my story

I see my life as a continuum of experience, perpetually in motion, changing and becoming, a confluence of ideas, people and places. The happenings of the past feed into each other, shaping who I am today, not as static, separate events to check off a list or rungs on a ladder of accomplishments and failures, but rather as small parts of a whole that make for the totality of my experience.

Over the past decade, my interests have led me to pursue the art of exploring wild places on foot. Running has become an extension of who I am, a vehicle for self-expression and discovery. I am both comfortable and aware that at present, it is a large part of my identity since despite the apparent simplicity of the act itself, running is a complex, layered undertaking filled with substance and depth, with a long history and relatable to all.

Through his ephemeral art, Andy Goldworthy captures the flow in Nature, movement I find in the twisting ribbon of singletrack that winds its way down the mountain side. Visually and conceptually, I am drawn to this flow but my connection to it transcends both words and thoughts or a rational explanation of what it is. Experiencing raw, visceral contact with Nature, noticing as Gary Snyder puts it, “ecology on the level where it counts,” is the primary reason that I run.

The seed was planted, nearly a decade ago, after circumnavigating Reunion Island on a rickety old bike where, through conversations along the way,  I discovered that a hundred mile foot race is run annually over its rugged trails. Running complemented my adherence to a “less is more” philosophy and offered the prospect of limitless adventure through the simplest of means. Run to school or after the goats, from one village to the next, for fame or for wealth, it was in Kenya a few years later that I saw running as it is for the first time, natural, uncomplicated, a part of life.This was an important shift in perspective for me, seeing that beyond sport and recreation, running or more broadly speaking foot travel, is one of our defining characteristics as human beings. It is also, as deep ecologist Arne Naess would appreciate, an activity that is universal, devoid of boundaries and socio-economic limitations.

I have been fortunate to witness running and how people relate to it through many cultural lenses. In the Copper Canyon, I observed it through ritual and celebration, the power that moving on foot has in bringing us together. In Nepal, I chased the teachings of Milarepa on the Annapurna trails, in search of the spirit of the Lung-gom-pa, the wind runners of Tibet. Back home, in France, I ran my first hundred miles around Mt. Blanc and was struck by the number of people that congregated to run, to spectate, the impact that a simple foot race had on the communities I went through.

The physical movement of running is essentially the same for everyone, yet our views, understanding and ultimately our experience of its various dimensions are our own. It is perhaps this possibility we have to make or get out of running whatever we wish, that gives it its greatest appeal. Life experience shapes my running and running shapes my life through a back and forth of continuous associations. It is my hope that as I move forward on this journey, I remain open to the multiplicity of influences and inspirations that keep my practice whole, that running does not become contrived and obsessive but rather remains an expression of oneness and freedom.

-Joe Grant