Aug 21, 2020
"I’ve been in love with America my whole life.” These were the words of Knox Robinson as we took time to talk about running, America, and his insights into the movements happening around the nation. When you listen to Knox, you get lost in his words and realize that you probably don’t spend enough time being alone with your own thoughts. This episode will have you contemplating and pondering – and probably looking at running in way you never have. Tune in.
Knox has always been interested in written word and running, but it wasn’t until later that he realized how closely related writing and running are. He says he was a writer and reader since childhood, “with the eyes of a runner.” "Running is a metaphor for life,” he says, and the way he treats running and writing, it’s easy to see how that is true for him.
Early on during the pandemic, Knox traveled to Mexico with his partner where he was able to view the unfolding of the events from a distance. One of his mantras, first written by Langston Hughes, influenced him to use this time to contemplate, to write, and to be “[out of] the crosshairs in the US during this time.”
His gut instinct was right as the pandemic turned out to be a catalyst for other events in the US that turned very political.
A lesson to be learned from Knox’s experience, and one that is often applied to running, is the idea of mindfulness. It’s also defined as being present or in the moment. As someone who loves image and text, and values deep thought, he has come to the crossroads of what social media does and is. There can be authenticity on social media, but at the same time, it is good to get away from it all from time to time.
This reminds me of running by feel. It is okay to have numerical goals that we pursue, but running without the watch may be the ultimate goal. We all have 101 reasons why we run or why we started running, and that is perfectly good. However, if we want to run for life, we may have to alter or pivot our reasons we run from time to time. Maybe even, return to the reasons we began running.
For Knox, a light bulb switched on when he had his son. Looking at his child and seeing his unwavering and relentless efforts to simply be was inspiring. “It shook me to my core,” he says, “When did I have such a drive and will to bring all my faculties not just to achieve, but to be. Kids aren’t achieving a goal when they are born, they are just expanding into life.”
Can using all of your efforts to simply be a runner be more rewarding than working to achieve a PR? It’s probably a good question to ask ourselves.
It would be a mistake not to discuss Knox’s take on being black in America. Rightly so, Knox doesn’t believe he needs to put all his efforts into being twice as good, like generations before him felt they had to be, just to prove who he or his race is. The best thing he believes he can do is to be true to the values he has.
“Whether it’s on a social media platform or a coaching opportunity, the important thing is to be honest and to be oneself. If I can just stand up and speak declaratively about how I perceive things, whether that is a way a workout should be run or the political conditions in America, then all my efforts might go to engineering that clarity.”
Knox leaves us with this beautiful takeaway about where and how we can exert ourselves. Whether it is in standing up for our values, working to be the best runner we can be, or learning from and sharing with others, working to become something (collectively and individually) rather than just achieving something should create the best outcomes.
Going Long: An Interview with Knox Robinson
New York Times: How I Fell in Love with Running
Wired: Alberto Salazar, World Records, and Athletics' Greatest 'Hug'
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Thank you to Knox, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.