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The List


Felicity Cloake

The camera’s eye / Does not lie, / But it cannot show /
The life within / The  life of a runner

– WH Auden


  1. Out of the silver heat mirage he ran. The sky burned, and under him the paving was a black mirror reflecting sun-fire. Sweat sprayed his skin with each foot strike so that he ran in a hot mist of his own creation. With each slap on the softened asphalt, his soles absorbed heat that rose through his arches and ankles and the stems of his shins. It was a carnival of pain, but he loved each stride because running distilled him to his essence and the heat hastened this distillation.
    – James Tabor, ‘The Runner’

  2. Jogging is very beneficial. It’s good for your legs and your feet. It’s also very good for the ground. It makes it feel needed.
    – Charles Schulz, Peanuts

  3. I saw the racer coming to the jump,
    Staring with fiery eyeballs as he rusht,
    I heard the blood within his body thump,
    I saw him launch, I heard the toppings crusht.

    And as he landed I beheld his soul
    Kindle, because, in front, he saw the Straight
    With all its thousands roaring at the goal,
    He laughed, he took the moment for his mate.

    Would that the passionate moods on which we ride
    Might kindle thus to oneness with the will;
    Would we might see the end to which we stride,
    And feel, not strain, in struggle, only thrill.
    And laugh like him and know in all our nerves
    Beauty, the spirit, scattering dust and turves
    – John Masefield, ‘The Racer’

  4. So as soon as I tell myself I’m the first man ever to be dropped into the world, and as soon as I take that first flying leap out into the frosty grass of an early ­morning when even birds haven’t the heart to ­whistle, I get to thinking, and that's what I like. I go my rounds in a dream, turning at lane or footpath corners ­without knowing I’m turning, leaping brooks without ­knowing they’re there, and shouting good morning to the early cow-milker without seeing him. It’s a treat, being a long-distance runner, out in the world by yourself with not a soul to make you bad-tempered or tell you what to do or that there’s a shop to break and enter a bit back from the next street. Sometimes I think that I’ve never been so free as during that couple of hours when I’m trotting up the path out of the gates and turning by that bare-faced, big-bellied oak tree at the lane end. Everything’s dead, but good, because it's dead before coming alive; not dead after being alive. That’s how I look at it. Mind you, I often feel frozen stiff at first. I can’t feel my hands or feet or flesh at all, like I’m a ghost who wouldn’t know the earth was under him if he didn’t see it now and again through the mist. But even though some people would call this frost-pain suffering if they wrote about it to their mams in a letter, I don’t, because I know that in half an hour I’m going to be warm, that by the time I get to the main road and am turning on to the wheatfield footpath by the bus stop I’m going to feel as hot as a potbellied stove and as happy as a dog with a tin tail.
    – Alan Sillitoe, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

  5. As Father Latour and Eusabio approached Albuquerque, they occasionally fell in with company; Indians going to and fro on the long winding trails across the plain, or up into the Sandia mountains. They had all of them the same quiet way of ­moving, whether their pace was swift or slow, and the same unobtrusive demeanour: an Indian wrapped in his bright blanket, seated upon his mule or walking beside it, moving through the pale new-budding ­sage-brush, winding among the sand waves, as if it were his business to pass unseen and unheard through a country awakening with spring.
        North of Laguna two Zuni runners sped by them, going somewhere east on ‘Indian business.’ They saluted Eusabio by gestures with the open palm, but did not stop. They coursed over the sand with the fleetness of young antelope, their bodies disappearing and reappearing among the sand dunes, like the shadows that eagles cast in their strong, unhurried flight.
    – Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop

  6. If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
    Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!
    – Rudyard Kipling, ‘If–’

  7. The time you won your town the race
    We chaired you through the market-place;
    Man and boy stood cheering by,
    And home we brought you shoulder-high.

    To-day, the road all runners come,
    Shoulder-high we bring you home,
    And set you at your threshold down,
    Townsman of a stiller town.

    Smart lad, to slip betimes away
    From fields where glory does not stay
    And early though the laurel grows
    It withers quicker than the rose.

    Eyes the shady night has shut
    Cannot see the record cut,
    And silence sounds no worse than cheers
    After earth has stopped the ears:

    Now you will not swell the rout
    Of lads that wore their honours out,
    Runners whom renown outran
    And the name died before the man.

    – AE Houseman, ‘To an Athlete Dying Young’

  8. Fatigue has built up after all this training, and I can’t seem to run very fast. As I’m leisurely jogging along the Charles River, girls who look to be new Harvard freshman keep on passing me. Most of these girls are small, slim, have on maroon Harvard-logo outfits, blond hair in a ponytail, and brand-new iPods, and they run like the wind. You can definitely feel a sort of aggressive challenge emanating from them. They seem to be used to passing people, and probably not used to being passed. They all look so bright, so healthy, attractive, and serious, brimming with self-confidence. With their long strides and strong, sharp kicks, it’s easy to see that they’re typical mid-distance runners, unsuited for long-distance running. They’re more mentally cut out for brief runs at high speed.
        Compared to them I’m pretty used to losing. There are plenty of things in this world that are way beyond me, plenty of opponents I can never beat. Not to brag, but these girls probably don’t know as much as I do about pain. And, quite naturally, there might not be a need for them to know it. These random thoughts come to me as I watch their proud ponytails swinging back and forth, their aggressive strides. Keeping to my own leisurely pace, I continue my run down along the Charles.
        Have I ever had such luminous days in my own life? Perhaps a few. But even if I had a long ponytail back then, I doubt if it would have swung so proudly as these girl’s ponytails do. And my legs wouldn’t have kicked the ground as cleanly and as powerfully as theirs. Maybe that’s only to be expected.
    – Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

  9. Almighty God, as we sail with pure aerobic grace and striped orthotic feet past the blind portals of our fellow citizens, past their chuckroast lives and their necrotic cardiovascular systems and rusting hips and slipped discs and desiccated lungs, past their implacable inertia and inability to rise above the fully pensioned world they live in and to push themselves to the limits of their capacity and achieve the White Moment of slipping through The Wall, past their cruisomatic cars and upholstered lawn mowers and their gummy-sweet children already at work like little fat factories producing arterial plaque, the more quickly to join their parents in their joyless bucket-seat landau ride toward the grave – help us, dear Lord, we beseech Thee as we sail past this cold-lard desolation, to be big about it.
    – Tom Wolfe, ‘The Jogger’s Prayer’