The Craftsman

How to use running to craft oneself.

By Joe Grant on August 27, 2013 | 23 comments

His process is pure nature, a raw, human thing. – The Heart of a Craftsman on Shawn Freeman

Ever since I started running, I have often thought of the activity as a craft. At the beginning, my interests lay primarily in exploring wild places in nature. Running was the simplest tool to interact with the environment, with few barriers standing between me and the experience. I saw foot as brush, land as canvas. The creative dimension came through foot upon land, an ephemeral art of passing by. The craft, however, was one-directional, in that I sought to create something by running over the land, as if movement when fine and elegant, could make something beautiful transpire. Temporary footprints on the earth left nothing transformative in me or directly tangible that I could share with others.

With time, I came to find that movement, the act of running, was in itself interesting, independent of my surroundings. Running began to have its own identity, shaping me, my body, mind and spirit. The tool was no longer an outward mechanism to explore, but instead a way to look inside. Running morphed for me into a crafting of Self. I got interested in the minutia of miles and splits, workouts and the mechanisms of the sport. My goal was to better myself through running, to become fitter and stronger, both physically and mentally. Crafting in such a manner reduced my awareness of the wilds with too much focus within. I was getting better at running, but learning less about the land.

Now I have come to a place, where turning outward is just as important as turning inward. Land and Self interact and through this relationship a deeper type of craft is born: one of symbiosis, of inner reflection and outward feel. For me now, running as a craft is a meeting of movement and place.

Through training I hone my will and discipline. Burning summers, frigid winters, early rises, harsh elements shape me inside and out. My daily practice oscillates between struggle and renewal, much like the seasons. It is easy to be disciplined when the body is strong, movement is fluid and the sun is shining. It is easy to push hard, train incessantly, revel in excess. However, it is more difficult to hold back, rest, listen and truly cultivate discipline through balance. Running as a craft requires patience, the careful molding of one’s relationship with the land. In Joss Naylor’s words, learn the rocks.

Racing is an opportunity to share one’s craft. Coming together, we collectively express months of individual toil. The race provides a framework, a reference to exchange over an otherwise often solitary pursuit.

Through adventuring I hone my spirit. I follow what truly inspires me, without expectation, surrendering completely to the experience. Some adventures are pleasant and uplifting, others demand more of me and push me beyond comfort. In the freedom of the hills, I find my creativity. An underlying element of running as craft is the notion of relationship between me and the land. From the fleeting, ephemeral art of movement in my early perceptions, to the honing of Self, to the more subtle exchange with the land, my craft is driven by heart. I love the movement, I love the relationship with the land.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Are you a craftswoman or craftsman? If you’re not a craftsperson of running, do you have another craft?
  • What words in Joe’s description of his craft ring true to you? And, what other thoughts did his words inspire?





Joe Grant

frequently adventures in wild places, both close to home (a frequently changing location) and very far afield. He inspires others by sharing his words and images that beautifully capture the intersection of the wilds, movement, and the individual at Alpine Works.