Running As a Metaphor

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When I think about pleasant ways to pass my free time, running definitely doesn’t come to mind. I just don’t get why anyone would ever want to run. Sure, when I need to catch a train, I’m willing to do it once in a while. But other than that? Even when looked at as a sporty, useful sort of pastime, it just doesn’t seem to be the best option. When running, you’re very likely to be surrounded by people who don’t run. I like to do my sports in an environment where everyone is trying to reach the same goal. Otherwise, you’re the only person who is too busy to enjoy the falling autumn leaves because you’re too out of breath by moving way too fast without a bicycle.

In movies though, the action of running often serves a wonderful purpose by being used as a metaphor. In the movie Juno (2009) for instance, running is used as a metaphor for the passing of time. Every time the name of a new season appears, we can see the ongoing training of a high school running team. So in this case, the visual of running in circles has been linked to be never ending cycle of seasons. A second kind of metaphor can be found in Forrest Gump (1994). I still find it hard to grasp the exact function of running in this movie, but it seems to be used as the embodiment of a character’s will to escape. At least no one can deny that running is a crucial element of the movie, thereby making it (for once) vital.

And then there is a third metaphor, which is mostly used in the more romantic kind of movie. Did you ever notice the spur-of-the-moment, indispensible kind of running that is often to be seen after about three quarters of a movie has passed? Usually, the main character has just experienced some intensive soul-searching, during which the love for another character has been discovered. After this, the main character fails to reach the object of his or her love by means of a vehicle, and starts to run. Three very fitting examples of this kind of running can be found in The Graduate (1967), When Harry Met Sally (1989) and Notting Hill (1999). I won’t go into specifics regarding to the plot of these movies, in case you haven’t seen them yet – By the way, if this is the case, I suggest you will watch them right now, as they’re classics in their own unique way.

I can, however, try to find out the reasoning behind this third metaphor. Why did the directors leave the main character no other option but to run? What does running represent that sitting in a cab does not? It probably has something to do with it being a physical effort. The sincerity of feelings is just more believable when someone has to go though physical pain in order to convey them. For me, this method totally works. I very much enjoy the part of the movie where you already know it’s going to end well, but the main character doesn’t. I like seeing them run. It’s nice to be able to escape into a world that’s a tad more dramatic than your own life. I mean, when someone has a sudden desire to see me, and takes a bus to get to my house, I won’t be disappointed by their lack of physical effort. It just doesn’t work that way. But while watching a movie, those kinds of extreme, over-the-top manifestations are wonderful. It’s like running has been used in order for us to indulge in the world we are all secretly desiring: a world where no obstacle is big enough to stop the physical expression of your inner cravings.

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