my mind as my greatest asset as a runner.

Its not about whether you wear shoes or go barefoot . . . its about appreciation of nature.

Often I’m asked while running barefoot, “doesn’t’ that hurt to run barefoot?”
Shoes hurt my mind” is most often my reply, as shoes reduce the time looking down, shoes reduce the need to pay attention . . . shoes often bully nature.
I’m NOT condemning shoes, the above statement is a metaphor.

All I’m asking is that we stop bullying nature as a means to justify our time and distance addiction.


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About the Author

Barefoot living in NE Iowa. More thoughts at: or follow at: