Our Dog died last week. Nev was a fifteen year old Golden retriever. He died like he did all things in life, quietly and with no fuss. But it shocked me how quickly 15 years had passed. We got him in 2005, the year Facebook first spread into universities on this side of the Atlantic, it was the first time you could tag friends in photos and by the time Nev was three Facebook had taken over from Myspace – remember myspace?! The banks gave us 110% mortgages, we spent our SSIAs on Christmas shopping in New York and eight year olds arrived to their first communions in helicopters. By the time he was five the sales of smartphones finally surpassed Blackberry’s, they were never far from anyone’s hand and allowed the explosion of social media and the “Netflix and chill” generation. But the troika had moved into to Ireland and the “Celtic tiger” good times were over. The 2010s brought austerity and “going viral” took on a whole new meaning. The millennials and the Celtic cubs realised sometimes life is shite, they found out they aren’t particularly special, their parents can’t shelter them forever and there is no real prize for coming last! We were in the depths of a financial recession but running and jogging was experiencing a second boom.
As the money and champagne ran dry people turned to running the roads to clear their minds and escape. Participation in the Dublin marathon alone has risen from under ten thousand at the turn of the century to the a potential record participation of twenty five thousand in 2020. In 2014 the ice bucket challenge came and went …. Do you remember the condition that the campaign promoted? The ALS association (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) raised 98.2 million dollars from the 3.7 million videos that were uploaded.
Nev made his first appearance on Instagram at the age of ten, this media that gave us the term “influencer”. The “Selfie” became the new standard symbol of our self-obsession, fascinated with our own image. STRAVA is a GPS based app that describes itself as the social media for athletes, both professional and amateur. It works with wearable technology that allows athletes to measure, document and share everything from training to running related socialising. Since the launch in 2009, Its popularity has climbed sharply amongst the active community. The STRAVA revolution combined two of the most popular trends of 2010’s culture – social media and self-tracking!
As Nev entered the twilight of his life the use of “Big DATA” has changed the way political campaigns will be conducted forever, using the manipulation of personal DATA to the advantage of a political cause has changed our perceived democracy forever. Running and sport in general hasn’t escaped this DATA revolution. Sport is the last bastion of the gladiatorial arena but it’s being slowly ruined by nerds. Numbers and DATA are ruining individual brilliance. Fun, spontaneity, eccentricity and personality seems to have been stolen by this “nerdification” of our games. Everything from training to races and games is now measured, analysed and fed back to the athlete for them to digest. Some think that sport can be reduced to numbers. Science and DATA struggles to define emotion. Running and sport has, and always will be, part science and part emotion.
The 2020’s is likely to see the last production of fossil fuel engines, Larry Goodman will sell vegan sausage rolls and wars will be fought over access to clean water rather than oil. But running will still exist because it will still be the most natural, effective, convenient and time efficient form of exercise. Just like a dog going for a run has become the “constant” for many, losing either changes lives.