alan and jack.

One of the things I love about reading and, unfortunately, often dislike about my own writing is that inevitably I stumble upon words of others that better "say" what I intended to express with my own mediocre scribbling.  I wonder if really talented writers are ever able to experience the joy that their words cause in those that read them.  Sadly, I'll never know, unless I'm so lucky as to cross paths with and receive an honest answer to the question from a qualifying talent.

Wishing I'd "said" it myself, I've decided to share a couple of my favorite "running" passages.

Over the first stile, without trying I was still nearly in the lead but one; and if any of you want tips about running, never be in a hurry, and never let any of the other runners know you are in a hurry even if you are.  You can always overtake on long-distance running without letting the others smell hurry in you; and when you've used your craft like this to reach the two or three up front then you can do a big dash later that puts everybody else's hurry in the shade because you've not had to make haste up till then.  I ran to a steady jog-trot rhythm, and soon it was so smooth that I forgot I was running, and I was hardly able to know that my legs were lifting and falling and my arms going in and out, and my lungs didn't seem to be working at all, an my heart stopped that wicked thumping I always get at the beginning of a run.  Because you see I never race at all; I just run, and somehow I know that if I forget I'm racing and only jog-trot along until I don't know I'm running I always win the race.  For when my eyes recognize that I'm getting near the end of the course--by seeing a stile or cottage corner--I put on a spurt, and such a fast big spurt it is because I feel that up till then I haven't been running and that I've used up no energy at all.  And I've been able to do this because I've been thinking; and I wonder if I'm the only one in the running business with this system of forgetting that I'm running because I'm too busy thinking; and I wonder if any of the other lads are on the same lark, though I know for a fact that they aren't.  Off like the wind along the cobbled footpath and rutted lane, smoother than the flat grass track on the field and better for thinking because it's not too smooth, and I was in my element that afternoon knowing that nobody could beat me at running but intending to beat myself before the day was over.
-Alan Sillitoe in The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner

This is just one of a number of lengthy monologues about running that can be found in Alan Sillitoe's short story. As I haven't taken part in competitive running (and by that I mean a race in which I stood some chance of winning the race) since I was in 5th grade, I can't actually put myself in the sneaks of Sillitoe's protagonist, but the words still strike a chord.  If I'm out for a run and spot someone off in the distance running in the same direction that I am, I find that I involuntarily quicken my pace and go after them.  Not possessing the skills that our hero above does, I've experienced some pretty ugly "bonks" because of this competitive streak. Maybe I need to make "never be in a hurry" my mantra.  I'm going to have to get my hands on a copy of Tony Richardson's 1962 film adaptation of The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner and see if I can make the mantra stick.

Then suddenly everything was just like jazz; it happened in one insane second or so: I looked up and saw Japhy running down the mountain in huge twenty-foot leaps, running, leaping, landing with a great drive of his booted heels, bouncing five feet or so, running, then taking another long crazy yelling yodelaying sail don the sides of the world and in that flash I realized it's impossible to fall of mountains you fool and with a yodel of my own I suddenly got up and began running down the  mountain after him doing exactly the same huge leaps, the same fantastic runs and jumps, and in the space of about five minutes I'd guess Japhy Ryder and I (in my sneakers, driving the heels of my sneakers right into the sad, rock, boulders, I didn't care any more I was so anxious to get down out of there) came leaping and yelling like mountain goats or I'd say like Chinese lunatics of a thousand years ago, enough to raise the hair on the head of meditating Morley by the lake, who said he'd looked up and saw us flying down and couldn't believe it.  In fact with one of my greatest leaps and loudest screams of joy I cam flying right down to the edge of the lake and dug my sneakered heels into the mud and just fell sitting there, glad.
-Jack Kerouac in The Dharma Bums

I get the sense that I should've been "over" Kerouac a long time ago, that growing older was supposed to cast a more adult light on his work and resign my initial reaction to it as the idealism of youth.  Well, I recently reread The Dharma Bums and portions of it still resonate all these years later and I'm glad they do.  I love the images that are built in my head, based on my own experiences, while reading the paragraph above.  Old Jack was certainly not a runner, but I would bet that anyone who has run trails can read his words and immediately appreciate the joy of his not falling off the mountain.  Every time I hit a downhill stretch, I remember that scene from The Dharma Bums and let myself fly down the trail.

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