Friday, January 14, 2005

The sentences of running

I read this in the Scott Rosenberg blog at Salon

A well-known writer got collared by a university student who asked, "Do you think I could be a writer?"

"Well," the writer said, "I don't know. . . . Do you like sentences?"

The writer could see the student's amazement. Sentences? Do I like sentences? I am 20 years old and do I like sentences? If he had liked sentences, of course, he could begin, like a joyful painter I knew. I asked him how he came to be a painter. He said, "I liked the smell of the paint."

It is one of those quotes that lifts a small veil and lets you look at every activity with a bit more clarity. Just what is it in the act of doing something that you like? It is not about grandiose aims and objectives - they wont necessarily make you good ; its not about abstract skill - they help but they wont keep you going. It is about a sensory appreciation of the basic element of the craft/task/activity.

What is the equivalent in running? I think it is the sensation of the body moving. The way that the muscles work together, the way you can feel the pull and release, the way you notice how the movements from different parts of the body mesh together, the way you are aware of your heart rate and breathing and the way that you feel ground and the slight adjustments you make because of it.

I like all that. When I am out on a run I sense those things in a way that is both thinking and non-thinking, i.e. that snap in and out of consciousness. I think they are my sentences.

Reason No. 2 for running: I like sentences

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