Last year I wrote about and photographed something called the Born to Run Ultra Marathon; an event where supposedly sane people get together and run as far as 100 miles — some even attempt it without shoes. I started thinking about this ultra-minimalist approach to fitness again when I took up running last month.
Right away, actually even before I started running, I had a craving for gear. My wish list soon filled up with items like jackets, compression tops, shorts, leggings, sunglasses, hats, water bottles, iPod armbands, fanny packs, and shoes. Things I thought I “needed” before I could start running.
Fortunately, before I clicked the checkout button on Amazon, I remembered that none of that stuff really mattered. There is nothing in any sporting goods store that will allow someone to run 100 miles. Sure, some products might make you more comfortable but nothing you buy is going to transform you from a couch-potato into an ultra-marathon runner.
I can’t think of a single product available to runners than could benefit them more than getting up and going for the a run. When it comes to fitness and creativity, we need to follow the advice of Nike and “just do it,” (which somewhat ironically would actually hurt the company’s bottom line).
The problem with gear is that sometimes we use it as an excuse to avoid hard work. Buying a new gadget feels really good and can often seem productive. But does it really make us better runners, photographers, or film makers in the end?
I don’t think so, or at least I don’t think it benefits us as much as actually getting out in the field and creating work does. You might argue that some technology changes so fast you can’t do without constant upgrades, but consider this; even my 5-year-old 40D can shoot something close to 4K time-lapse footage and scanned 4×5 film will compete with even the highest resolution cameras.
We need to stop using the pursuit of gear as an excuse not to create. The next time you consider putting off shooting or staying in bed instead of running, because you don’t have the right gear, remember there are people taking phenomenal photos with iPhones and runners logging insane distances in nothing but a pair of flimsy sandals.
I’m not saying gear is bad. It can be incredibly useful. Just don’t use it as a crutch. For now, I’m squeezing every megapixel out of my 40D until it bites the dust and racking up the miles in a pair of beat up TOMS and some bargain-bin gym shorts.