Thoughts on writing and reading for boys and young men.
There comes a time in every rightly-constructed boy's life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure. -Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

On the Long Run

I’ve been reading (among other things), Perry Moore’s 2007 novel Hero.  I’m sure I’ll eventually write a review of it, but for now I'm reading only a chapter or two at a time between other readings. I've become a three or four books at a time sort of guy. Daytime reading. Bedtime reading. Out-and-about reading. And—in Hero’s case—change-of-pace reading. Perhaps that's worthy of a blog discussion sometime, too, huh?

But this morning I came across this great little snippet on running in Hero that I have to share:

Running always gave me time to think. It wasn’t like practicing with a team, when I always worried if I was fitting in with everyone else. When I ran, I never thought about screwing someone else up or ruining the team’s chance to win. It was a solitary activity, and sometimes that felt nice. (Moore 140)

While I would argue there is a team aspect to competitive running—especially in cross country—it certainly is of a different nature than most other team sports. And I otherwise wholeheartedly embrace protagonist Thom Creed’s sentiment here.

I’ve never excelled at sports that involve nets, balls, pucks, goals, etc.  And I’ve always worried about batting or passing or pitching or catching (or, rather, failing to do these things) when teammates rely on me.

When running, though, I can let my mind go. Obviously, I need to watch for traffic and uneven surfaces and whatnot. Plus if I'm training for competition, there are workouts where a great deal of focus is needed. But if I'm just out on a nice long run (say an hour or more), my mind is able to sort things out. I'm not worried about how I look.  I'm not thinking about how I might embarrass myself by missing an important basket or letting a grounder roll between my legs. I'm not afraid of letting anybody down. And I am not focused on a goal.

I just am.

I'm up, I'm moving, I'm away from the television, computer, phone, anything that might stake a claim on my attention. I'm just running.

Throughout high school and college, I worked out several essays while pounding pavement, then plopped down at my computer after practice and pounded pages. And still today, I enjoy a good run (although they’re less frequent and of shorter duration than they once were). I can flesh out characters, develop scenes, polish dialogue, or  ponder books I’ve been reading.

And while I walk a lot with my son now, it's a different sort of experience. I certainly think about reading and writing and life in general while we walk, but for those most part, strolls are our time. I’m focused on my son, enjoying his company, taking in the river, admiring houses and flowers and trees.
Running is my time—time in which my mind takes me where I need to go. And sometimes that feels nice.

Moore, Perry. Hero. New York: Hyperion, 2007.

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