Running is the hobby I’ve consistently sustained for the longest amount of time – I started when I was in middle school – but I feel kind of weird about it because it’s not really my own hobby – it’s my dad’s. He was (and is) very serious about it. When I was growing up he’d go to random local 5k’s once or twice a month and run a marathon at least once a year. He’d time every single run, no matter how relaxed it was supposed to be, and record it in a book. He loved to read shoe reviews – sometimes when he was bored he’d take me to the shoe store and just look at all the shoes, making remarks about their materials, design and manufacturing process without actually buying anything.
My own enjoyment of running is very divorced from races or times or shoes. To put it in video game terms, you sometimes encounter games clearly made by a bunch of creative types who wanted to make a world for you to exist in, but didn’t really know what you should be doing in that world, so they came up with a bunch of random activities to move you around. Shenmue is the clearest example. Running for me feels like one of those random activities that gives me an excuse to exist in certain environments I wouldn’t otherwise.
For instance, I always like entering “car world”: places where there are no signs of human life except for cars. In Baltimore there were a few not-quite-highways that had tiny little sidewalks on one side covered in trash and a forest of foliage growing out of the numerous cracks in the pavement. One in particular that I liked went down into the ground a bit, so there were big concrete walls on either side and lots of bridges passing overhead. You start running on this road and it might be a mile or two until you reach a safe place to get off of it. It really makes you feel like you’ve entered another universe, until miraculously you encounter another person walking the opposite direction on this tiny sidewalk for some reason, and you have to risk getting hit by a car to pass each other.
In Shanghai I like running on West Yanan Road, which goes all the way to the airport (near the airport it really does feel like car world), and the whole way it has an elevated highway above it. There are some interchanges of three or more highways that are absolutely massive pieces of infrastructure with something like a whole ecosystem existing beneath it. I always find running through those sections nice.