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Sunday, December 04, 2005


"Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" ? * Autumn Haikus

Thoughts of a Runner on a Sunday Morning

"Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" by the British author Alan Sillitoe was published in 1959. A book of short stories that included the title piece. The story was made into a great B&W film (1962) in which the actor Tom Courtney made his mark. One of the "angry young men" in post World War II England, Sillitoe's books reflected the angst of the British working class. I remember the powerful effect of his first book, "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" (1958). That, too, was made into a film.

Apart from the title, this post is not about Sillitoe but my own thoughts about distance running. For me, it is not a "lonely" experience. Far from it. Of course, there are the occasional hazards and physical problems--aches and pains, pulled hamstrings, and such. Yet, loneliness is not part of my world when I am out on a long run. It is mostly a good feeling, especially when I run on trails in fall, muddy patches notwithstanding. The changing landscape as the foothills turn into a lush green, the smell of bay laurel leaves, the look of the oak, madrone and buckeye trees never fail to give me pleasure. I don't need an electronic device to listen to music or news when I run. I feel close to nature; I feel at peace with the world.

I am thinking of taking part in a marathon. Ran my last one more than 20 years ago. Age has taken its toll. I am slower but the aim is not to win a place or a prize....just to be one of the finishers. It is a personal thing. Only a runner would understand why. George Sheehan, the late marathoner, cardiologist, philosopher, said it best. "We distance runners are meditative men. If we have a religious tradition, it is one of non-conformity and withdrawal, the hermit, the anchorite. At best, we hope for a secluded meadow where we won't be disturbed."
Autumn haikus:

"The winds that blow--
ask them which leaf of the tree
will be next to go !"
--Soseki (translated by Harold Henderson)

"The falling leaves
fall and pile up: the rain
beats on the rain."
--Gyodai (translated by Harold Henderson)
Listening to Bill Evans on piano. The CD is titled "Solo Sessions Vol. I". Recorded at Soundmakers Studio (New York City), January 10, 1963. Produced by Orrin Keepnews.

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