What are tarsnakes?
Tarsnakes are the tar patterns on roads across America. Cyclists and runners encounter them with regularity during miles of training on country and city roads. If you hit a tarsnake with your bike it can cause you to wobble and fall down. Ouch.
Tarsnakes also have metaphysical qualities. A tarsnake can be any thought or other phenomena that serves to trip you up along the way, cause you to swerve or crash, or just force you to take additional notice of the world.
Thus they are not all bad, but are instead the yin and yang of the road. You might want to consider them a tool for awareness. A brand of consciousness. The random reality of existing in the moment.
But the main philosophy no matter how you encounter them, or whether you are running or riding, is that ultimately you need to RUN OVER THE TARSNAKES.
Tarsnake Reality #1-Neither good or evil by nature.
Tarsnakes are not inherently evil, nor intrinsically good by nature. They only become one or the other depending on your level of awareness, or lack thereof, to control and interpret the experience.
Tarsnake Reality #2-Negotiation is both an art and a science.
Negotiating a Tarsnake is both an art and a science. Lean too much toward the art, and you fall over. Too much toward the science, and you fail to look ahead, an entirely different danger. That is why tarsnakes must be respected for what they are. A key to awareness of the road ahead, metaphysically.
Tarsnake Reality#3-Design when recognized in the environment equals creativity.
Tarsnakes typically effect no calculated design because they are dictated by environment. Yet finding design in the randomness of the road and its tarsnakes can occupy many a creative mind, and without limits. And there are always surprises, for tarsnake artists do exist out there.
Tarsnake Reality#4- Care in the face of necessity is your craft.
A Tarsnake is at once a created work of necessity and an act of casual concentration. By definition, they are executed to preserve the road. But the care with which we engage the world can be evidenced in both what we create and how we regard it. That is your craft.
Tarsnake Reality#5-Pay no attention to tarsnakes and They Will Kick Your Ass
Tarsnakes are never, ever to be regarded casually, for they will kick your ass or at the very least, cause you acute embarrassment in some way. This is called learning the hard way. In life, and on the road. So stay alert. Respect the road. Run and ride with eternal vigilance. Live your life the same way.
Tarsnake Reality#6-How you handle the unavoidable says a lot.
Tarsnakes are usually best avoided, but at times they really are unavoidable for runners and riders. Or course this mimics how we deal with real life events. So practice being ready, and learn not to panic.
Tarsnake Reality#7-There is hidden beauty in all things when viewed close up. Even ugly, nasty little lines of tar on a forlorn road can be elegant.
Take a closer look at the road or surface you travel (indeed, the photo above…)
All those features over which you run or ride, hardly worth a passing glance it seems, can reveal hidden beauty and perhaps even wisdom when viewed up close. The aggregate truth. The connectivity of things. Tarsnakes are a window into the world you travel.
Tarsnake Reality #8-Tarsnakes may constitute their own religion some day.
A religion is anything that raises your consciousness and forces you to reckon with the failings and limitations of your own worldview. Some people literally never recognize the existence of tarsnakes, while others obsess over the challenges they present. Thus they are much like the other gods and demons worshipped in this world. Both mysterious and ever-present. This is the Torah of Tarsnakes.
Tarsnake Reality #9-How you come back from a setback is what really counts. All of us fall prey to life’s trickiness at some point. But if you crash, or get injured, make a mistake that costs you a job or a relationship, you still need to keep moving. The tarsnake that does not kill you makes you stronger. Even if you limp a little. For a while.
TARSNAKE AWARD: We’ve now added a Tarsnake Award to the mix here at We Run and Ride. If you know someone that has come back from a difficult circumstance, we’d like to hear about it. You can nominate them for a Tarsnake Award. Send your entries to: