What runners look like through an artist's eye
A guest post by artist Nishant Jain, drawing the Vancouver Marathon
On the first day of May, I attended the 50th Vancouver Marathon. I was not there to run. I went to watch the runners and draw sneaky art.
Eighteen thousand runners crossed the starting line. I know at least one person was in a wheelchair. I saw him at the starting line, and later I drew him at the finish line.
I watched eighteen thousand opening moves play themselves out.
Some started strong, others with a slow jog. It was a cold morning of Vancouver spring, but it wasn’t raining. A fine day, I thought, for the culmination of eighteen thousand promises made months, years, or maybe decades ago.
How many centuries of dreams can be fulfilled in a single marathon?
I went to the Vancouver Marathon to draw some incredible people. But having finished, I realized they were just ordinary people.
Just ordinary people doing something extraordinary, as if it was just another morning run.
Hi. 👋🏼 My name is Nishant and I draw SneakyArt.
SneakyArt is secretly drawn art of the world. It is drawn in public places, inside a sketchbook with a pen.
It features ordinary people in ordinary places on ordinary days, locked in a brief moment of accidental art. The job of the SneakyArtist is to snatch such moments out of the ether of time and space. And find something useful to say.
The SneakyArt Post is a twice-weekly publication that shares my latest work, and the best ideas from my journey of self-education as an artist, writer, and podcaster.
Having never run a full marathon myself, I wondered how many people were running their first or second time.
How many months of preparation did that add up to? How much times 18,000 would I need to multiply, for the different mornings that looked just like each other — yawns stifled, shoes put on, and runs clocked before the day began?
How many training programs were begun? And how many were abandoned?
I timed my visit to the finish line so as to see the runners finishing in the 3.5-5 hr window. I did not want to draw the winners or the pro-athletes.
I wanted to draw the rest of us, the amateurs.
The word amateur takes from the French and Latin words for lover. Amateur runners are adults who have created space for running in their life. Out of the infinite things they could do with their very finite time and energy, they chose this.
That is love.
An amateur runner does this, I imagine, with the hope that this will transform other parts of their life as well. Maybe they want to build good habits. Maybe they’re trying to be more fit. Maybe they need to prove something to someone. Maybe to themselves.
The great thing about running is that it is never just about running. I watch as they pass me by, and I find eighteen thousand little parts of myself.
Dear reader, can you also find yourself in these tiny people?
I use running as a way to reinforce my good habits. Earlier this year, I found myself losing an essential good habit. As an artist who draws their world, I was spending less time actually going out to draw, and more time organizing things around my creative business.
I needed to recenter the art practice within my life.
So I took the essential lesson from my running habit to build a drawing habit. I put myself through a daily drawing challenge. Every day for 30 days I went out to a new part of my city to draw the people I saw there.
And just like running is not just about running, the art was not just about art. I used this self-motivated challenge to push myself to spend time outdoors, regardless of weather conditions, and see more of this new part of the world that I call home. I used it to generate more ideas and replenish the fountain of my creativity.
Read more about the 30 Days of Vancouver project.
Dear reader, do you use a running habit in cunning ways to improve other aspects of your life?
Here is a question I like to ask -
Why is a city?
My answer is:
Because people want to go from A to B, and do X, Y and Z.
Any city is an artificial construct designed for human utility. Human needs define its shape, the sizes of roads and buildings, the amenities offered, and the rules people live by.
In that respect, I like the kind of city that makes room for a marathon.