The everyman's sport
Freedom is a fundamental human right, one which should be valued most highly.
There are countless instances around the world in which basic freedoms are routinely ignored. Freedom of speech, religious or political freedom, the freedom to marry who you want, to have children or build a career. Freedom comes in many shapes and guises; consequently, given its sensitive and multi-facted nature, freedom should be treated with respect.
Sometimes, though, freedom doesn't have to be complicated or controversial. Sometimes, freedom - personal freedom - feels as simple as pulling on a pair of trainers on a sunny day, and heading out for a run, out into the unknown.
Well, 'unknown' might be a bit of an exaggeration. Usually, (hopefully!) there is a route to follow, maybe a park to run around or a river to run along. Even on the most often frequented running routes, however, there is something different to see. Here in Germany, surrounded as I am by sweeping stretches of countryside, my favourite route traces the meandering river, along the banks of which wander herds of sheep, sometimes absent-mindedly blocking your way, whilst Canadian geese fly overhead in their characteristic 'V' formation. Having a regular route might seem boring, but the familiarity actually makes the miles fly by!
For a route to become regular, of course, you need to get out and explore in the first place. One of the unsung benefits of running, alongside physical and mental well-being, is the insider knowledge it can give a runner. If you know a town or city by foot, you come to truly know it; you are no longer another tourist, blindly following an anonymous public transport system, but a path-finder ... an adventurer.
This applies to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Running is the most accessible sport in the world. No expensive membership or specialist equipment necessary; just a good pair of shoes, and maybe an iPod if you want to run with a soundtrack. Running is also a great stress reliever, and a sport in which anyone can improve, given a little bit of time, dedication and patience. Nike really did get it right with the slogan 'Just do it!' - you won't regret it.